Tom-HarrisTom Harris, Labour MP for Glasgow South, Labour candidate for Glasgow South in May, and Labour Hame’s founding editor, responds to a constituent.

 

Dear John,

Thank you for your email of February 14. I am sorry I can no longer count on your support at the General Election and that you intend to vote for the SNP who, you state, “will work towards improving the lives of the poor, vulnerable and ordinary working people.”

I fully accept that you have made your mind up on this, and I won’t try to persuade you to change your mind. You have clearly thought through your position. But I wonder if I might at least question your conclusions?

When you say that the SNP are “working towards improving the lives of… ordinary working people”, I wonder what policies you might have in mind?

Are you perhaps thinking of your new party’s tax policies? I would have thought their refusal to consider raising the top rate of tax to 50 per cent for high earners (as Labour has committed to) would have given you some pause for thought.

Similarly, their opposition to imposing a mansion tax on the owners of houses worth more than £2 million might suggest the SNP are not quite as left wing as their rhetoric suggests. Have they even considered, I wonder, matching Labour’s proposals to levy a hefty tax on bankers’ bonuses in order to pay for a jobs guarantee for young unemployed people?

On other “bread and butter” issues, the SNP have a dubious record in promoting progressive policies. For example, on the bus industry. The current unregulated status of the bus industry throughout the UK impacts particularly severely on poorer communities where car ownership is less concentrated. Private bus companies, accountable to absolutely no-one other than their shareholders, can change or remove any services they wish, leaving hard-pressed local authorities with the choice of either stepping in with public subsidies for the same private companies that have just let their customers down, or leaving their communities without essential transport services.

Do you believe this is an acceptable state of affairs? The Labour Party doesn’t.

Scottish Labour has for years been trying to introduce legislation at Holyrood to bring back some level of regulation to the bus industry, against the opposition of the SNP, whose major donor, Stategcoach owner Brian Souter, strongly opposes such a move. I wonder why that is?

The SNP is also a strong supporter of the privatised model for rail services (Stagecoach is a major player in the rail industry, as co-franchisee of both the West Coast and East Coast Mainline franchises, among others) and will not countenance Labour’s suggestion that a public sector, not-for-profit operator should be allowed to bid for future franchises.

Is this what you meant by the SNP “working towards improving the lives of the poor, vulnerable and ordinary working people”?

Don’t you find it at least a little odd that among the (admittedly impressively large) membership of the SNP, there is absolutely no debate about bus regulation or railway ownership? What other “progressive” party in the world refuses even to debate such important policy issues, particularly when they have such a major impact on the quality of life of their poorest citizens?

Perhaps you were referring to the SNP’s decision to give free prescriptions to wealthier NHS patients, giving them the same service those on a lower income already received?

Or is it the SNP’s commitment to free tuition that has enthused you? A terrific policy, I admit, if its primary purpose is to generate positive headlines. But as a way of encouraging the very poorest Scottish students into university, it has proved even less effective than the ConDem government’s tuition fees policy. The per centage of deprived children in England who now apply for university has gone up to 22; in Scotland that figure is a scandalous 16 per cent.

How is it that a policy described by some as “progressive” has led directly to a situation where a working class kid in England, Wales or Northern Ireland has a better chance of going to university than one in Scotland?

Lastly, let me refer you to your new party’s biggest ever collection of policies – those contained in its so-called blueprint for independence, the “Scotland’s Future” White Paper. It is now a well established, and rarely contradicted, fact that this document contained precisely no policies that could be called “progressive”. The only tax change it proposed was to cut the bills of wealthy business leaders through a publicly-funded corporation tax cut.

But even after all this, I confess that the SNP have played a blinder since its referendum, persuading many Scots that, despite their only guiding principle being nationalism, they are, under it all, left wing.

They have never disguised their hatred of the Labour Party. But, contrary to the current party line, this hatred is not borne out of a disappointment that Labour is “not left wing enough”; it is simply because Labour, as Scotland’s largest party, has always been a road block to independence. And they’re right: throughout its history, ever since its formation, Labour has firmly opposed nationalism (and, by extension, Scottish independence).

I admit to a degree of frustration when we are criticised by those who, apparently, expected us to perform a 180-degree turn on this point of principle as soon as the referendum was called.

Despite having given up on any chance of persuading you to rethink your position and to support Labour once again, I offer one final word: throughout the last century, whenever the lives of working people have improved, whether through conditions at work, through housing or pension reforms, or in health care, reform has been driven by the Labour Party, either through government or through campaigns.

Let’s not forget that in the history of modern democracy, the forward progress of the human condition has never been improved, or even been sustained, by the rejection of the mainstream progressive party in favour of nationalism.

Thank you again for your letter.

Best wishes,

Tom Harris

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25 thoughts on “Dear John

  1. Dear Tom

    I don’t know why a constituent of your’s decided to change his allegiance to the SNP I only know why I wouldn’t consider voting for Labour if they were the only party on earth left to vote for.

    If that’s the worst set of circumstances you can come up with in order to attack your main political rivals with after 8 years in power then I suggest they are clearly doing more right than they are doing wrong to an extent where you’re struggling to pin any real grievances onto their performance in Government.
    I wont even bother going into the inaccuracies and spin in your complaints because frankly there is no need the accusations themselves don’t warrant the effort as any perceived wrong doing by UK political standards is negligible anyway.

    For example they haven’t taken us to war on a pack of lies.
    They haven’t allowed the torture of innocents via rendition.
    They haven’t involved themselves with selling honours for cash.
    They haven’t involved themselves with selling questions for cash.
    They haven’t involved themselves with illegal arms deals.
    They are not responsible for the murder of millions.
    They are not responsible for the theft of natural resources.
    They didn’t abolish the 10p tax rate.
    They didn’t introduce the bedroom tax.
    They didn’t introduce the council tax.
    The didn’t allow the council tax to increase disproportionately with inflation.
    They don’t fill the House of Lords with cronies and patrons.
    They don’t support the idea of the House of Lords at all.
    They didn’t get into bed with the Tories.
    They wouldn’t have stayed in bed with the Tories if they had gotten in in the first place.
    They don’t follow nor have they adopted Tory values ideals policy and direction.
    They don’t have a supporter of apartheid or member of the Henry Jackson society or member of Zionists friends for Israel as their leader in Scotland.
    They are not the party who supports the idea of keeping Full fiscal autonomy outwith the Scottish Parliament.
    They are not the party that supports Devo Minimum.
    The SNP wont break their vow to deliver on their constitutional promises when they are in a position to do so.

    I could go on and on and on but its already more than enough.

    This level of Labour hypocrisy is akin to Satan complaining about the draft you’d get from the wings of Angels in motion.

  2. Mike,
    You are making Tom’s point for him:
    Ranting against Labour without evidencing your argument.
    Backing the SNP without mentioning a single policy.

    For example, if Labour have “adopted Tory values”, why not outline an SNP policy which is more redistributive than what Labour is offering?

    Scott

    1. Scott

      Are you seriously going to publically deny all the above accusations I have directed at the labour party? Seriously?

      The SNP want to remove Scotland from the clutches of a criminally run corrupt and unfit for purpose Parliament. That’s a progressive policy and “redistributes” power and authority to where it belongs and can do more good for the people of Scotland.

      The SNP oppose right wing Neo Con ideology. That’s a progressive policy which affects the “redistribution of wealth power and authority” in favour of the many as opposed to the few.

      The SNP believe in the self determination of the people of Scotland. That’s a progressive policy which again affects the “redistribution of wealth power and authority” in favour of the people of Scotland and not the political elites of Westminster.

      The SNP oppose the idea of wasting public funds maintaining WMDs. That’s a progressive policy which again affects the redistribution of wealth away from ideological waste of maintaining a false international glamour to maintaining public services and public need.

      The SNP oppose the idea of deceiving the people of Scotland in order to take them to war. That’s a progressive policy which again “redistributes” wealth power and authority.

      The SNP oppose the concept that welfare and benefits is “Something for nothing” and should be universal in its application. That’s a progressive policy and again “redistributive” in terms of wealth Health and well being.

      That alone is more than enough to show who the party of positive redistribution is and which parties are not.

    2. ‘redistributive’ – Bin Trident and redistribute £100 billion on things which ‘create’ and not destroy. Bin ‘austerity’ which has only resulted in making the rich richer and begin building things.

      1. Binning Trident wouldn’t give us £100 billion to redistribute. Scotland’s share of Trident costs currently amounts to around £150 million a year – less than we spend on free university tuition. The £100 billion figure is a top estimate for replacement and running for a further 40 years. The idea that binning Trident would give us a magic £100 billion is simply nonsense.

        Labour will end “austerity” by balancing the deficit through growth rather than Tory cuts.

        1. Even if the £150 million pa is the “real” figure (defence expenditure estimates are hardly renowned for their accuracy after all) it IS still a large amount of money; Labour are always banging on about how the no university tuition fee policy disadvantages poorer students, well here surely is your chance? In addition of course, cancelling Trident would enable the amount saved over the 40 year life span (whether in Scotland or the rest of the UK) to be spent on more useful conventional forces &/or non-defence priorities if you so wished.

          Nobody except britnat ultras really believes spending $100 billion over the next 40 years is a good use of taxpayers money. Even the US would rather we spent the money on conventional forces. Pretending we have the resources, let alone the strategic need or “international top table” pretentions to justify this system, simply makes no sense. If people are asked to prioritise what our money should be spent on, they will pick other priorities, even if they are in favour of a multi-lateral approach to nuclear disarmament.

          The world has enough nuclear weapons. We don’t need them, can’t afford them, and would be sending a powerful message by giving them up unilaterally and spending the scarce resources on more useful defence priorities which would do much more to ensure our security both at home and abroad.

        2. Well said.
          Trident cost Scotland £150m last year. The SNP budget underspend was £444m.

          Cutting Trident would reduce the deficit by 1-2%.

  3. Dear Mike
    Tom Harris has given us a detailed argument supporting his views. Your response is no more than a collection of empty sound bites seemingly culled from cybernat tweets.

    To take just one of your slogans: “They don’t follow nor have they adopted Tory values ideals policies and directions.” Didn’t you spot the fact that Tom Harris used most of his letter to prove precisely the opposite?

    And you seem to have forgotten that the SNP did have to “get into bed” with the Tories to get its Spending Plans agreed by Holyrood during its first term of office! From what I can recollect, that relationship went quite smoothly.

    1. Dear Bill

      Tom has presented nothing which hasn’t been presented refuted and completely rubbished upteen times already.

      There is nothing new in Tom’s rhetoric and there is nothing in the way of evidence in support of it either.

      The value that can be placed on it can be measured in terms of credibility. The measure of its credibility can be read in the fact that while the membership of the Labour party in Scotland reaches crises levels due to haemorrhage the level of SNP membership grows at an exponential unprecedented rate.

      The personal ratings of the politicians in the arena is another indication of trust.
      Where Labour politicians lie in the negative sphere of trust the present and previous FMs of Scotland remain high in the positive spheres.

      Nobody believes the Labour party rhetoric and assertive crap anymore because its far too easily countered online.
      Labour got away with the worst levels of bare faced lying because they had a print media promoting every word they spoke.

      Now we have several means of referencing collaborating and compiling our own evidence and making informed decisions and choices.
      It is the internet which has finally destroyed the stranglehold the big 2 political parties had over UK politics. Its no coincidence that their decline has followed the progression of the online blog where people share their thoughts ideas and knowledge to the detriment of people like Tom Harris John McTernan Jim Murphy Jackie Baillie Gordon Brown Peter Mandelson Alistair Campbell Duncan Hothersall etc etc.

      Tom could have written the above letter to any pro Labour news paper in the past and have it presented unchallenged. Now look at it. It can be cut and pasted and put onto any site where it can be chewed up and spat out.

      The day of the spin doctor is over. Every word can be examined at microscopic level and dissected instantly by millions.
      So the media supported rhetoric of the past is now shown up and exposed as the worthless bare faced lying it has always been.

      The internet is no friend to the Labour party and it never will be until they learn how to get themselves back into a political sphere where they don’t have to bare face lie to hide who they truly are.

  4. “Despite having given up on any chance of persuading you to rethink your position and to support Labour once again, I offer one final word: throughout the last century, whenever the lives of working people have improved, whether through conditions at work, through housing or pension reforms, or in health care, reform has been driven by the Labour Party, either through government or through campaigns.”

    Staggering simply staggering.

    The Neo Con right wing Labour party of today doesn’t have a political track record which stretches over a period of a century. The track record of “NEW” Labour stretch’s only as far back as 1997.
    A track record of regression betrayal self serving and immorality which has witnessed the highest levels of criminal activity perpetrated under a blanket of official political protection from law as a direct result of some of the worst levels of abuse of power in recorded UK political history.
    High treason, Mass murder, Torture, Larceny, Deceit to name just a few crimes. It seems we may even have to add paedophilia to the mix on top.

    I have to ask. How much more criminal injustice has to be served before some individuals begin to put morality before salary personal prestige and petty comforts?

    For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

  5. Personally, I would not vote SNP if it was the last party left to vote for. I am not a nationalist of any shape or description and supporting an avowedly nationalist party is total anathema to me. The onlt purpose of borders is to divide – and I believe in co-operation.

    1. Any who recognise and acknowledge their own national identities are Nationalists. I don’t know why Labour seem so desperate to stigmatise the idea of Nationalism when they themselves are trying so desperately to convince the people of Scotland that they have a separate national Scottish party in Scotland autonomous from the Labour party which serves the rUK.
      What is “Scottish” Labour if it is not trying to convince people it is a Scottish nationalist party?
      Are you people really this dumb?

    2. Aneirin
      I am guessing that you would be happy to cede control of the UK Parliament to Germany if you truly believe in no borders? Or is it ok to have UK Borders but not a border around the Scottish nation?

      Scotland as part of the EU would belong to a community of over half a billion people – As part of the UK they risk being isolated by an in/out referendum on the EU.

      The spin of the Unionists parties were to specifically create the perception of division against everything the SNP and all Yes campaigners were saying. This was never about division, it was about a Government that listens to the people of Scotland- A nation in its own right that is at present, controlled by another country.

      You do not seem to understand that we have had a referendum where people form all walks of life and ALL political persuasions voted Yes, and are now voting for the SNP purely because of their policies outside of an independence campaign and to get some representation at Westminster for the first time in the 307 year Union.

  6. Dear Tom.

    Probably won’t surprise you to know I won’t be voting Labour if you’ve read my blog. I have a few queries though.

    If a 50% tax rate was such an badge of honour for a left wing party for you, then why did Labour not bring it in in 1997 when they instead chose to tax pension funds up and down the country? Why did they choose to instead bring it in from 2009 and at a high level rather than the £100,000 rate it should be?

    Why are you obsessed with the SNP’s silence on the Mansion tax – a policy which will have zero affect in Scotland?

    Why is you’re party obsessed with wasting valuable taxpayers money on means testing – the implementation of this would also put off those people who you claim to want to help?

    I grant you that the SNP do disappoint with their devotion to “two in the bush economics” but they are not the only party guilty of this given that your own party cut Corporation Tax as well when in office.

    Finally, why has your party signed up to Osborne’s “Scorched Earth” policy?

    I too admit to frustration. Labour were always the good guys, the guys to stand up for the ordinary person in the street. Then came Blair & co and you threw it away.

    Your’s Allan

  7. Aneirin – all political parties are nationalist in some sense. The SNP are explicitly Scottish nationalists; the Labour Party outed themselves unwittingly as British nationalists last year, leading to the departure of people like me. Rule of thumb: small nations good; big nations bad. If they have any sense, the Labour Party will refuse to take sides at the next referendum.

  8. Tom – any basic glance at world history since 1800 shows a large number of smaller nations breaking away from previously monolithic empires. How many of the following nations would consider rejoining England: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Australia; Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, Ghana, etc? Would Iceland or Norway rejoin Denmark? Would Finland rejoin Russia? The history of democracy IS the history of small nations finding themselves and empires dying. I appreciate that this is inconvenient for the Labour Party in the short term, but you should surely be playing a longer game. Rather than pretending that anyone believes that Ed Milliband has any kind of leadership qualities.

  9. Some of the reasons I will be voting for the SNP (in spite of the fact that my dad was a coal miner and I have voted Labour for 42 years )
    Trident – getting rid of it.
    NHS – not selling out to TTIP
    Gender balance – 50/50 cabinet, forget the patronising pink mini bus!
    Tuition fees
    Land reform
    Jim Murphy / Gordon Brown performance during referendum

  10. Hi Tom, can you tell me please how after almost 90 years of the labour party controlling Glasgow it still has one of the highest levels of poverty in Europe. Is this a deliberate plan from labour to keep people poor and hungry and if not, why haven’t you done anything about it for all those long cold hungry years your party has controlled Glasgow.
    Labour MP’s seem happy enough to enjoy free food and drinks on top of their large expenses at Westminster while their constituents go hungry and yet they do nothing about it.
    No doubt you’ll be out on the streets telling people yet again that if they don’t vote labour they’ll get another Tory government yet the last GE Scotland voted labour and still we got another Tory Gov.

  11. “I don’t believe in borders” is the most fatuous thing BritNats ever say. If that’s the case, when do negotiations begin to firstly reintegrate with Ireland and then to begin the process of a pan-European state and ultimately one world government?

    Actually, it’s the second most fatuous. The first is for New Labourites to say “my solidarity doesn’t end at the border” when, as a government for 13 years, they didn’t even allow the return of solidarity within the workplace. When a Labour Party puts out a manifesto that says they’ll make it impossible to be sacked for refusing to cross a picket line, I might believe they’re still the party of, y’know, labour.

    You may have noticed, by the way, that the Scottish Government has no tax powers that are worth using. The Labour Party never used them when they were in power at Holyrood either. Therefore, redistribution is a pretty tricky thing to do. However, the SNP HAS resolutely promoted universalism which is something that used be a pretty central plank of socialist thinking. After all, a service that is just for poor people inevitably becomes just a poor service.

    I’ll also point out that the list of things described above as a “collection of empty soundbites” includes, for example, a principled opposition to nuclear weapons, a principled opposition to the House of Lords (an absolute affront to democracy especially for anyone claiming to be a socialist, and yet stuffed to the gunnels with Labour time-servers), and also includes opposition to our middle eastern misadventures and our complicity in torture – led entirely by a Labour government (admittedly with wholehearted support from the Tories.) The SNP didn’t vote with the Tories to embed “austerity” (or “radical neoliberal state-shrinkage” to give it its correct name) in the machinery of the British state. There’s also the little matter of abstaining on a fracking moratorium (which would not only have been good for the environment but would have been popular in defeating the Tories), lying about it (but it was only Maigret Curran, so you kind of expect that), and then ranting at the SCOTTISH Government to do more to prevent fracking in Scotland!

    That’s before you even get into Labour’s disgusting campaign tactics during the referendum campaign – lying and smearing without not a care for what the people actually wanted or needed. That proud tradition will now be continued thanks to Saint Jim’s recruitment of McDougall and McTernan to plot for him.

    By the way, how’s the bayonetting going these days?

  12. Mike’s critique contains a huge number of factual errors (Labour introducing the bedroom tax for instance) and I would normally just ignore it but I can’t let this one stand.

    “They didn’t get into bed with the Tories.
    They wouldn’t have stayed in bed with the Tories if they had gotten in in the first place.”

    As long as you ignore informal coalition between the SNP and the Tories between 2007 and 2011.

    Great letter Tom.

    1. The Tories acted with principle. They’re principles I disagree with a lot of the time, but at least they have principles. They negotiated in good faith with the Scottish Government and like grown-ups, they came to an accommodation with one another. The better question is where was the Labour Party for those four years? Did they try to negotiate with the SNP to force them into a greater focus on redistribution, collective ownership, booze at the fitba and a rousing chorus of the Billy Boys? No. They sat in the corner pouting and refusing to do anything constructive whatsoever. If the SNP could negotiate with the Tories (something that a lot of their core support and a lot of members were pretty uncomfortable about), surely they’d have been willing to negotiate with the Labour Party over issues that would have pulled Scotland in a yet more social democratic direction. (Labour IS still a social democratic party, right? You all keep saying it is…)

      Also, calling it an “informal coalition” is absurd. There was no confidence and supply agreement. There was no real agreement of any kind. There were a couple of issues that the Tories wanted to push and, given their preference for strong, stable government of any hue over repeated indecisive elections, they went with stability and the few policies they could get the SNP to back. I think the fact that the SNP had to look right in order to let Scotland operate rather than have the Labour Party apply their own pressure and get some of their own policies implemented (which no doubt would have appealed to the SNP leadership more than appeasing Annabel Goldie) says a lot more about Labour’s problems than the SNP’s.

    2. Would that be the informal “coalition” where the Tories voted against the SNP on a whole host of issues Neil? Calling what happened between the Tories and the SNP during the period 07-11 even an informal coalition is gilding the lily to say the least.

      As others will no doubt remember, the reason the SNP formed a minority administration (I seem to remember they had 1 more MSP than Labour?) was that both Labour and the LDs refused to do any deal. That only left the Tories, who “tolerated” the SNP minority administration, whilst continually voting against it, without actually having the balls to bring about a new election.

      Why might that have been do you think? Possibly because they made the entirely reasonable assumption that the electorate would punish them at the ballot box if they were seen to provoke an early election?

      Similarly, Labour will find themselves in the same fix post May if they refuse to do a deal with the SNP. The only viable alternative would be for them to try and govern as a minority, or to give up and let the Tories try. In either case, the SNP come out ahead.

  13. I’d say the most damning thing is that Tom’s response is to lash out at the SNP, rather than give any positive reasons to vote for Labour. It’s like Labour are still stuck in indyref mode, just throwing out negativity and hoping it sticks.

    If Labour want to avoid going the way of the Tories in Scotland they need to leave the Nat-bashing and start making a positive contribution to the debate.

    …and I don’t mean “how about bringing back bevvy at the fitba?”

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