How Scottish Labour wins an election it will lose

paul bislandPaul Bisland, a teacher and a Labour member from Glasgow, says though we face defeat in May we can win by seeing our principles and policies put into action.

 

When Kezia Dugdale said recently on the BBC that Labour will come second in the Scottish Parliament elections, it was a moment of clarity from the leadership. Whilst some will be disappointed that the party are not expecting to seriously challenge the SNP for the Government gig, I was pleased to see that the lessons of the last decade or so were starting to sink in. The realisation that Labour need to change and to do more to earn the trust and votes of the Scottish voting public was refreshing, as was the acceptance that this is an election that won’t be won.

Except it can be.

Not in the conventional sense, of course. The SNP will likely be the majority government after the election. But in the sense that politics is about ideals, principles and shaping the country in which we live, in which Labour still has a lot to offer. Perhaps more to offer than we have been offering in recent years.

To my mind, the end-game in politics is to create the sort of society that you want to live in, to pursue and fulfil your agenda and to stick to the broad principles which brought you into it in the first place. In that sense I think that the 2016 election benefits greatly from the input of the Labour Party.

Labour’s principles, if not always the exact method of delivering them, are very clear. To pursue a just and equitable society in which everyone has fair access to opportunity regardless of background, sexuality, gender, race and any other factor. Scottish Labour stands for a better Scotland and a fairer Scotland, and there are opportunities to enhance this agenda in this election.

The Council Tax freeze was an understandable, perhaps even intelligent, compromise by a minority SNP government who understood that Council Tax is regressive and unfair. The continuation of this policy in a majority Government, however, has been a missed opportunity to make Scotland a fairer place and has led to issues around council funding which have been well articulated elsewhere.

The management of the implementation of new SQA qualifications has been difficult and has led to disaffection within the teaching community and the threat of strike action, something which could have been avoided with a less top-down approach. Further attempts to change education policy appear out of step with the views of teachers themselves.

Drug policy continues to be non-existent, with large numbers still parked on a methadone programme which is not working and with no meaningful progress in the SNP’s nine year term. The Scottish Welfare Fund continues to enjoy a budget underspend, but with an increase in food bank use and Tory austerity cuts that are hitting the poorest hardest, the fund should be being used in its entirety to mitigate some of the effects.

Excellent progress in changing the way we deal with female offenders has not been matched with equal progress in reforming mainstream prisons whilst the criminalisation of young men for the clothes they wear or flags they wave at football matches has been an unmitigated disaster which is hurting the SNP’s image and impinging on civil liberties.

All of this suggests that there is more than enough space on the left of the SNP for the Labour Party to advance our aims. We should be using the election and the coverage it provides to force the SNP to change tack on these issues, and to confront the realities of those areas in which they are failing or are not operating effectively.

This is not to say the SNP have not been a competent government. I don’t mind saying that the SNP have been successful in many areas and that they have been a popular government. They will be the first party to win three successive Scottish elections as the largest party, and they remain the only party to have ever won a majority.

Kezia was right to say that Labour will not win this election, and she knows that Labour is not yet ready to govern Scotland; however, Labour can win concessions from the SNP by showing the voting public where they are letting Scotland down and by forcing them to work hard to fix these issues. Effective opposition means exposing the government’s weaknesses and bringing attention to the issues that matter to Scottish people. This is not “SNP bad”, it is SNP good in places but with ways to go in others.

In this forthcoming election, Labour will win by seeing our ideas, our policies and our principles put into action and accepted as SNP policy. Seeing another party take your best ideas and use them as their own may not seem like a win, but a fairer Scotland surely does.

By forcing the SNP to fight this election from the left, rather than compromise to the Tories on the right, we play our part in making Scotland a better place to live, which is the reason that I joined the Labour party in the first place.

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33 thoughts on “How Scottish Labour wins an election it will lose

  1. “Paul Bisland, a teacher and a Labour member from Glasgow, says though we face defeat in May we can win by seeing our principles and policies put into action.”

    You’ve already lost the next election after losing the last 4 because people believe Labour have no principles and utterly reject their policy proposals.

    Labour still don’t get the bit where they are supposed to be in service to the electorate it isn’t the other way around. Your policies and principles are supposed to reflect that service not reflect service to the party.

    We’ve already witnessed Labour members publically pronounce without thought or consideration their loyalty to the party above all else and have witnessed their abject failure to sympathise or show consideration with the needs and wants of the electorate instead they astonishingly blame the electorate for their own inability to connect with them.

    “I was pleased to see that the lessons of the last decade or so were starting to sink in.”

    You’re about to lose another election and the one after that and you’re trying to tell us you’ve learned your lesson.

    You are still the Tory party of austerity. You are still the party of means testing benefits. You are still the party of WMD proliferation. You are still the party that supports warmongering. You are still the party that promotes members to the House of Lords. You are still the party of tuition fees. You are still the party of taxation. You are still the party of sleaze. You are still the party of self deceit and delusion.

    “To my mind, the end-game in politics is to create the sort of society that you want to live in, to pursue and fulfil your agenda and to stick to the broad principles which brought you into it in the first place”

    Which is exactly the problem because clearly your aspirations ideals and agenda does’nt blend well with the aspirations ideals and agenda of the majority in Scotland.

    Try for once to find out what your constituents want instead of trying to force your own agenda onto them.

    “Labour’s principles, if not always the exact method of delivering them, are very clear. To pursue a just and equitable society in which everyone has fair access to opportunity regardless of background, sexuality, gender, race and any other factor. Scottish Labour stands for a better Scotland and a fairer Scotland, and there are opportunities to enhance this agenda in this election.”

    And you promote this through warmongering austerity patronage and privilege to the few via the house of Lords?

    “The Council Tax freeze was an understandable, perhaps even intelligent, compromise by a minority SNP government who understood that Council Tax is regressive and unfair. The continuation of this policy in a majority Government, however, has been a missed opportunity to make Scotland a fairer place and has led to issues around council funding which have been well articulated elsewhere.”

    You’re still missing the bit where the cutting was done at Westminster and Labour voted for it. If the Scottish budget is cut there is less to distribute throughout Scotland. Why do Labour insist on denying this in your face reality? Wont take responsibility for their part in the cutting and instead lie badly about how the cutting only started at Scottish Government level.

    Labour supports the “Principle” that they’d rather see a Conservative Tory Government impose cuts from Westminster than allow an Independent Labour Government in Scotland to spend on welfare and public services.

    That undeniable reality shoots down any claims Labour makes that it has any concerns at all about austerity in Scotland.

    Its too tiring to go through all of the utter shite above needless to say its just another worthless piece of deceitful delusion and utter denial of all reality once again.

  2. I have to give credit to Paul Bisland, it cannot be easy writing a positive essay on Scottish Labour’s future, but he has pulled it off here. His essay is interesting for another reason; he is realistic about the SNP and I think that is significant as it must be the first time I have heard that from a Labour supporter on this site.
    I have to make two observations. The first is, there is no mention of one Jeremy Corbyn. Scottish Labour and Kezia Dugdale’s boss. It is as if the ‘head office’ does not exist. The second is Paul Bisland’s statement, “All of this suggests that there is more than enough space on the left of the SNP for the Labour Party to advance our aims”. I cannot agree with him. I believe the opposite, that there is no need for two parties, with roughly the same aims, in Scottish politics. I think we will find that one will be squeezed out over the next few years. And I think the way things are going that party will be Labour.

  3. “Labour’s principles, if not always the exact method of delivering them, are very clear. To pursue a just and equitable society in which everyone has fair access to opportunity”

    The problem with that is Labour had 13 years in power to create that “just and equitable society” but chose not to, in fact they delivered the exact opposite with massively increased inequality.

  4. On “drug policy” and “large numbers still parked on methadone”. Taking just this one important subject can you explain in detail how Labour in Scotland would/could bring about a cogently different and meaningful solution.

  5. Once I get through all the labour ideals, principles and a bit of shaping the jist of this article is, even though the SNP kicks the shit out of labour in the general election, we will still have lost ?

    Fair dues to Paul thats a new one, even hothersall hasn’t tried anything like that ! yet.

  6. Good to read articles like this on Labour Hame. The tone is constructive and Paul tries to address the issues in a realistic and thoughtful way.
    However we need to get away from this “Labour values” myth as if the past twenty-odd years of the Party’s history have been a Blairite blip, a deviation from some sort of socialist golden age.
    Labour has always been a party of compromise, drifting to the right during times of Tory unpopularity before bolting back to socialism when its “core support” became disillusioned.
    It’s activists forget its recent dalliances with the Tories over the Charter of Budget Responsibility votes or the likes of Rachel Reeves threatening attacks on welfare. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/12/labour-benefits-tories-labour-rachel-reeves-welfare.
    While Scottish Labour rejects Scottish independence and ties itself to Westminster, it will be forced into playing the same, endless game of appealing to Tory voters in the south of England and then having to maintain their support to remain in power.
    Jeremy Corbyn’s inevitable slow crash-and-burn can only lead Labour back to where it was after Thatcher and sincere, well-meaning activists like Paul desperately trying to take something, anything positive from ignominious defeat and ever-deepening irrelevance.

    1. Dredge works for an MSP – Gordon MacDonald. Rather than defend why his boss voted to cut the budget for school’s and universities, he hangs around the web attacking Labour with this kind of nonsense. After 9 years of an SNP Gov that’s all the SNP have to offer.

      1. Scott, when I’ve tried to discuss politics with you in a grown-up way you’ve consistently reduced the debate to childish insult and diversion. Are you denying that Labour voted with the Tories last January on CBR? Are you denying Rachel Reeves comments undermined Labour’s claims to be the party of the poor? Are you denying that Corbyn’s most dangerous enemies are in his own shadow cabinet? Don’t shoot the messenger when he’s telling you the truth.

          1. Pretty much all of it. I’m with Ed Balls when he said this (from Hansard) “The Chancellor has spent all of the past nine months telling everybody what a clever wheeze this is and, once again, it has totally backfired. It is less of a trap and more of a load of complete pony and trap. That is what we have before us today.” Except Ed and all but a few Labour rebels who supported the SNP then trooped through the lobbies with the Tories to support it. I know you disagree with Ed Balls and think the Charter for Budget Responsibility was great so please tell us what you like about it.

          2. You know the SNP’s economic proposals at Ge2015 pretty much endorsed the CBR, right, with just, if memory serves, one or two year’s difference in the end date?

          3. Stewart,
            Again: Please quote a section from the motion which you don’t agree with. It should be easy given how strongly you feel about this?

  7. “By forcing the SNP to fight this election from the left, rather than compromise to the Tories on the right,”

    Paul I think you are a tad confused in that the folks of Scotland do not distinguish any difference between the Tories and the Scottish Labour section so you see comrade there are 2 parties on the right and the SNP are a left of centre party, so your task comrade is to expunge the Blairite Progress minions including dear old Duncan that has shifted your party to competing with the Tories back to its roots unfortunately this could take up to 10-15 years by then it will probably be a completely new Scottish Independent Labour Party in an Independent Scotland.

  8. This is one of the best things I’ve seen written on here. I’m an SNP supporter, but I would describe the above as a fair critique of the Scottish Government. It has done many things well, but there are areas it can improve on. It would be interesting if the leadership went “this policy is good, and we will continue this policy, but this area is bad, and we will do xxx”, much like you’re suggesting here, but we all know that the Labour leadership won’t do that. You point out (fairly) areas where the SNP have been less strong, why won’t your leadership attack on these points rather than on total non-stories like the Forth Road Bridge or the NHS.

    I find it amazing that the SNP are so far ahead considering that they are the most scandal hit government in history who do every single thing badly. I won’t vote Labour as I’m an independence supporter, but I know a lot of people who have voted and are “soft yesses” who might waver if there was a constructive alternative like the above. So I hope nobody in your party listens to you!

  9. I doubt there’s much of a way forward until Scottish Labour can finally seen to be rid of the ‘Branch Office’ tag. ‘A more autonomous party’ just doesn’t hack it. A major reason for the SNP’s continuing success is that owes no loyalty to Westminster and can forge its own policies without looking over its shoulder. The debate over Trident is a case in point. Scottish Labour can make Scottish Labour policy until it’s blue in the face – but if the rest of the party disagree, there’s absolutely nothing it can do about it.

    1. Scottish Labour is already making policy without any reference to the UK party – as, in reality, it has since the dawn of devolution. Look at university tuition fees – when UK Labour was introducing them, Scottish Labour was removing them.

      The 11p SRIT is a policy made by Scottish Labour with no reference to UK Labour.

      This characterisation of a party “looking over its shoulder” is well out of date. As Jeremy said last year, “Kezia is the boss” in Scotland. And she’s delivering some great policies.

      1. So where Scottish Labour and Labour have divergent policies will Scottish Labour MP’s take the Labour Party whip, ignore that whip and vote as per SLP policy or abstain ?

        1. Scottish Labour tend to take policy decisions on devolved issues, so there is no clash – the decisions are made in the Scottish Parliament.

          On Trident, Scottish Labour has taken a policy position on a UK issue at odds with the UK Labour policy, and our Scottish MP will vote according to Scottish Labour policy.

          1. Garbage……….

            When in power labour did nothing to resist Westminster policy or control and regularly handed back unspent budget to the tune of £1.6bn

            Only very recently has the branch office started to make “policy” different to the UK party in an attempt to create a thin veneer of autonomy, and only on issues that agree with corbyn

      2. “Look at university tuition fees – when UK Labour was introducing them, Scottish Labour was removing them.” Aye, right. You changed its name to Graduate Endowment, and stuck it on at the end.

  10. I have a friend working for Glasgow Council. A council which is deferring important financial decisions and building up serious future financial problems——perhaps Labour thinks it won’t be in power and it won’t be their problem any more.
    It will actually be interesting to see Dugdales Manifesto, after all the whining about cutting this and not spending that. Fair do’s they want to raise taxes ( on people who have had their incomes frozen for a decade), but a penny increase won’t pay for all the spending promises they have made over the last few years.

  11. The really stupid thing for scottish labour is all the claims about making their own decisions and policys means nought, their masters down south control the money and the votes and even if they make a different policy decision they cannot do anything with it because of these factors.

    BUT and its a BIG BUT, it could all have been different, if they had supported independence instead of backing the tories and the libdems against it. They could have been a labour party with real clout, they could have been a political party that matters, not the insignificant back office that receives a pat on the back a couple of times a year during conference.

    And here’s a question for Duncan and the rest of the SLAB, if labour does get back in power in westminster and their is a different policy in Scotland over a UK matter , who wins ?

    And duncan if you come back with SLAB only having different policys on devolved matters, ie (trident)

    1. The irony is Scottish Labour’s efforts to keep us in the union prevented the one thing they desire more than anything, the end of the SNP.

      The SNP would have easily won the 1st election for a Scottish Government but without the glue of independence to hold them together there’d have been massive splits giving Labour the chance to govern again, whereas now they’re facing the same fate as the Liberals in 1920s, who never held power again.

  12. We can’t shape the country we live in because the “Scottish” Labour Party stands with the other Westminster Unionist parties. We either get Tory rule or the slightly less Tory “New Labour” rule.

  13. Good blog. I think Kezia’s on record as saying she hopes the SNP “adopt” her polices. They did it with the living wage, bedroom tax mitigation, zero hour contracts etc. Happy to predict they’ll be talking about tax rises to fund education soon too. 😉

    1. And yesterday she was on TV saying any policys made by the SNP should be fully costed first, I almost choked on the hypocrisy. – (APD, magic money tree)

      Note : was it not the labour party that introduced the bedroom tax into the UK.

      And I’m happy to predict you’ll be claiming the second coming next or that Donald Trump’s hair is real.

      Another Note : have you seen those polls !!!

  14. Though obviously well intentioned, I fear Paul’s roadmap to Labour recovery is not so much a day late and a dollar short as a decade late and in receivership. Had Scottish Labour marshalled its considerable resources in favour of securing “real” Home Rule then it might not find itself in the sorry state it does today. Even now, despite promises that it has learned its lesson and despite the election of Corbyn as UK leader, your party is still fatally split between progressive Corbynistas and deeply regressive NuLab “bitter einders” who are simply not for turning. The moves alluded to by you and Duncan may be a start, but it’s hardly a fully independent Scottish Labour party either, is it?

    Heartening as it is to see the (belated?) abandonment by the party of the view that its problems were the fault of the voters for being too stupid to see how great they were (which your Irish equivalent is replicating even as we speak), we all know that there are all too many in your organisation who still hold such views. They will never be prepared to work with the SNP.

    Whatever the more unpleasant fringes of the unionist establishment say, SNP members (a huge number of whom are of course former Labour voters and members) are not part of some slavish cult who are unable to criticise the party for not being radical enough, or if they are right of centre being too radical I guess. It’s true that the SNP is a broad church movement; certainly it contains a wider spread of ideologies than Labour united in a belief that independence is the primary route to achieving their disparate aims. It is by no means perfect. However, as polls continue to show, its popularity is growing not reducing. It may contain conservatives, liberals, greens and the far left, but it is a self declared social democratic party.

    Given the prospects for Labour over the next 5 years or so, I’d say that the best fit for the progressives like Paul left in Scottish Labour is not just to admit defeat, but take the next logical step and, like so may of us, join the SNP. Your party is no longer fit for purpose, nor can it be rendered so. Even if, and it’s a big if, you manage to see off the remnants of NuLab and construct a credible anti-austerity Labour movement capable of winning in England, there is simply no room in the Scottish political landscape for a unionist party of the progressive left; that territory has been irrevocably lost to the SNP.

      1. I would expect little better from you Duncan. You and your ilk are after all very much part of the problem, not part of the solution. You lack the minimal level of self awareness to see that your attitude, your tendency to block those who disagree with you, and your hostile tone are exactly the types of thing that have contributed so much to your party haemorraghing support. It’s just sad that you bring your abrasive and carping twitter persona here too. Well done you!

        1. I could launch into a similar set of personal attacks on you, Andy, but I won’t. Suffice to say anyone who suggests the only answer for Labour is for everyone to join the SNP is not making a credible contribution to the debate.

          1. Save us the faux outrage Duncan, it won’t wash with anyone familiar with your style of “debate” on twitter. I didn’t suggest everyone should join the SNP; given what many of the people on the extreme right of the Labour party who are trying to knife Corbyn in the back I doubt we’d welcome them! At least people like Paul are open to reasonable debate Duncan, not something a serial twitter blocker like you would be able to comprehend, hence no doubt why you blocked me from the Labour Hame twitter ID as I found out when I was going to retweet Paul’s post. Tell us again about making credible contribution to the debate Duncan,

          2. You’re clearly desperate to re-fight old battles from elsewhere. I’m not interested. No faux outrage here, just weariness that you and people like you come to your politics with such closed minds.

  15. Gee’s a break Duncan, for you to accuse anybody about haeing a closed mind, just remember whenever labour and austerity is mentioned, you stick your fingers in your ears and yell no austerity here, we never voted for it, look their’s a squirrel.

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