Daniel Johnson MSP says it is essential for the rebuilding of Scottish and UK Labour after last month’s historic defeat for all those who value the prospect of a Labour government to join the party now and participate in the next leadership election.

Christmas and New Year is a time for reflection, and clearly Labour Party members have had more to reflect on this Christmas than usual. The combination of a brutal election result and lots of time at home has resulted in a constant stream of analysis and counter-analysis of the result, the party and the leadership.

In the final analysis, only these facts matter. We won fewer seats than the Conservatives. Our share of the vote declined. On both these measures, we find ourselves in the worst position after an election than at any time since the 1930s.

For the party in Scotland it is even worse. You need to go back to 1910 to find are result where we achieved less than 20% of the vote and even so we still managed 2 MPs rather than the solitary MP we returned this time.

What no commentary can get away from is the practical reality that historic and personal voting patterns have been broken. People who had never voted anything other than Labour in places that had never had anything other than Labour MPs moved away from us.

But in truth, they didn’t move away from us. We moved away from them. The greatest irony of the last few years is that while we told everyone we were “for the many not the few” our policy and leadership was more concerned about delivering on a particular perspective of what that meant. A few people in the leaders office relying on a subsection of the party drove through an agenda that meant little to the very many people outside the Labour Party.

That is the context for the upcoming leadership contest and the challenge that confronts us. We need to honestly assess and reflect that disconnection from the key issues and from everyday concerns. We need to stop talking in numbers and isms. We need to start talking in realities. The willingness to ignore critique and label it as ‘moderate’ ‘right-wing’ or ‘Blairite’ needs to end, particularly as the only concern of those of us finding ourselves categorized as such was whether what we were saying was effective and relevant.

The need for the Labour Party to change could not be greater. We are faced by a reinvigorated Conservative Party, unconstrained by the convention and principle of the Conservative Party of the past. A party that will increasingly look to consolidate its historic gains, one that will actively try to reinvent itself as a blue collar Tory party. A party prepared to think the unthinkable not just on Europe but across a range of policy areas, domestic and international.

The imperative to ensure this is curbed goes far beyond the Labour Party. All those who want to see a progressive agenda and a government that holds equality at its core need the Labour Party to change and to challenge this Conservative resurgence.

The leadership contest is therefore not just an internal matter. The wider public and national interest is at stake. The outcome of this contest will have a huge impact not just on the viability of the Labour Party but on the future of the United Kingdom.

For these reasons, it is imperative that people who share the frustrations and concerns set out in this article do something about it. If people care about the Labour Party they must join and have their say on the leadership and direction. If we are the party of the many, ensuring as many people take part and make the leadership contest a true exercise in representative democracy is vital, so that our leader represents the widest cross section of our country, not just one perspective.

For those of us who are already members, it is incumbent on us to do two things. First, reflect frankly on what the defeat means, and then seek to do something about ensuring it does not happen again. In my view that means reaching out to people we know support Labour and care about Labour and get them to join.

This is essential. This contest is not just about winning an internal debate. The stakes are much higher. It is about Labour remaining relevant and viable. Because ultimately we need a leader who enjoys as wide public support as possible, so we can genuinely be for the many.

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29 thoughts on “Rebuilding Labour

  1. Daniel has a serious problem he needs to first understand and then acknowledge there is no one size fits all across the UK. The UK is very distinctly divided not only by National borders but by political ideology. Scotland wont support Conservatism England wont support Social Democracy NI has its own unique distinct political divide and Wales is insignificant within a disunion of unequals that simply subjugates it beneath the whims of the rUK. What Daniel is clearly suggesting is that Scotland Wales and NI are ignored and only the electorate of England is considered as it is the overwhelming majority that will allow Labour into power.
    Its a corrupt position to take as an MSP in the Scottish parliament but as long as there is a List system that allows appointed members into power people like Danial can openly promote the idea of England running the UK without any consideration to the rest of us.

    1. Hi Andy. Your vacuous analysis is much of a muchness with the typical comments from nationalists the site gets every day. But your dismissal of list MSPs really made me laugh. You clearly missed a couple of salient points:

      1. It was the list system that put the SNP into power in the first place in 2007, and that gave them their majority in 2011. Among others who started their careers as list MSPs is one Nicola Sturgeon.

      2. Daniel isn’t, in fact, a list MSP. He is the constituency MSP for Edinburgh Southern, a seat he gained from the SNP incumbent in 2016.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Duncan, wasn’t it the case that the additional member system was instigated by British nationalists to prevent an SNP majority at Holyrood? AMS, being semi proportional, probably led Labour(being dominant) to thinking it would always favour them.
        Imagine if Labours other preferred system, FPTP, was now in operation, how large the SNP majority would be?
        I like STV, personally.

          1. Well, that goes against all the narrative by independent journalists for many years. Also political comment at the time.

            Still, in your mind, you will know best—even when wrong!

          2. Yes it kind of was. Donald Dewer himself openly and publically admitted that the Devolved Parliamentary system was specifically designed to ensure the SNP never gained power in Scotland.

      2. Hi Duncan, allow me to correct your comments about the list system: it was not the list system that put the SNP into power in 2007 but the fact that the SNP won more votes than the Labour Party in the election (and that was in both the constituency vote and list vote.)

        Secondly, the list system did not give the SNP a majority in 2011 – what happened was that the list system had been designed to prevent a party winning a majority of the seats without a majority of votes, and it merely failed on this occasion. At the 2016 election the SNP actually increased its constituency vote share and gained more constituency seats but the list system worked as intended to deprive the SNP of an overall majority.

        As you will be aware, the List system only came into being as a compromise between Labour and the Lib Dems in the Scottish Constitutional Convention – Labour wanted the FPTP system as their vote (then) was heavily concentrated and they thought it would guarantee them pole position in every election, whereas Lib Dems wanted proportionality. The list compromise delivered for both as the 1999 and 2003 election resulted in Labour/Lib Dem coalitions.

        Those days are now gone, but the List system was not responsible for the change in electoral fortunes

      3. Duncan is it correct to say the Scottish Parliament electoral system was designed so that not one party could get an overall majority and this being the case that the SNP got an majority in 2011 what happens if the SNP get an overall majority in the 2021 elections and stand on a manifesto of having an Independence Referendum. Do you think Scottish Labour Party should put in their manifesto that they will not support an Independence Referendum?

      4. Your projection of vacuous is interesting when your own comments range between layers of vacuous dependent on how emotional you get on a subject.
        I didnt dismiss the list system at all I merely pointed out a flaw with it. A flaw Labour the Tories and the Lib dems increasing have to exploit as support for them wanes and dissipates with their continued choice of unwanted sometimes vile ideologies.

        1. No the people of Scotland put the SNP in power in spite of the system designed to keep them out.

        2.In Daniels case I was clearly referring to his future as a List MSP.

        Did that help?

  2. I agree – we need to get all those who share a belief that a socialist analysis provides the best way forward for our country to join the Labour Party and participate in the rebuilding that is required. It may be that individual policies need to be looked at but a greater need may be to have clearer priorities within a huge programme so that the package gains the credibility it appears to have lacked in 2019

  3. Daniel, you appear to be offering no different analysis on the situation facing the Labour Party in Scotland compared to that for the party in England and Wales. Clearly Labour in Scotland is now seen as the party that stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories to oppose independence. That was a historic error for which we have paid a massive price. I agree with Monica Lennon that the Labour Party in Scotland needs to become a totally separate party, with separate leader, separate policies and having its own whip in parliament rather than taking the Labour whip (which may have different policies). Perhaps, just perhaps, this may provide a route to recovery.

  4. So Daniel, which policies from the 2019 manifesto do you disagree with? An honest debate would be good so tell us the policies you don’t believe would have delivered ‘for the many, not the few?’

  5. “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party”.
    There. Nailed it, with somewhat less waffle than Daniel.
    Labour just doesn’t get it. Communities who voted Labour for decades, got none of the cream, but all the hard tack. Whether Labour was in power or it was the Tories. Globalisation made already underinvested regions worse. Yet London and the South East just got richer and richer as the “rules” slewed investment to the more populous areas—therefore the “most benefit for the most people”. There is no balancing element to this, so EVERY economic decision ALWAYS went south.
    I have no solution for the decline. Labour in England is on the same path as Scottish Labour, just a few years later, and without an SNP to receive the disgruntled votes. NOW would have been the time for Labour/Tory defectors to set up a new party.

    In Scotland, Monica Lennon and Grahame Smith state an obvious, but so far ignored, truth. Give the electors in Scotland what they want—a democratic say. Let us get it over the line, one way or the other and end the stalemate—giving Boris a raspberry en route.

    Back to the Future.
    If there is a reincarnation of “Scottish Labour”, will it go with the original Keir Hardie policy of Dominion Status for Scotland? Or will it, as a new party, stand four square with the Tories once more, staunch defenders of the Boris Ascendency, and deny Scotland’s Claim of Right? If you do, you could title the new party, the Scottish Lemming party.

      1. We. Were. Misled. By false. Promises. EU membership. Federalism. Devo Max. Home Rule. Equality. Powers at. Holyrood entrenched. Lead. Not follow. etc. etc. etc. Bull. Shit!

        All lies—mostly from labour sources. But its why Brown and Co have less respect in Scotland due an ex-PM..

      2. …and there has been a material change of circumstances so we want another one. Or did Scottish democracy stop in 2014 – ‘you’ve had your chance so suck it up, losers’…

      3. That was years ago. Things have changed; people have changed; promises broken; democratic wishes unaddressed; elections won and lost.

        Scotland should be allowed to change its mind. It should be allowed to choose its own future. It should be allowed to take its own place in the World if it wishes.

        One vote, obtained by “factual innaccuracies” and deception (in my opinion), shouldn’t be used as a trap to imprison Scotland in a Union that is increasingly not in its best interests. A Union in which its best interests are knowingly ignored. A Union in which those in power openly sneer at Scotland’s impotence within it.

        Scottish (sic) Labour’s hostility to independence has seen it become a marginal force with more than half of its vote going over to the SNP. Perhaps it should start learning from this instead of telling itself more of the same will save it.

  6. Yes Daniel, I knew we were heading for electoral trouble when Labour representatives were quite happy to deliberately undermine the party leadership. You know, doing things like resigning from the front bench in May as a way of putting pressure on the leadership. Then these same people blame the leadership for the electoral consequences and call for change.

    The change I call for is that those who are unable to accept the policies contained in the party manifesto should not be standing as Labour Party candidates. Got that Daniel?

    1. So you think Jeremy Corbyn shouldn’t have spent 30 years openly criticising every leader under whom he served then? No, I bet you don’t.

      1. Can’t recall Corbyn being in a shadow cabinet and then resigning to undermine the leadership.

        But I take your point about rebels. In Corbyn’s defence, i do believe that he often rebelled when the leadership of the party acted against the will of the party as expressed by conference. But, that said, point well made.

      2. Criticism is only valid if its justified much of the criticism directed at Corbyn is neither particularly the accusations of anti Semitism where both the Blairite Conservative wing of Labour and the Tory party conducted a vile smear campaign together which left Labour the broken party it is today. Until the Conservative Blairite wing within the Labour party is purged Labour will remain unelectable and thank God for it. You’re part of the Conservative Blairite wing aren’t you Duncan?

      3. There is a massive difference though Duncan. When Corbyn was criticising the leadership etc, he was an anonymous back-bencher who few people were aware of and even fewer paid any attention to. His criticism had zero effect on Labour’s electoral chances.

        Those who conducted what was effectively a civil war at Westminster were “movers and shakers” within the Party and there every move was televised, plastered all over the Tory press and used as a stick to beat Labour with CONSTANTLY. The “rebels” knew this and just kept on going no matter what the consequences. And yet, on average, Corbyn was the most successful Labour leader since Wilson in terms of votes cast at Westminster elections (despite the crash in Scotland).

        Just think what might have happened had the awkward squad not “holed the ship below the water line” before an X was put in a box.

  7. Yep Duncan you are correct and the same question is now being asked about Kenny MacAskill for his attack on the SNP ref plan now he is an MP

  8. The article heading was “rebuilding Labour”

    Perhaps some discussion on why Labour voters in the North of England switched to the Tories.
    Perhaps some discussion on why it appears that so much evidence existed regarding “Corbyn” on the doorstep and nobody raised it until after the election.
    Perhaps some discussion on why canvassing returns in Scotland were so positive and inaccurate.
    Perhaps some discussion regarding Hanvey winning a seat without Party support.

    1. Okay. How about:
      This is a Scotland-focused site.
      Lots of people raised the anti-Corbyn sentiment on the doorstep during the election.
      Canvass returns in Scotland were neither positive nor inaccurate.
      Hanvey was suspended from the SNP, not Labour.

  9. Duncan Hothersall are you a SNP plant if so you are playing a blinder if the Labour Party listen to you then they definitely are finished in Scotland you just don’t seem to grasp the scale of Labours defeat in Scotland your it isn’t Labour that is wrong but everyone else approach is political suicide.If you can’t see what is wrong then how can you fix it? also it is good to see on here people even more foolish than you to actually see that the solution to Labours woes is to out Tory the Tories being touted is pure Gold with that kind of thinking then Labour truly are in deep do do!

  10. Julia Corbyn and Boris were both an issue people wanted neither The Sunday after Christmas a man I don’t know came from behind me and as he passed me swore at me for making him chose Boris or Corbyn

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