DH cropDuncan Hothersall, editor of Labour Hame, says we send MPs to Westminster to represent our values, not our geography.

 

It is a curiously liberating experience to set out an argument one is entirely sure has already been lost.

We are still in the period where politicos feel duty bound to restrict our comments to the fact that there’s only one poll that counts, that we’re working all the way until 10pm on Thursday, and that we believe our message is the right one. Indeed all of those things are true.

But something else is true also, and it is a grim reality: this election in Scotland is not being fought over policies in manifestos. Nor is it – for the most part – being fought over the respective parties’ records in government. It isn’t even, with the odd exception, being fought over the traditional ground of the personalities of our politicians.

This election in Scotland is being fought over a sense of aggrieved and guilty nationhood in the aftermath of a polarising referendum; over the idea that UK politics is suffering a systemic failure which is curable only by breaking it apart; and, most surreal of all, over an arithmetic of brinkmanship that blithely recalculates permutations of parties that could deliver a government without ever stopping to think about what that government might do.

The SNP leaflet greeting me on the mat when I got home last night asked me to vote for “a stronger voice for Scotland”. Even on the face of it this is a plainly stupid notion – Scotland had 59 MPs in the last parliament, and it will have 59 MPs in the next parliament. The voice of Scotland will be of precisely the same strength whoever we elect.

But their argument, of course, is that the SNP will dedicate all of their time in Westminster to “standing up for Scotland” whereas, it is implied, representatives from other parties like Labour will not. Guess what? They’re right.

We send MPs to Westminster to represent our values, not our geography.

Look around the House of Commons. Do members sit in geographical groupings? Of course not. They sit in political groupings. Labour members from Birmingham sit next to Labour members from Edinburgh. Tories from Kent sit next to Tories from Cheshire. The parties of government sit opposite the parties of opposition.

I’m sorry, I don’t want my representative in parliament to “stand up for Scotland”. I want them to stand up for social justice.

I want them to stand up for social housing tenants facing the bedroom tax all across the UK. I want them to stand up for disabled people, victims of crime, people being exploited by their landlord or their employer. I want them to stand up for fair pay, fair working conditions and fair taxes. And I don’t give two hoots which side of the Scottish border they live on.

That’s the whole bloody point of Westminster – it’s where representatives of constituencies all over the UK come together and set aside their geography to deliver a government for all of the people. It’s a good thing.

It’s more than a good thing – it’s something to be treasured. And it is beyond me why so many of my fellow Scots see it as a negative. What is it that they think so radically changes as the east coast train crosses the Tweed at Berwick – other than the cynically calculated front page of The Sun?

I’m proud that Labour is standing up for the pooling and sharing of resources across the UK, and simply baffled that the SNP wants to cut off our nose to spite our FFA face. I’m proud that we’d tax the rich in the south east of England and spend the money on our NHS across the whole UK, including in Scotland. I’m baffled that anyone’s nationalist sentiment would deem that an unreasonable thing to so.

And I am more than baffled, indeed I am angered, when people tell me that Labour’s mistake, the reason we are suffering in the polls today, was our decision to fight for a No vote. They say we’d be doing fine now if we’d chosen instead to back a Yes. They say we allied with the Tories and Scots will never forgive us.

What we did was fought for our principles. We fought for solidarity. We fought for the best outcome for the most people. And we didn’t change our principles when we found ourselves on the same side as the Tories. We defined our position by who we are, not by who we are not, and for me that is a source of pride, not shame.

Politicians should work together when they agree. It gets things done. Ironically Nicola argues that today as it suits her purposes, but conveniently turns her face from the reality of it during the referendum.

Labour are fighting this election with a proud record of government, not that anyone ever seems prepared to listen to it. Labour created the NHS, and then rescued it from Tory ruin in 1997, doubling investment in real terms and building hundreds of new hospitals. Labour delivered the National Minimum Wage, working families tax credits, SureStart and the New Deal, all of which worked to help lift millions out of poverty across the UK. Labour delivered the Human Rights Act and LGBT equality, fought discrimination against the disabled, and wrote off Third World debt.

And Ed Miliband’s programme for government is ambitious and impressive. Taxes on the wealthiest to improve things for those worst off. “Make work pay” contracts to encourage more Living Wage employers. Stopping employers undercutting wages with migrant labour. A boost to student grants. Abolition of non-doms and a crackdown on tax avoidance. A million homes to be built and fair rents for those in the private rental sector.

As I write, yet another poll is published confirming that few people in Scotland are listening to any of this. The question they are hearing is “who will stand up for Scotland” and the answer they like is: the SNP.

I want a Westminster where MPs set aside geography and come together to deliver a positive programme of government for the UK. Instead we look set for one in which a bloc of SNP MPs will spend five years arguing grudge and grievance with a nationalism that – like their central policy of Full Fiscal Autonomy – puts flags above facts, and would happily make people poorer in the name of a line on a map.

I’ll be continuing to fight, up to 10pm Thursday and then every day thereafter, for social and economic justice, for solidarity, and for a party that considers these fundamentals to be far more important than nationalism. We will fight knowing that many people are not listening, and that the likelihood is that we will lose the argument this time.

We may not persuade the people by Thursday, but we’ll be damn proud to have tried. We stand for values, not geography. Who’s with us?

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29 thoughts on “Standing up for Scotland

  1. Cheers for that read Duncan. Reassured me after reading about how we’ve given up on almost 30 seats. Please tell me that isn’t true? It certainly doesn’t feel like it down here at ground level. And i’ve done my maths which doesn’t fit in line with that either.

    I think Labour will surprise themselves on Thursday (if they genuinely believe that 30 seats will be lost). The numbers dont lie to me. I think we’re looking at 21. SNP 30.

    All the Best Duncan.

  2. Well said Duncan. I know that we are winning the argument on the doorstep – our record and policies on social justice may be imperfect, but they are still second to none!

    Those backing the SNP’s “a stronger voice for Scotland” rhetoric need to look at what they are doing in Scotland. The attainment gap is growing. Hospital waiting times are out of control. Police Scotland and the Fire Service are under huge strain. What will more SNP MPs change?

  3. “And I am more than baffled, indeed I am angered, when people tell me that Labour’s mistake, the reason we are suffering in the polls today, was our decision to fight for a No vote. They say we’d be doing fine now if we’d chosen instead to back a Yes. They say we allied with the Tories and Scots will never forgive us.

    What we did was fought for our principles. We fought for solidarity. We fought for the best outcome for the most people. And we didn’t change our principles when we found ourselves on the same side as the Tories. We defined our position by who we are, not by who we are not, and for me that is a source of pride, not shame.”

    FFS Duncan, this again. The problem was not that Labour fought for a NO note. That is to be expected and acceptable. The problem is that you campaigned arm in arm with the upper classes of the Tory party to tell Scotland that she was a basket case. That its people were too wee, too poor and too stupid to manage itself like the 200 odd other countries in the world. Labour unleashed a stream of vitriol on the people it was meant to represent then somehow expected them to forget it on the 19th Sep. Until you recognise that you party’s behaviour was dreadful in the referendum you have no chance. Employing the key strategists of the NO campaign could not demonstrate more clearly that Labour is a long way from this enlightening.

    Honest answer time Dunc; do you think that McTernan and MacDougall are men that Labour can be proud of and an asset?

    1. FFS Davie, this again. The only people, literally the only people, who trot out the idea that Scotland is too wee, too poor and too stupid are Scottish nationalists. The very first Better Together leaflet, and the front page of the Better Together website, both started with an assertion that Scotland *could* be an independent country. The argument was about whether we should. And pointing out the economic holes in the nationalist argument wasn’t vitriol: it was rationality in the face of a deeply irrational independence argument.

      Honest answer, Davie? Blair McDougall is a Labour hero, and John McTernan is a brilliant Labour strategist. I’m glad they are on our team.

      1. Thanks for the answer Duncan. It imbues me with confidence for the future.

        1. John McTernan is a “brilliant strategist”?

          According to Wiki these are his main roles from 2007.

          ‘In 2007 McTernan was seconded to the Scottish Labour Party to run its campaign for the May Scottish Parliament general election.

          In 2007 he worked on the November 2007 Australian Labor Party general election campaign.[3]

          2007–2008, Special Adviser to Des Browne, Secretary of State for Scotland

          He was special adviser to Jim Murphy MP, the Secretary of State for Scotland from 2008 until May 2010.

          In September 2011, he was appointed as communications director to the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard.’

          I’d call that a consistent litany of failure. If you consider that he has brilliantly strategised this current campaign, which would surely mean he has maximized the appeal of the party to voters, it can only highlight how out of kilter they are with the wishes of the Scottish electorate.

          Your blind party loyalty is a gift to the opposition. You support your party and its players unquestioningly like a football team. Absurd.

      2. Labour put out an election leaflet at either the 2005 GE or the 2007 Holyrood election that was posted through my very door that said, over the image of shattered glass:

        “Break Up Britain. Scotland Goes Broke”

        I’m filing that one under “Too poor”

    2. “FFS Duncan, this again. The problem was not that Labour fought for a NO note. That is to be expected and acceptable. The problem is that you campaigned arm in arm with the upper classes of the Tory party”. If you’d stopped there you would have had a point – the Labour Party has been stained by its association with the Tories in the Better Together campaign.

      As for John McTernan – here’s the man less than 2 years ago – “Objecting to privatisation is, in effect, granting a licence to failing health service leaders to practice in perpetuity. That’s not an objective worth fighting for, it’s barely a principle.”

      http://www.scotsman.com/news/john-mcternan-private-sector-nhs-s-best-medicine-1-3045699

  4. People in Scotland are angry not just because labour stood with the Tories during the referendum but because of the lies and the scare stories they fed people. How many times were the people told…..you leave the the UK the NHS will suffer, you won’t get your pensions oh and by the way if you need a new heart you won’t get one from anywhere else UK. All along the yes campaign told us the NHS a would be at risk, the organ donation and blood transfusion services put it in writing that Scotland would not be affected with independence and the DWP told us our pensions will be still paid.
    Gordon Brown said stay with the UK and we will give you our guarantee that Scotland will have more powers over how the country was run, guess what….we are still waiting. Then we had Gordon and Jim giving us the Vow part 2 and now Jim is back to scaring the pensioners telling them that their pensions are under threat.

    Labour also promised to do away with zero hour contract and stated that anyone working 12 weeks should be given a decent contract with regular hours, meanwhile labour councils employ almost 2,000 people on zero hours contracts. Now they have moved the goal posts and stated that people like zero hour contracts and that exploitative zero hour contracts are the kind they object to.

    Jim Murphy slated Nicola Sturgeon for wanting to invest money to create money on Sunday politics Scotland then says he will do the same. He also stated that there will be no cuts in Scotland with Ed Balls and some other senior labour MP telling us that is not the case and that Scotland will have cuts.

    This is why the people of Scotland are angry and aggrieved by the Labour Party and it has nothing to do with losing the vote on independence or simply the fact that labour stood with the Tories on the better together stage.

  5. Just to say I really enjoyed this read Duncan.

    What the referendum has done to my country appalls me & I fervently hope there are plenty of ‘shy Labour’ votes. It’s disgraceful that people have felt too intimidated to declare their support.

  6. “Their argument, of course, is that the SNP will dedicate all of their time in Westminster to “standing up for Scotland” whereas, it is implied, representatives from other parties like Labour will not. Guess what? They’re right.”

    You should probably assume that quote will follow you around for the rest of your political life, Dunc.

    1. With respect, you’ve missed Duncan’s point.

      When viewed via the lens of narrow-nationalism the line seems like an own goal. When viewed through the lens of someone who doesn’t see the goal of social justice as constrained by arbitrary geography it makes perfect sense. That was, in essence, the entire point of the piece.

      Again, I assure you I’m not trying to insult you here, but that you viewed the line with the former interpretation is so very revealing about the psychology of nationalism.

      1. “the lens of someone who doesn’t see the goal of social justice as constrained by arbitrary geography it makes perfect sense.”

        Except it is constrained. It certainly doesn’t extend to Dublin, or even Dungannon frankly. Or Calais, or even Jersey. Indeed, the infamous immigration mug makes this patently clear. DH simply replaces one ‘arbitrary line’ with another one that happens to suit the Potteries-born author a bit better. Which is fair enough, you pick a line, you pick a line, and few if any are arguing for some ethnically ‘pure’ Scotland – which most think a good thing.

        But getting on his high horse, or indeed most British Labour supporters doing so, because he thinks stoppin’ the lovin’ at Dover rather than Dumfries constitutes a high moral ground takes a fairly high level of self-deception.

          1. Are you not a Stokie? Have I been misinformed?

            As I said, I think most people are glad that Scottish nationalism, such as it exists, is not ‘ethnic’. Polling evidence suggests English born people living in Scotland voted completely differently in the referendum from Scots born people living in Scotland. In other countries much would have been made of that fact, and much of it would have been angry and unpleasant – as it was, for example, in parts of Quebec when ‘outsiders’ defeated their referendum.

            Here, next to nothing was made of it. I think that’s a damn good thing, no?

            But while ethnicity is, and should be a meaningless marker, civic loyalty is not. You draw a different arbitrary line and claim a high moral ground, castigating your ‘fellow Scots’ while showing no particularly loyalty to them whatsoever, indeed castigating the idea of that loyalty. You are loyal to the tribe in hte first instance, and the UK in the second. Which is fine, but don’t kid yourself its a high moral pedestal. Not when you trumpet Lancashire means as much as Lanarkshire, and then do nothing for Limerick or Le Havre.

            Of course we get this gambit;

            “That’s the whole bloody point of Westminster – it’s where representatives of constituencies all over the UK come together and set aside their geography to deliver a government for all of the people.”

            Which is poppycock. It’s just legally wrong. We don’t elect representatitves (the clue is in the word represent) to deliver a government, we elect them to represent the constituency and the people within it. A place, and the people within it.

            Those representatives may well then decide the government, but that’s a quirk of history, and barely 100 yrs old since the unelected Lords finally lost their grip in 1911, barely a spit in the eye of a parliament of 300 yrs of age. It could be changed at the stroke of the pen, or by mere drastic circumstance…remember, nobody elected Churchill in 1939. Was he thus illegitimate?

            The purpose of representatives is to represent THEIR Constituents. We elect Parliament, not a government. Constitution 101. A fundamental task you reject in favour of NATIONAL power, and yet you smear others ‘nationalism’.

            Of course, the very existance of LabourHame and ‘Scottish’ Labour belies this nonsense, this idea of the line between Scotland and England being meaningless. If each constituency is just itself, why have you a page and a party specifically for these 59 constituencies as a group? Why not dump the offshore oddness of Orkney (sorry, Orcadians, just making a rhetorical point) and hook in a couple of Northern English counties? Hell, hook in Stoke.

            Because the group isn’t just a group. As well you know.

  7. Its not about geography its about better local representation where the politics of the South East of England cannot be reconciled with the politics of Scotland. Labour cannot please both parties, too ideaologically different. Labour have clearly chosen the latter. Absolutely nothing to do with nationalism, its localism.

    I’d be afraid if i was Labour that if the North of England finds similar representatives such as Yorkshire first. Labour was my party and could be again but it needs to readjust and the constant denigration of Scotland during the referendum still leaves a bitter taste.

    1. Which of Labour’s policies in this campaign are to appeal to the South East of England? Not the increase in tax for £150k+ earners. Not the mansion tax.
      There is a reason why Murdoch and his cronies loathe Milliband.
      Labour have been guilty of complacency in Scotland for years but as Duncan says many Scottish voters aren’t listening to their policies.
      In terms of localism it was Labour that brought about devolution and they will increase Holyrood powers.

  8. I think you’ve maybe started the process of soul searching that needs to happen in scottish Labour for them to regain any ground but you still seem more peeved that people aren’t ‘getting’ your message rather than attributing any blame to the Labour Party here.

    People aren’t turning to the SNP because they’re blinded by flags and nationalistic fervour.
    The referendum stirred people out of the political apathy lot of people have suffered from for years,those who did vote tended to blindly vote for Labour without often even knowing what their candidate looked like.
    This led labour to be complacent and taking people for granted for their decades of voting for the party.
    The stirring that indyref caused in labour heartlands made people evaluate what labour has done for them and what the Labour Party actually is now.

    I know many Labour members,at grassroots many of them are fine and principled old school socialists,but the upper echelons of the Labour Party have more in common,be it their accents and schools attended,with their Tory counterparts than they do with us in the mining villages of Fife or the working class areas of Glasgow.

    The most deprived areas in Scotland are all under the control and have been for decades of Labour councils.
    By and large been represented for years in Westminster by Labour MPs.
    Nothing has changed in these areas and people are finally asking what years of blindly voting Labour has done for them and the truthful answer is not very much and nowhere near enough.
    That’s maybe uncomfortable truth for those who don’t want to hear it within the party but a truth it is.
    Until the Labour Party reclaims itself,sheds the last vestiges of new Labour and people like Jim Murphy,it could be lost in Scotland for a decade.
    Even someone like me who never has voted labour has to acknowledge that the party was once a great machine for social change and empowered those who sometimes aren’t heard,those days in eyes of many are done.
    In my humble opinion,speaking as someone brought up in a labour family in a labour voting mining village,the Labour Party doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel and come up with someone new.
    It just needs to leave behind the condescension,arrogance,fear and smear tactics it currently displays and find its old self.
    Starting with listening to those fine socialists it still contains at grassroots would be a fine place to begin..

  9. Brilliant read Duncan, just superb. The soundtrack to that is nail after nail being squarely smacked on the head.

    We can relish facing adversity, and do it with confidence, because we face it together. Our victories are all the sweeter because we achieve them together.

  10. I am an English socialist, albeit one who went to Edinburgh Uni. For me socialism trumps nationalism every time. There is no enmity towards the Scots in NE England, where I live. If anything we’ve always felt an affinity towards you, being almost as far from London and even more scorned and neglected:no Barnett formula for us. Many of us were dismayed by the obvious enthusiasm for independence last year. Very interesting to see your point of view.

  11. The SNP are mandated to care more for the well-being of a millionaire living in Glasgow than for the welfare and well-being of a child living in poverty in Newcastle, or Liverpool, or just across that old border in Berwick.

    Whenever I vote in an election I don’t think, ‘What will be the best outcome for me?’, but rather, ‘What will be the best outcome for everyone?”, and in the case of a UK general election that means what’s best for the people of the UK, regardless of sub-nationality within the UK. The problem with the SNP – and why non-nationalist politicians are right to be wary – is that the nationalists by definition have a hierarchy of compassion for the people of this country based on sub-nationality within the country (and yes, because I’m not big on identity politics I tend to talk about my country as being the UK at times and at other times talk about my country being Scotland without giving it much thought – I find, a bit like religion, it’s best to wear these things very lightly).

    Surely any right-minded person voting in a UK election would want to elect politicians who will be stronger for the poor, or stronger for those that need a leg-up, or stronger for those that have been left behind or slipped through the net, regardless of where they live in the UK. The SNP always add a qualifier – Scots poor, Scots that need a leg-up, Scots that have been left behind. And this is meant to be progressive?! Who cares about the poor child in Newcastle; that child doesn’t have the ‘correct’ subnational marker to warrant equality of compassion from a nationalist MP. This hierarchy of compassion, this factionalism, in the context of an established democracy is a shameful thing.

    And while we’re at it, let’s look at how Scottish nationalism stands in direct opposition to, and as a direct contradiction of, social democracy, given the context of an established UK democracy. The SNP fought tooth and nail to dissolve our current polity and establish a new democracy free from the input of English, Welsh and NI democratic participants. Any social-oriented person would wish to reach out and pull those participants in close and celebrate the fact that we have been on a journey of democracy together, and we continue on that journey, together, holding each other up and being stronger for each other as a result. The spirit of Scottish nationalism is to reach out and push those people away. To say that that journey of democracy, statehood and nationhood we’ve been on for so long has no value. Indeed, that that solidarity, that democratic journey, was a perverse and illegitimate thing, and you people from rUK must be banished as democratic participants in my democracy for it to be legitimate. How anti-communitarian.

    In its seeking to divide and exclude it is anti-social. In its disrespect of the democratic outcomes of our UK democracy it is anti-democratic. Scotland has always got the governments it has voted for as part of the larger collective. To say that the outcomes of the larger voting collective are illegitimate is to say you cannot tolerate democracy.

    Nationalism therefore is anti-social, and anti-democratic. In the context of an established liberal democracy (and let’s remind ourselves, one of the world’s leading liberal democracies, despite the irrational negativity and cynicism of some of the more extreme nationalists) nationalism is so far removed from social democracy that it is an insult to all of us for a nationalist politician to cloak themselves in the camouflage of social democracy while propagating anti-communitarian, anti-democratic nationalism – it’s cunning though!

    And so what of this new nationalist progressive politics? When you go into a UK general election wanting to make things better for a faction based on sub-nationality within the UK, when you aim to institutionalise that hierarchy of compassion for people based on sub-nationality, that’s not progress – it’s prejudice.

  12. Johnny,
    Your comment:

    “Surely any right-minded person voting in a UK election would want to elect politicians who will be stronger for the poor, or stronger for those that need a leg-up, or stronger for those that have been left behind or slipped through the net, regardless of where they live in the UK. The SNP always add a qualifier – Scots poor, Scots that need a leg-up, Scots that have been left behind. And this is meant to be progressive?! Who cares about the poor child in Newcastle; that child doesn’t have the ‘correct’ subnational marker to warrant equality of compassion from a nationalist MP. This hierarchy of compassion, this factionalism, in the context of an established democracy is a shameful thing.”… is the most coherent, emotional, and cut-to-the-bone thing I’ve read about the dangers of nationalism. Well put, sir.

    Andy

  13. I like the honesty in this article. You could just trot out the party line by repeating some of the manifesto but, to your credit, you don’t. Instead you acknowledge the reality of the situation.

    The reality is that Labour are going to lose an awful lot of seats on Friday. While that will be painful, in your tone I detect the same feelings I have on the matter, namely a kind of “well I tried, but if people don’t want to listen…” viewpoint. By that I mean I agree with David Blunkett when he said that Scots have “stopped listening [and] switched off to rational argument”.

    There is no examination of the SNP’s record at Holyrood, the (lack of) quality amongst their candidates, or their economics. On the other hand Labour has done much correct during this campaign. The Future Fund, the energy price freeze and proposed abolition of the Bedroom Tax, in any *ordinary* campaign, would be vote winners. I know about these policies because during this campaign I’ve received numerous Scottish Labour leaflets, far more than I ever recall receiving for any other election and far more than for any other party. That may be down to geography of course, but the polls suggest that voter contact is not a problem for Labour.

    What is an issue is that, as Blunkett said, rational thought has been switched off. During the last few weeks SNP candidates have been outed as online bullies, threatened their opponents with “community justice”, called 60% of their constituents “nawbags” and more. Their red line on Trident appeared, disappeared and has since reappeared again (I think). Their principle economic policy has been shredded by the IFS to the extent that they want it, but just not yet, and say they can’t have it yet, but could have had something much more complicated (full independence) in a much shorter timescale Likewise, their wildly over-optimistic assumptions on oil prices would have been ruinous for Scotland had we voted Yes.

    In any *ordinary* campaign Labour would be romping ahead.

    The absence of rational thought and good old Scottish scepticism has prevented that. I never thought so many Scots could be taken in by vacuous slogans like “Stronger for Scotland” for instance. So, in this situation, what can one do? Opposition parties have repeatedly warned about the dangers of independence, another referendum, FFA, the SNP being a disruptive influence at Westminster, their inexperienced candidates etc. etc. If voters are too drunk on nationalism and too unwilling to treat all politicians with a healthy dose of scepticism what can one do? I liken it to being faced with a compulsive arsonist. You repeatedly warn them about the dangers of their habit but they persist. Ultimately if they are determined to play with fire the only way they’ll learn their lesson is by burning themselves. Of course, that is of no comfort if your 308 year old house gets torched too, but by that point you’ve exhausted all other options. People will have to learn about the dangers of nationalism the hard way, in the end.

    The ultimate act of political pyromania will be if (when, probably) Douglas Alexander loses his seat. In a sense it should be deeply concerning that that particular SNP candidate will displace him, but viewed another way, you can’t help but shrug your shoulders. Like I said, rational thought has long since gone. Strangely though, many Scots appear to think that succumbing to nationalism has been their political awakening, when it actually amounts to a “I once could see, but now at last I’m blind” mentality.

    Anyway, if it’s any consolation, I admire the all work Labour activists have put in, especially given that they have faced some outrageous intimidation. This of course includes yourself, particular on Twitter. (How a gay Labour supporter can tolerate that environment I’ll never know).

  14. For representatives of a political party competing for Scottish votes to assert that Scottish voters have “stopped listening” and have “switched off to rational argument” is absolutely astonishing.

    Firstly, it is obviously untrue. This election is being discussed and debated among ordinary Scottish voters with a level of intensity that I have never experienced before for a Westminster election. Scottish voters have *started listening* and *started thinking*, which can only be a good thing for democracy in the long term.

    Secondly, it breaks a fundamental rule of democratic politics – *the voters are always right*. It is the job of political parties in a representative democracy to tailor their manifestos to the dominant ideology of the voters, not vice versa. The Labour Party has been successful when it has understood this, and unsuccessful when it has not. From the perspective of the ordinary voter, it is the Labour Party (at least in Scotland) which has “stopped listening” (and yes, people are actually saying that).

    For the first time, Scottish voters *are* listening to what the Labour Party have to say and they don’t like it. Carving “controlled immigration” into an 8 foot chunk of limestone? The weasel-y, deliberately ambiguous adjective in “exploitative zero hours contracts”? The incessantly patronising, negative tone? The failure to engage in any way with the radical, revolutionary spirit stalking the homes, pubs and streets of Scotland?

    The Labour Party cannot simultaneously appeal to both (south-eastern) conservatives and newly radicalised (northern and western) progressives. Sometimes values correlate with geography, and then you need strong regional parties to represent this.

  15. The reason the Labour branch in Scotland (and the distinction has to be made as “geography” is the topical buzzword with SNP as target ) is in decline and being abandoned is because it has failed in Scotland. Labour members and supporters have moved to the SNP in droves because they see a cogent opportunity for a political return to honest social democratic ambitions. Foundation Labour Party principles anyone? Remember them? Decency Politics anyone? Read Jimmy Reid’s rectorial speech at Uni. of Glasgow.

    Much of the past and present behaviour of Labour in Scotland’s leadership and it’s retinue is akin to “Orwell’s pigs”. They are merely being replaced with something better.

    This is a chance for change. A change which will have positive repercussions in other parts of the UK. The message is being taken south.

  16. I think the ‘stronger voice’ point is more that Labour, in the UK Parliament, has to apply its principles in a way that won’t cost it loads of Labour-Tory marginals (i.e. be more centrist than it would otherwise be). Simply comparing the policies of the Labour government at Holyrood from 1999 – 2007 with the policies of the Labour government at Westminster over the same period (particularly after 2001) surely demonstrates this?

    There are no Labour-Tory marginals in Scotland, and very few SNP-Tory ones. So the argument is that a party that stands solely in Scotland can adopt a more left-of-centre agenda than one which stands across Great Britain. The same would apply to Labour if the Scottish Labour Party was a fully separate party (like the Scottish Greens) – but of course even as a non-Labour supporter I understand why that idea would be anathema to many in the Labour movement (solidarity and so on).

  17. A wee history lesson.
    This ain’t the first time Labour has lost Glasgow seats at a general election.
    See 1931 election when the voters went to the ILP.

  18. If we don’t vote for MPs to represent our geography, why do we elect our representatives on the basis of geographic constituencies? Why then is my MP referred to as the MP for Banff and Buchan and not the MP for people who share her values? The whole electoral and parliamentary system is based on the notion that voting for people to represent our geography is exactly what we do. Maybe this perception is why people feel that Labour party in Scotland has not been representing their interests.

    I would be the first to welcome Labour supporting election by proportional representation but I understood they were against that on the basis that it removed the connection between MPs and their geographical constituencies.

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