Time to grow up, boys and girls

TomTom-Harris Harris says if we stopped buying into the media obsession with “red lines” between political parties we’d see there are a lot of things we could achieve together.


A few months before the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, I came up with a ripping wheeze. I decided I would write an article for a prominent daily newspaper calling on Labour to set aside its differences with the SNP. In the event of our becoming the largest party after that May’s elections, I would suggest, Labour should form a coalition with the nationalists based on the broad policy agreement which I knew already existed between Scotland’s two most dominant parties.

Two major roadblocks to this strategy ultimately emerged: the Scottish leadership would have none of it, and I was asked to to refrain from setting quill to parchment; oh, and also we got well and truly gubbed by the SNP, which went on to win an overall majority without anyone else’s help.

Scotland’s political arena remains dominated by angry references to Thatcher, “cybernats”, “Red Tories”, “BritNats”, “blood and soil”, and much, much worse. A newcomer watching TV coverage of Sean Clerkin’s latest attempt to harass a leading Labour politician in Glasgow city centre might be forgiven for thinking that the political schism in Scotland is profound and wide.

And here’s the thing: it’s really not.

Yes, there’s independence, to be sure, and differences of opinion on that totemic issue will take a long time to heal, if they ever do.

But what else?

On the main devolved areas of policy, it’s very difficult to see much difference in the approach of Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Government to that of Jack McConnell’s Scottish Executive. That’s not to say we don’t try. Scottish health and education are not the success story the SNP would like us to believe. But then, neither were they under the last Labour-LibDem regime. Policy is still pretty much the same, and in an alternative universe where Labour were still in power at Holyrood, the budgets would be indistinguishable too.

Certainly, there are disagreements at the fringes, on emphasis. But in broad principle? Not remotely.

But modern politics demands “red lines” and “clear blue water”, even where they don’t exist. Which means that, in order to retain the attention of the public and the media, they have to be created artificially.

So the SNP accuse Labour of letting Scotland down and Labour accuses the SNP of screwing up NHS waiting lists and exam results, and everyone accuses the Tories of being generally evil and uncaring…

It’s all a little tiresome. And dishonest.

Take the Scottish Tories, for example. You really expect people to believe that Ruth Davidson is a modern incarnation of Margaret Thatcher? That she regards the poorest in our society with the kind of cold contempt most commonly associated with a pantomime villain? Get a grip!

Nationalists may not regard Jim Murphy as their political hero (!), but he’s a good guy, with a strong moral core who maybe likes to pick fights a bit too much, but then again, he’s Scottish, so…

And contempt of our First Minister on the basis that she’s Scotland’s most successful politician ever is hardly justified. No-one can deny that once you set aside her commitment to independence, Nicola Sturgeon is a committed social democrat with values that the vast majority of Scottish Labour members would share.

I was reminded about all this while looking through Twitter on the night the new SNP MPs voted for Full Fiscal Autonomy in the Commons. Well, why wouldn’t they, since they were elected on a manifesto commitment to do exactly that? The problem, apparently, was the company they kept while doing so. A number of right-wing Tories, defying their own party whip, trooped into the lobbies alongside the 56, giving some Scottish Labour supporters the opportunity to crow about nationalists voting with the Tories. I get it, I really do. It’s payback, apparently, for all the “Red Tory” smears during the election campaign.

But seriously? We’re reduced to basing our political analysis, not on our opponents’ arguments and principles, but on which other MPs vote walk into the same lobby as them? So Tommy Sheppard, the former Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, is now a right wing Tory because John Redwood may have voted alongside him? (I don’t know if Redwood did, by the way, I’m just using that as an example).

The other side were just as bad, of course, inferring during the referendum campaign that if you campaigned on the same side as the Tories in the independence referendum campaign, well, you might as well wear a Thatcher mask and punch a striking miner’s child while you’re at it.

Isn’t it good to know that the political problems facing Scotland are so insignificant, so negligible, that our political parties can afford to spend their time, not addressing them, but in manufacturing absurd differences between themselves and their opponents?

Here’s the bottom line: the vast majority of people who stand for election, from every mainstream party, are good people. They have far more to agree about than to disagree about. Yes, we’re let down by the fringes, by the abusive who use Twitter to make up for their own lack of friends. But they can be so easily ignored. Instead we raise them up to the full glare of publicity and invite the world to regard them as typical of whichever party they represent.

They’re not. They’re dicks. Now move on.

Maybe it’s easy for me to say all this now I’m no longer an elected politician. And maybe (certainly, actually) I’ve been responsible myself for a fair amount of the bad feeling that exists between Scottish Labour and the SNP. And for that I genuinely apologise.

But think of the huge expenditure of resources, of energy we spend picking needless fights, energy that could instead be diverted into solving some real, actual problems.

There are no circumstances in which I would ever vote for Scottish independence. So what? On every other policy area that’s been devolved to Holyrood (so, every policy area that’s been devolved to Holyrood, in fact), there’s room for agreement.

Is there any grown up reason we all can’t start using that room?

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85 thoughts on “Time to grow up, boys and girls

  1. Superb piece. Every side is as guilty as each other. Someone has to try and rise above at some point. Given the dire straits they find themselves in Labour has the least to lose by being that someone and the most to gain.

  2. I think you’d struggle to find anyone in the SNP who agrees with you on this:

    “We were set up as the party to represent the values of working people, working being the key word. We weren’t set up as some sort of charity to help the poorest in society – the long-term unemployed, the benefit dependent, the drug addicted, the homeless.”

    1. As an SNP member. I do agree but not with your bit, you see the SNP are for helping those who are up as well as those down, no one should be left behind. Caring is not a crime.

  3. A pretty good article by Tom Harris.
    Most Scots want to be part of a prosperous country, where their children can grow up, get an education and enjoy a better standard of living than their parents. Many of those Scots have lost faith in Westminster to provide this. Scotland had a bad 20th century, with a stagnant economy and thousands migrating out to find work ( read some of Peggy Herbison’s Commons speeches ). Things haven’t really picked up since if we look at our deficit—that reflects the poor wages and lack of good jobs in Scotland in comparison with Southern England and other European countries. Future UK infrastructure spends are based overwhelmingly in southern England, just as they have been for decades. Fight for a fair share.
    If Labour want to reconnect, then they should have a believable plan to grow Scotland’s ( not just Glasgow ) economy and share out the proceeds to the general population.
    Don’t indulge in petty point scoring over meaningless stats, or attacking Scotland as being a country uniquely unfit to govern itself—that wont win any admirers outside the Tory ranks.
    It will be a long road back, but find common ground where you can. Remember Keir Hardie believed in Scotland being self governing, and that Labour always worked with the SDLP.

  4. As someone who has only very recently become “engaged with politics” after years of avoiding anything to do with them, I can tell you that if more politicians spoke this way, more of the general public would listen to them. What puts many, many people off is the needless arguing and point-scoring. In most jobs and life in general, you get things done by finding common ground and by getting along with people. You don’t always agree on everything, but you learn to respect differences. Why should politics be different? I totally agree that so much of the energy directed towards needless fights could create great change if directed towards finding real solutions.

    Of course, I realise, and I’m sure Tom Harris does too, that to get elected you have to point out where you are different to your opponents. But wouldn’t it be so wonderful if that was done with respect, and by highlighting strengths?

    I also really like that Tom Harris says, “I’ve been responsible myself for a fair amount of the bad feeling that exists between Scottish Labour and the SNP. And for that I genuinely apologise.” Nobody is perfect, and pretending we are doesn’t actually win people over. (Around the referendum time, I actually said to some friends that first politician I heard taking responsibility or apologising would get my vote. I couldn’t follow through on that promise, because I don’t live in Jim Murphy’s constituency – he was the first.)

    This post reminds me of an article I read by Stella Creasy recently, in which she wrote about how to lobby your MP. She said, “Don’t just start a fight.” And “the best campaigns are about collaborating with people that share your values.” That article, and Tom’s post give me hope that a genuinely new and positive way of doing politics could be emerging.

  5. Best article on Labour Hame so far this year. Well done Tom Harris.
    However, I think he underplays the gulf which exists between Labour and the SNP and how definitive that gulf is.
    The SNP membership has rocketed over the last twelve months and much of this group is young and impatient. They are eager for the social democracy Tom talks of and they want it now. They joined the SNP because they see it as the only route to the kind of future they want for themselves and their children and grandchildren to come. Independence is the “sine qua non” and those who oppose independence are, to them, no better than the Tories the union favours.
    Labour’s membership is declining rapidly and those who are left tend to retain the old belief that all “nationalists” are nasty fascists and that any more liberal-sounding utterances from them are nothing more than cunning ploys.
    So when these young SNP members debate with the old Labourites each is unlikely to recognise the shared beliefs and even long-term goals the other side holds.
    Tom will never vote for independence but, to most left-wing supporters of independence (in my experience the majority, especially since the referendum) the union is the main stumbling-block to achieving their aims.
    Over the years I’ve become used to being called a Tartan Tory and its water of a ducks back now. I was abused, threatened and , finally, assaulted during the referendum campaign and I agree with Tom that those who bring terms like Quisling and Judas to the debate have nothing to offer. However, I’m sorry to say that I’m unconvinced that our common beliefs in socialism/ social democracy will bring Scottish Labour and the SNP closer together any time soon.

  6. Very sensible piece, anyone that read both Labour and the SNP’s manifestos could see the parties are strikingly similar, but where do Labour as a party go from here? I talk to SNP supporting friends, sensible, and (usually) rational people. They say they will never vote Labour again. I saw friends celebrate, on social media, Labour MPs losing their seats rather than celebrate the success of the SNP. How do we reach out to them?

    1. Would they vote for a Labour party that was more clearly to ‘the left’ of SNP on important issues though? Smith will bring in powers for air passenger duty for example, SNP said in their White Paper they would cut these. This is obviously an anti-green, pro-business strategy (and likely to be in the Conservative manifesto as well).

      A lot of people voted SNP on the basis they are more radical than Labour. However, the only way Labour can hope to expose this is by being more radical than the SNP. Standing on the same ground and shouting “you’re not as radical as you say you are” won’t carry much weight if Labour and SNP policies are virtually identical.

      1. I don’t know. I’m doubtful if I’m honest. Throughout the election campaign I had to argue that Labour hadnt signed up tp £30bn of cuts. The party constantly denied this, yet a lot of SNP voters were using this as their main justification for their vote. When I mentioned Labour policies like the mansion tax, zero hour contracts etc, people said that they didn’t believe Labour would actually implement these. Many appear to believe the SNP, far more than they believe Labour.

        Iyou’re absolutely right that attacking the SNP for not being as radical as they like to portray isn’t a good tactic. In fact, it has been a disasterous tactic in recent years.

        I think Labour, UK wide, needs to start taking control of the debate. With the SNP here, and the Tories in the rest of the UK we constantly seem to be reacting to our opponents’ policies. But gaining the trust, particularly in Scotland will be a huge task.

        1. I think we’re agreed the issue here is trust. There are two ways to rehab trust:
          1) Wait for your political opponents to make a mistake, or be perceived to have made a mistake (eg financial crash helped Tories;
          Iraq helped SNP/LD).
          2) Have positive policies that expose the weaknesses of your political opponents.

          To me, Labour are spending too much time pointing out the mistakes of our opponents without giving people new policies to believe in. Decentralisation should be at the heart of the 2016 campaign, and Labour’s strategy should be based around the slogan “A better Scotland today” so that we emphasise that we do have a positive, centre-left vision for a devolved Scotland, but we do not need independence to achieve it. That vision has been the biggest weakness of the party lately, as Harris said four years ago we have become conservative in merely suggesting tweaks rather than something bolder.

  7. I think Tom makes a good argument. There are undoubtedly SNP members who joined when they were a right wing party and they were content with that. Labour could serve to strengthen the resolve of the newfound social democrats in the SNP. If nesecary providing the votes in the Scottish Parliament to ensure the First Minister doesnt have to compromise with the old time Tartan Tories who got themselves into the parliament before the SNP found its moral compass.

    1. Speaking as a 1960s activist for the SNP – the party never were in any sense “right wing” then as now that labelling was and is part of lying Labour propaganda.

      Harris’s “political deathbed repentance” does not move or convince me one bit.
      “The evil that men do lives after them”
      And he and the other Labour chorus of manufactured denigration, abuse, demonisation and insults have done abundant harm to Scotland.

      What I see is a professional politician trimming his sails ready for a bit to continue his career, but in Holyrood, As cynical as the demonisation and denigration stance he now finds it convenient to drop. So he can market himself as the new face of “sweet reasonable Labour Branch Office.
      A dishonest “sell” then and a more dishonest one now.

  8. ‘Time to grow up, boys and girls’.
    Can Labour Hame, please tell me, was this heading the author’s idea or the websites?

        1. Anyone who’s ever read one of your comments, at a guess.

          It was the author’s own title.

          1. Why am a no surprised.
            When I first read this piece of condescending, sore looser hand wringing, it reminded me of being back in Sunday School getting preached to by some middle class Holy Willie. That was in the 50s.
            I could go on but I’m writing this in my lunch break.
            Please take note of these last two points Tom Harris.

  9. Time to throw up boys and girls?

    The jolt of losing the expenses account has clearly produced some clarity

    Pity that ship has already sailed

  10. Perhaps Tom should direct his comments at his Westminster colleagues who have just allowed David Cameron to escape his first commons defeat by sitting on their hands rather than vote with the SNP, Plaid, Green, SDLP, DUP, UUP and even UKiP along with Tory rebels to Keep Purdah for the Euro referendum.

  11. Shame you couldn’t bring yourself to be so magnanimous when you had something to offer. Now that Labour have no MPs in Scotland, you want us all to be pals? Doesn’t look very convincing I’m afraid.

    1. Exactly right. Were he part of the government this could be a rousing call to work together and see how small our differences are. Since he’s not, this is nothing more than a plea to be let back into a group he was forcibly ejected from because of his gang’s appalling behaviour.

  12. It’s really no use half-dismissing independence as a ‘totemic issue’ and then asking ‘what else?’. Because of course independence lies at the very heart of the difference between the SNP and Labour, and all else flows from that.
    So there’s no real point in taking the moral or political high ground over the similarities in policy or compassion or whatever. I don’t work my backside off for the SNP because I think we are in some way better than Labour. I do it because I want to see an independent Scotland, and so long as Labour stands in the way of that, it matters little what other similarities there may or may not be. Sorry, but there you go…

    1. We had a vote on independence and it was a clear no. 10 months ago. What happened to respecting the result?

      Labour and SNP were gearing up for a loose voting arrangement in the event of a hung parliament 6 weeks ago. Tom is right, the economic fundamentals of both parties are very similar. And we are part of the UK (or should be, if the 18th Sept vote is to be respected) for the forseable. You see no point in exploring co-operation, dialogue, collaboration meantime? On all those new powers? On all those new tax/welfare capabilities?

      1. Labour can’t talk about respecting results and then reject the overwhelming mandate the people of Scotland just gave the SNP in May by voting against their amendments in Parliament.

        Cuts both ways. What’s more important (to either party)? What the public have voted for, or the party’s own beliefs as to what’s best?

        1. Ian Murray wasn’t elected on the basis of FFA. The Labour party didn’t stand on it either. The SNP’s proposals affect everybody in the UK, Labour MP”s should just ignore their constituents?

          Also, SNP stood on FFA. They can’t just pick and choose whatever method of Devo is politically convenient one day to the next and blithely state “that’s what Scotland wants” and any opposing view is thereby undemocratic in some way.

      2. Are you having a laugh? Labour just spent the entire election campaign completely ruling out any sort of cooperation with the SNP at all towards shared goals just because they are the SNP. No dialogue, no deals, no arrangements loose or formal, no cooperation, simply because it was the SNP. Labour supporters really are the lowest of the low, and the blindest of the blind. Hypocritical doesn’t even come close, we are at war now, you started it, we are going to finish it.

  13. Is there a British equivalent to the US expression “A day late and a dollar short”?

    You could have worked for what you say you espouse when you actually had some influence, Mr. Harris. It was your choice not to.

  14. I have had very little abuse on Twitter, mainly because I don’t dish it out and don’t engage with it. One of the few times somene really was abusive to me, it was Tom Harris. It was totally uncalled for, not related to my tweet and appeared to be simply because I had a Yes twibbon.

    This article, coming now, after the past 3 years, reads like something which might have been a worthwhile contribution 2 years ago. It would also be a worthwhile contribution if both the SNP and Labour in Scotland were willing to work together to fight for more powers for the Scottish parliament. If we could were able, within the UK, to have an ongoing debate about what more powers are needed and for what purpose, it would be excellent if the SNP and Labour in Scotland could set aside differences and engage co-operatively with that . It isn’t that though. It’s an article unashamed about how the no vote was won, and unashamed about the results of it.

    We have moved on now and, unless or until there is that debate about what more powers we need, for what and a genuine way within the UK to get them, then there really is a chasm between Labour and the SNP in Scotland. The SNP are for more powers and/or independence; Labour are for the status quo, which includes far too much which is unacceptable – socially and economically as well as constitutionally. We can oppose each other in a polite and decent way, and fight together against the worst Tory excesses, but that’s the best that can be hoped for now. And I don’t have much confidence in Labour to do the latter either.

    1. Your cynacism to timimg seems fair but, with respect, I think you have missed the point. Why does everything need to come back to ‘more powers’ for Holyrood? Why not use the powers we already have, and where there is consensus on policy, work together. For too long Scottish politics has been about constitutional change. Can we not put that to one side for, at least a short time?

      Labour aren’t ‘for the status quo’. They just don’t support the same constitutional change. That’s not the same thing.

      1. “Why not use the powers we already have, and where there is consensus on policy, work together.”

        Because the UK – and UK Labour – have gone too far in a direction that I no longer find acceptable either socially or economically, especially on welfare and treatment of the most vulnerable in general. Those things I feel are worth fighting for and against – like the reforms to health benefits – cannot be fought at UK level, as there is no political party standing up for real change.

        Meanwhile, in areas like health – intricately connected to health benefits – the Scottish government is doing a far better job, and is massively easier for organisations in Scotland to deal with. So for me, the Scottish government having control over issues such as welfare is absolutely critical.

        I simply do not believe there is any point to banging our heads against a brick wall at UK level, while having endless fights over who can best tinker at Scottish level and possibly mitigate the very worst of Westminster policy – supported by both Labour and Tory. The entire concept of that seems alien and stupid to me.

  15. It’s not fair or accurate to say that Labour is for the “status quo” in regards to more powers for Scotland. Ian’s article is clear on that.

    The party is against FFA because fundamentally it agrees that resources and risk should be shared across the UK, because we have a monetary union and fiscal independence within a monetary union can be dangerous (viz the eurozone), and because, from a Scottish perspective, a better fiscal position can be predicted confidently on the basis of projections for future revenues from the North Sea.

    As regards the narrower debate on further powers (given FFA is thankfully off the agenda for the forseable), we are having that debate! There’s a bill before Parliament! It’s the SNP that wants to close down that debate, with constant talk of “mandate” (ignoring that half of Scotland didn’t vote for them, and denying English Welsh and NI MPs the right to a say on devolution, which affects their constituents too) and holding out contrary views on devolution, absurdly, as a denial of la voix du peuple, or as un-Scottish.

    Within that debate, I’d personally hope Labour would remain against devolution of the minimum wage, pensions and UC, since these underpin the single Labour market across the UK, and the UK welfare state. These preoccupations fu damentally differentiate the Labour position from that advanced by the nationalists. Labour is correct to advocate an approach to devolution which protects these pillars of the United Kingdom if that is what it believes in doing. I value our shared Labour market, and our shared welfare state. So do hundreds of thousands of people who voted Labour (Scotland and throughout the UK) and the 2 million who voted No. They are entitled to their views being taken into account, no matter how many votes or MPs the nationalists have.

    1. I don’t want to get too far off-topic but under the union resources and risk are not shared equally. If they had been over the years support for the SNP and independence would not be where it is today.
      Sadly, Labour does support the status quo. If every single Scottish voter had voted Labour last month we’d have been in exactly the same position as we are now, stuck with another Tory government which openly favours The City of London and the south of England.
      Labour wants to leave powers over benefits and the minimum wage in the hands of a far-right government in London rather than the Scottish government. Fair enough but this is why more and more Scots are questioning Labour’s social democratic credentials. It is also goes to the heart of why Tom’s dream of closer ties between the SNP and Labour will remain just that.

    2. I am getting sick and tired about Labour drones harping on about shared risks and pooling resources when everybody and his dog knows there is NO shared risks and no pooling of resources!
      The UK of GB is total and absolute in its corruption! It is total and absolute in its imbalance with regards to power influence distribution and authority!

      The UK doesn’t do democracy nor does it do pooling and sharing in proportion! So stop trying to pretend it does because you want to continue to support the insupportable promote the utterly corrupt and accept the unbelievably unacceptable!

  16. Also cath, Labour isn’t for the socio-economic status quo. That’s hugely unfair. It ignores the progressive platform the party just ran on. A platform which the SNP crucified them on…and which the SNP then copied.
    It’s also unfair to ignore the achievements of the Blair/Brown era. They raised hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty, and God knows where the UK would have been at the time of the crash if they hadn’t. the totems of 8 years SNP devolved government (free tuition, council tax freeze, universal benefits) can’t point to similar successes either in poverty rates or educational outcomes for the poorest familues. This despite benefitting financially relative to rUK from (and constantly criticising) our current constitutional arrangements.

    To say that Labour’s economic policies are much worse than the SNP, is to ignore the self evident consensus between the parties on fiscal and economic policy. Don’t take my word for that though, ask the IFS.

    1. Gerry you’re either an absolute delusionalist or a bare faced compulsive liar!
      Labour hasn’t gotten anybody out of poverty for decades certainly not under Blair or Brown!
      A bare faced lie born out of a UN global report which stated that poverty had decreased across the world but didn’t highlight or mention it was because there was a significant drop within the UK but Labour made that claim anyway!

      Utterly pathetic and just the type of deplorable spin Labour have become infamous for!

      1. Takes one to know one Mike.

        According to the Child Poverty Action Group, Labour policies reduced child poverty dramatically between 1998/9-2011/12, when 1.1 million children were lifted out of poverty. CPAG states:

        “This reduction is credited in large part to measures that increased the levels of lone parents working, as well as real and often significant increases in the level of benefits paid to families with children.”


        The bare faced liar here is you, Mike, with your angry, bitter denial of the truth about Labour’s success in cutting poverty across the UK.

        1. 1.1 million really? So name just one of them! Just 1!

          Which of course you will be unable to do because nobody knows anybody who has been lifted out of poverty in the last 20 years! Nobody would know how to measure it! How would you measure it Duncan?

        2. Hmmm, during their terms in office recent Labour governments targeted certain areas to of investment and, not surprisingly, saw improved outcomes. Child poverty was one of those areas.
          But some areas which were not targeted saw no progress. For example, poverty for working age people without children rose and these factors tended to cancel out other improvements. Redistributing poverty helps nobody in the long-term.
          Overall, therefore, there was no real change in levels of income inequality and, in fact, wage inequalities grew at the top.
          Investment in other areas was also suspect. Much of it, like in new hospitals and schools, was driven by PFI/PPP meaning that future generations will have to pay, with massive interest, for these improvements further down the line.
          More recent studies by, for example the LSE and The Nuffield Trust, suggest that child poverty has greatly increased in the UK since the 1960s.
          Having said that, I am suspicious of taking statistics in isolation in these matters as politicians (and Duncan) tend to do. Much of the analyses on particular types of poverty tend to be comparative, eg compared to the national average, so it does not necessarily reflect “absolute” poverty if averages go up or down.
          I’m also concerned about focussing on individual issues as Duncan does here, in this case child poverty, rather than looking at the bigger picture. If, for instance, we could improve wages for the poorest paid by a wider introduction of the Living Wage we would see benefits in areas like child poverty, health, education etc.
          Labour focussed on ‘the poor’ but failed to recognize that those above and below the poverty line have similar problems of low pay and inequality. Tackling poverty means improving sustainable employment, working conditions and job security for all. By any analyses, Labour under Brown and Blair failed in this.

  17. Labour doesn’t support the status quo. See previous post.

    It also correctly identifies the complications and the fiscal difficulty inherent in proposing that decisions on welfare benefits which are crucial to the shared Labour market and shared welfare state, be devolved. As a Labour voter and someone who values a sense of UK solidarity very highly indeed (its a fundamental part of who I am) I’d also be distinctly uncomfortable with seeing Scotland hived off in these aspects of government from Bolton and Manchester and Cardiff. This constant focus on the constitution is getting poor people, across the UK, precisely nowhere.

    Opposing Tory policies on the welfare state, and opposing devolution of welfare powers are not contradictory.

    1. The trouble there is that we are not going to have a welfare state at all shared or otherwise with the Conservatives in charge of it. We don’t have the choice of standing in solidarity with the people of the rest of the UK to bring about social reform. Labour campaigned on that ticket in the referendum, telling Scotland “Vote No and work with us to bring about social justice for the whole of the UK” yet Labour weren’t even lose to being able to deliver a majority government and when the SNP offered to work with them Labour’s leader said he would rather not be in government. The choice we have in Scotland is do we hang around in the hopes of one day being able to save the voters of England from themselves by helping elect a left-leaning government that they seem decidedly reluctant to vote for, or do we say enough is enough and if the rest of the UK aren’t going to do anything about voting out the tories and enabling change let’s do it for ourselves.

      Do you want those decisions on social security benefits taken by the government of Scotland (in which Labour should realistically expect to play a part if they have any ambition to be a majority party of government in the UK) or by Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne? Because those are the only two viable options for the foreseeable future.

      1. Welfare state more meaningful in Scotland under Indy argument is one I hear often.

        Only if you ignore the fiscal gap. And only by choosing to ignore the poverty in rUK.

        With near identical fiscal policies, Labour’s offering is more inclusive than the SNP’s.

  18. I’ve read the comments, and you know what, who cares. Tom has made some excellent points, and it’s something that needs to be said. Treating the party which you vote for like it’s your football team is just tiring for a lot of us.

    I would like to see much more cross party stuff going on, but mostly I would love to see an end to the shit flinging that goes on, from the MPs and the voters.

    It was such a refreshing article to read. Thank you.

  19. Absolute tripe that amounts to ‘lets all just stick together and vote Labour again there’s a nice little lapdog’. Labour are responsible for the divisions and tribablism in Scottish society and politics, Labour called us a virus, cybernats, seperatists, Stalinist, Nazis and all the rest. Its Labour’s fault, and they will never be forgiven and none of it will ever be forgotten. They took Scotland for granted for decades now they will be punished for decades and never has it been more deserved.

    He also says there are no circumstances in which he would vote for independence, well that’s simple, naked, blatant nationalism then, he is simply a British nationalist that is a blood and soil position (another Labour smear) completely different from the civic nationalism of the SNP. We want independence because we believe it would make Scotland a better place to live, he rules it out under any circumstances. What if, like his Labour colleague Jim Hood, it could conclusively be proven Scotland would benefit from independence? He would still be against it, what a disgusting position to take.

    I’m glad Labour are dying, even the ‘decent’ ones are cretinous vermin. And to describe Jim Murphy as in any way ‘moral’ and a good guy is hilarious, he is a complete and utter scumbag.

    1. Malcolm, give it a rest.
      There is so much constructive supporters of independence can say on sites like this. Labour is on the ropes because its raison d’etre in Scotland is in question and even most of its own members know this.
      The foul abuse that you are handing out can only harm the SNP and its goal of independence. We’ve all been on the receiving end of insults and worse from some Labour supporters but reciprocating them doesn’t help.
      Political arguments are won by persuasion not insults. Calling people vermin and scumbags will win nobody over to your cause.

      1. Give your face a rest, I am being 100% truthful, sometimes the truth isn’t nice or polite, Labour are utter scum and vermin and deserve the biggest kicking any political party has ever had, this is the beginning of it and I am enjoying every second. If you even cared about progressive politics in the UK forgetting independence you’d agree as Labour aren’t the party of it anymore and haven’t been since 1994. For that to flourish Labour has to die, and for Scotland to become independent and realise its potential Labour has to die. For its actions Labour deserves to die, so I’ll carry on calling it as it really is even if you don’t think its polite.

        1. You are an incredibly bitter man and people like you and words like yours are one of the many reasons that people didn’t vote for independence and are disgusted with the SNP’s band of ‘supporters’. That along with the nonsensical economic arguments.

          Carry on calling it as you see it through your bitter yellow-tinted vision of Scotland.

  20. And of course, if there really is so much that Labour and the SNP have in common, why don’t Labour voters in Scotland just vote SNP then? You can vote no at any future referendum if you are a blood and soil British nationalist like Tom Harris, but since their aims are broadly the same you can happily vote SNP in all future elections from now on and you are still pursuing the same goals. Happy days.

  21. “There are no circumstances in which I would ever vote for Scottish independence.”

    And there’s the rub.

    What is wrong with Scotland being self determinant?

    We are living in poverty because of Westminster policies, yet we are rich in resources.

    I have voted Labour almost all my life until recently, but it seems every Labour philosophy has been chucked out the window except some fantastical one world dream which can be the only real reason to oppose independence.

    We can be independent and part of a socialist brotherhood.

    Every SNP Bad utterance, every time Labour don’t vote for things like getting rid of Bedroom Tax, every time Labour does not support unions, drives another hole through a sinking boat.

    Scotland would benefit from a Labour party regaining its purpose and it would recover to previous levels of support.

    But I suppose first we have to have a genuinely Scottish Labour party.

    And I would really like to see that.

    1. We are living in poverty because your leader toddled around England telling them to vote “green” and that “the SNP would hold all the power”.

      Don’t blame me. I voted Labour.

  22. Why vote Labour and not SNP at the last election?

    Labour’s history of delivery at Westminster. Labour’s manifesto. FFA. SNPs record in government at holyrood. Distrust of nationalism. Avoid more divisive constitutional politics.

  23. Cretinous vermin. Glad they’re dying. Complete and utter scumbag. Punish for decades.


  24. “They’re not. They’re dicks. Now move on.”
    Unless of course they turn out to be SNP members, or SNP MP’s, or SNP Candidates (a grimly recurring theme).

    Yet the premise of the essay is compelling.
    Sadly, Nationalism has triumphed by fabricating the differences. By taking on Labour policies whilst saying “Labour are Tories”. By jamming their knifes in any trivial crack and opening it to what seems to be an insurmountable chasm.

    Its a fair point on the FFA vote. It is galling after all the “campaigned with the Tories” GE nonsense, particularly as Salmond happily stated that the SNP will campaign with the Tories on the EU, with not a cheep from his supporters. But it is cheap. Far better to criticise the SNP for voting for FFA which they have admitted they don’t really want “right now”, which will be devastating to The Scottish economy and society, and which they knew wouldn’t get through in a million years. It was a mummers farce. They did it principally so they could now campaign on how “Westminster” has yet again stopped Scotland getting its due. Feed the faux persecution complex machine.

    It is true that the SNP and Labour voters aren’t poles apart. Indeed, they they have been both. But the SNP’s “Hand of Friendship”, offered so vocally in the Leaders Debates, is just one of their two faces. Meanwhile, the Recent “Labour voted with the tories against 16 to 18 years old voting” absolute LIE is more indicative of the SNP’s real agenda. Power at all costs.

    1. Sorry but Nicola and Alex and almost every SNP MEP MP MSP Cllr will or have ruled out a joint campaign with anyone on the EU

  25. I have to wonder.
    What kind of a person is it who deliberately haunts websites of an organisation they do not support purely to aggressively attack the discussions that take place.
    What drives them? Why are they so unwilling to allow democracy to unfold. It’s all very evangelical.

  26. Is Tom Harris having a giraffe here? Nicola Sturgeon a committed social democrat? Really? Is that why the SNP have been systematically re-distributing wealth from the poor to the middle-class since 2011? And what “committed social democrat” would support policies such as the Super ID database and the horrific state guardian scheme? What “committed social democrat” would argue for lowering corpiration tax for big business or even puts nation before class solidarity? Sorry, Tom, but, you’ve gone soft.

    1. Labour supporters don’t get to act all high and mighty over other’s rhetoric anymore champ, its you who called us Nazis, a virus, Stalinists and all the rest. The terminology I used was fair and accurate, sometimes the truth isn’t very nice and Labour are the scummiest party imaginable full of the scummiest people and supported by likewise. The arrogance of their fundamental self-entitlement has lead them to this, would you object so someone calling the Nazi party similar terms and being glad they’re dead? Of course not, so its fine for Labour (who called us Nazis) too. And that is not my nationalism I am espousing there either, that’s my hatred for a scummy party populated and supported by scummy people.

      And its you who states you have a distrust of nationalism, while not recognising your own nationalism, what you really mean is a distrust of SCOTTISH nationalism, as it is inherently a threat to yours. You made this into a war, you lowered the tone, now we are taking you on on your terms and we will win. Its a gloves off no holds barred fight for control of Scotland, and we are going to prevail, as we want what’s best for Scotland and you don’t.

      Labour spent two years lying to Scotland, talking Scotland down, threatening us (TWICE your leader threatened armed guards on the border, they don’t even have that on the border with the ROI), now you want to play all happy campers once you have been obliterated at WM. Well I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that, Labour are dying and I’m delighted about it and gleefully playing my part in its lingering, painful and long overdue death, you think May was the zenith of the kicking your disgusting party are going to take think again, HR comes next year then every election after that, I will never ever forgive or forget what Labour have done these last three years, and never tire of kicking them till they’re long past dead.

      Get used to it, we own politics in Scotland now and independence is as inevitable as is the death of the Labour party.

    2. Labour lowered corporation tax THREE TIMES the last time they were in power!!! Do any Labour supporters have a clue what they’re talking about?

      1. True, but Labour also lifted millions out of poverty by redistributing the wealth generated by a growing economy. SNP wanted tax cuts during a recession.

        1. Labour allowed the gap between rich and poor to increase every single year of their 13 years in power, redefined poverty to claim they were helping the poorest and championed ‘light-touch regulation’ and we know where that lead us. That’s before lying to, threatening and talking down Scotland for 3 years. Labour are on life-support and we are gleefully flicking the switch to turn it off. Suck it up Britnat.

          1. Is your argument that the Child Poverty action Group let Labour away with fiddling the definition of poverty? I don’t dispute the rise in inequality. Neither does the party, or that it needs to be addressed (read the 2015 manifesto if you’re interested in what the Labour party’s stance is on inequality).

            We proposed a raise in the minimum wage (which we created btw), increase of top rate of tax and had plenty of room for fiscal consensus with lib dems/snp if the electoral maths necessitated. It was SNP who duplicitously sought to promote an impression of radical departure from Labour’s spending plans with their CBR/30 billion of cuts/red Tories sham.

            This illusion of radical fiscal difference hurt the party, very badly, in English constituencies. without that impression, without the collapse of the Scottish left into identity politics, maybe we could have done something about inequality.

            Rather than just hate the Labour party and expect us to sit there silently while you do, you may want to dwell on what can be achieved by growing up, which is exactly what Tom’s post suggests.

        2. How does the party get that message out Duncan? To my mind it’s something to be proud of. Main reason I joined the party. My (admittedly anecdotal) experience is that people treat me with incredulity if I point out the CPAG report and this http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/6738

          Addressing inequality was clearly the message for 2015, and I thought the manifesto was the easiest Labour manifesto to promote of any of the past 10 years. I hope, among all the soul searching, that that message isn’t list in 2016.

          1. Created the minimum wage at half the level recommended you mean (commission recommended £7.35 Labour brought in £3.75, maybe they read it wrong) and your proposed increase was to £8 by 2020 wow that’s so amazing, but as ever Labour had to lie about it and misrepresent their actual policy. And grow up and vote Labour is what you really mean, what that achieved last time was the rich getting richer every single year and an illegal invasion of a foreign country causing 1.5 million deaths, not for me thanks, why don’t you grow up and vote SNP and allow Scotland to unlock its potential instead of being held back as it has been for 300 years, instead of Labour lying to us about our wealth and stealing 6000 square miles of our sea to artificially inflate England’s GDP and deflate Scotland’s once again lying to us about our wealth, why don’t you grow up and get on board with that?

            And its no sham, Labour voted for an additional £30 billion of spending cuts while the SNP opposed them, do any Labour supporters actually tell the truth about anything? You voted with the Tories on their spending plans, offered less devolution than anyone else, campaigned side by side with them for 3 years, vowed to stick to Tory spending plans and be tougher than them on immigration. We call you Red Tories cause that’s what you are.

            And you once again have to denigrate us by calling it identity politics as ever the arrogance of Labour is breathtaking, we are wrong for not voting Labour its our fault, maybe if Labour hadn’t spent the entire campaign refusing to countenance working with the SNP they wouldn’t have to throw out such petty slanderous insults now to explain their decimation which is only just beginning. The Scottish left is actually still left-wing that’s what the difference is, nothing to do with identity, Labour are now a centre-right party, that’s why the Scottish left won’t vote for them nothing to do with identity, though Labour themselves define themselves as a UK party opposed to independence so they are also engaged in identity politics too just a different identity. Your failure to understand that is hilarious.

          2. What an extraordinary catalogue of lies.

            The Low Pay Commission’s first report in 1998 recommended a minimum wage of £3.70 an hour. Here is that report: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20070603164510/http://www.dti.gov.uk/files/file37987.pdf Will you apologise for this blatant untruth and commit never to repeat it?

            And you claimed that Labour voted for £30 billion spending cuts. This is another lie, admitted as such by none other than Nicola Sturgeon herself. Here’s the explanation and evidence for that: http://labourhame.com/the-big-lie-how-the-snp-deceived-the-scottish-public/

            I hope you will stop peddling lies about Labour and start educating yourself instead.

          3. Duncan, the article in Labour Hame (I assume it’s The Charter for Deception one) does not contradict the SNP (and Diane Abbott line that some Labour MPs voted for £30 billion austerity cuts. That was government policy at the time and the Charter makes clear that it includes support for the government’s economic policies. “Section 1(2) of the Act requires that the Charter includes the government’s objectives for fiscal policy and its objective for the management of the national debt, its fiscal mandate, and the minimum requirements of the Financial Statement and Budget Report (“the Budget Report”).”
            And again in 2.1 “The Charter sets out the government’s commitment to managing fiscal policy in accordance with clear objectives and its fiscal mandate.”
            There is also a built-in acceptance of an “accountant’s view” of spending. Also why is expenditure on welfare the only form of spending to be treated like this in the first place? Section 3.4 states the aim “To ensure that expenditure on welfare remains sustainable, the Treasury’s mandate for fiscal policy is further supplemented by the cap on welfare spending, at a level set out by the Treasury in the most recently published Budget report, over the rolling 5-year forecast period, to ensure that expenditure on welfare is contained within a predetermined ceiling.” So, admittedly, no specific commitment to £30bn cuts but why commit yourself to this aim at all if you’re unhappy about the government’s plans on welfare?
            And the SNP were hardly the only ones criticising Labour on this issue in these terms. Labour MP Diane Abbot had this to say about her colleagues when she rebelled along with four of her colleagues against the Charter “I was hugely disappointed yesterday to see the Labour Party vote in favour of further austerity and in doing so we have done hardworking people a great disservice. Instead of simply mimicking current practices we should be offering a solid alternative through investment in public services to create real and sustainable growth.”

          4. Not sure why you are persisting in peddling a falsehood. The Charter committed to cutting the deficit. Like the SNP, Labour’s plan to do so was mostly through growth rather than cuts, with some additional tax raising from the wealthiest.

            The shameful thing here is that Nicola Sturgeon admitted after the election that the Charter allows for that model – the Labour model, which the SNP adopted – to work, but beforehand she and every other SNP politician insisted it didn’t, and that Labour had in fact voted for £30bn cuts. Instead of you continuing to use this dishonesty to smear, why not take this opportunity to admit that the SNP campaign was wrong, that Labour was not committed to £30bn cuts, and that politics needs to be better then this in the future.

          5. Now that you’re in opposition it’s easy for you to act the innocent but the Charter is clear. It is a specific reference to Government policy at the time. Diane Abbott, Katy Clark, Dennis Skinner, Austin Mitchell and Roger Godsiff all knew what they were doing and voted against it; are they liars too? Your insistence that Labour’s voting with the Tories on a Benefit cuts, austerity charter against its own left wing with a number of other “leftists” abstaining was entirely proper simply compounds the deception. The truth of the matter is that Labour, once again, decided to back the Tories because it did not want to be portrayed in the south of England as “the left wing alternative.”
            You can’t spin yourselves out of this one, Duncan. With your leadership candidates already arguing about just how far right they should go this problem is only going to get worse.

          6. This is simply a lie. The CBR set goals for fiscal outcomes not for spending cuts. Even Nicola has accepted that it doesn’t stand in the way of opposing austerity. Why can’t you?

          7. Read the Charter! “The Charter sets out the government’s commitment to managing fiscal policy in accordance with clear objectives and its fiscal mandate.” £30 billion spending cuts were part of the Tory government’s policy at that time. Labour knew it and still supported the Charter.
            People on this site have, since the General Election, bemoan the fact that Labour did not expose “the SNP lies” on the subject. Why were they not shouting their complaints BEFORE the election. Answer: because the Tories would have portrayed any backpeddling as rampant socialism. The fact that you’re all bleating about it after the event just illustrates the utter hypocrisy of Labour in Scotland.

          8. I have read the charter. It sets out clear *objectives*. Those objectives are *not* defined by spending cuts, they are defined by deficit reduction. The Charter commits to balancing the revenue budget in the life of the next parliament. The idea that agreeing with that was implicitly an agreement with a set of specific spending cuts which Labour explicitly opposed is ludicrous.

            And I and many, many others – candidates, activists and supporters – spent a huge amount of time during the election campaign trying to expose the SNP lies on this subject. Jim Murphy challenged Sturgeon on it during a TV debate. Kezia Dugdale challenged Stewart Hosie on it during a TV debate. You are being further dishonest by claiming that wasn’t the case. You are allowed your own opinions but you are not allowed your own facts. The SNP lied about Labour signing up to £30bn of cuts and it is to your shame that you are continuing that lie even after Sturgeon has exposed it.

          9. Why would we need a Charter to say that a deficit is a bad thing? The Charter was written to tie parties down on how to tackle it. “The Charter sets out the government’s commitment ( NOTE: THE GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT ie the government which had a policy of £30 billion austerity cuts as its key policy to tackle the deficit!) to managing fiscal policy in accordance with clear objectives and its fiscal mandate.” This basically means that the coalition government would run the economy as per its policy, which at that time, as Labour MP Diane Abbot pointed out, involved heavy austerity cuts.
            You cannot wriggle out of this one, Duncan. Using the word “lie” in every post can’t cover-up Labour’s hypocrisy.

          10. Your logic is ludicrous. Labour voted for the Charter, not for Tory cuts. Sturgeon has admitted the two are not the same thing. Why can’t you?

            I notice you haven’t apologised for your other lie, that Labour didn’t make this point during the election. We did, and I think you should apologise.

          11. The Charter is about Tory austerity. Why would Labour even support a Tory Charter like this? Because in the south of England, where it needs to win back Tory voters, it can’t be seen to be backsliding on austerity. Most Labour members would expect Labour to oppose such a Charter on principle, not support it.
            Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Dennis Skinner saw it clearly, why can’t you? This is not about Nocola Sturgeon or the SNP. Labour has created this embarrassment all by itself.

          12. Stewart, don’t take Duncan’s word for it.
            Straight from the Horses Mouth.
            Sturgeon. May 2015.
            “The Charter for Budget Responsibility allows the UK government flexibility to increase spending over its current plans, while still reducing the deficit and debt”.
            We can only conclude that for the three months running up to the Election, Sturgeon was unaware of this.
            Or she, her colleagues, and her Party were Liars.

          13. Sturgeon wants the Tories to backpedal on Austerity? Hardly a surprise there. Likewise, we’d all have liked Labour to drop it’s pro-Austerity line during the election campaign.
            Clearly, Labour Central Office has issued an order to use the word “lie” with every mention of the SNP, just like it told Jim Murphy to keep using the word “patriotic” in every interview. It didn’t work for Jim and it won’t work for you.
            As Tom Harris points out, Labour needs to inspire Scots with a positive vision of the future and join the progressive forces fighting the Tories. …..or are you going to start calling Tom a “liar” too?

          14. You were wrong, Stewart. Have the balls to admit it. Labour voted on the Charter, not Tory spending policy. Nicola acknowledged, after the election, that the Charter allows flexibility, just as Labour had been saying throughout the election when the SNP were telling barefaced lies about it.

            Yes we need to find a positive vision. That doesn’t mean we need to let people like you get away with promoting falsehoods.

            As I say, grow a pair and admit you were wrong. Then we can maybe start an honest debate.

          15. You are becoming even more tiresome than normal and I’m not going to continue to engage with you when you simply assert a standpoint but produce no serious evidence to back it up.
            The Charter was an attempt to tie Labour to supporting the coalition government’s economic strategy and it worked. It worked because Labour could not be seen opposing the Tories on that strategy so close to a general election because doing so would turn-off the south of England Tory voters Labour needed to win back.
            Here is how the BBC reported the announcement of the Charter ploy in December 2014: “The shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, said on Monday he would support plans to tackle the deficit set out by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, which could involve an extra £30bn of tax rises or spending cuts within three years.” Balls could have rejected the whole thing then but he didn’t, for the reason I’ve mentioned above.
            The deliberate obfuscation by Labour continued all the way to the night of the vote. During the debate George Osbourne himself made it clear what the Charter was about. He should know, it was his Charter. This from Hansard “We then commit in the charter to achieving falling national debt by 2016-17 and a surplus on our cyclically adjusted current budget by 2017-18. That requires £30 billion of consolidation.”
            Minutes before the division, Danny Alexander spelled out exactly what Labour was doing when it voted with the government on the Charter, again from Hansard “Putting our nation’s finances back in order is the responsible thing to do, and that is what this charter does. It sets out two clear, simple, coherent targets for the public finances in the next Parliament. The first is to balance the structural deficit by the third year of a rolling five-year forecast, which, to correct the Labour Front-Bench team, does mean meeting that target by the financial year 2017-18. Should Labour win a majority at the election, it will be judged on that three-year target, so it should be straight with its own Back Benchers about what it is asking them to vote for.”
            Labour MP then trooped into the government lobby to vote for the government’s Austerity plans which, as Osbourne pointed out was based on £30 billion cuts. That is why its rebels Dianne Abbott, Katy Clark, Dennis Skinner, Austin Mitchell and Roger Godsiff, all Labour MPs, voted with the SNP and not with the Tories.
            I am not surprised that Labour activists are deeply ashamed of what their party has done and I’m not surprised that you and others on this site remain in denial. But don’t try to cover your own embarrassment by calling me a liar.

          16. Yet again you demonstrate that you know the facts but want only to present the spin.

            You cite a journalist and two coalition Treasury ministers, all delivering the then government’s spin, but you don’t and cannot cite the Charter, because you know damn well it does not contain what the SNP, the Tories and the UK Government were so keen to spin that it did.

            You know for a fact the Charter vote was not a vote for £30 billion austerity. It’s people like you who are destroying trust in politics. It’s deeply sad, and totally unnecessary.

            I genuinely thought that once Nicola had come clean on this at least some of her supporters would have followed suit. But no, you are so desperate to continue to attack Labour you’re even prepared to imply that the First Minister is lying about what the Charter says. How sad. Don’t comment again unless you’re prepared to be honest.

  27. Methinks this is an article from someone contemplating life as a political pundit.

    No word wizardry can overcome the political fact that the SNP believe that their political programme will only be achieved through overturning Westminster domination of Scotland, whereas the LP still believes that their political project is to win a majority at Westminster. Labour can only achieve this by dismantling the SNP.

  28. Tom, let it go comrade.
    The high heid yins of the Scottish Labour Party have managed to lose half a million votes between 1997 and 2015.
    That borders on the plain daft.
    You and i mean you personally Tom, helped blow 40 safe Labour seats.
    The SNP were no where, you bullied many of your own voters with that BT stunt.
    Btw, Ruth Davidson fully supports the cuts that are coming.
    Do you think really she gives a toss about punters in Castlemilk.
    Seriously Tom, you’d be better keeping quiet for a few years.

    Come back Johann, all is forgiven.

    1. Graham, you are spot on. At least Johann was honest, unlike Tom Harris.
      Where is he now? 60 replies to his article but none worth a comment from the author. Tom still thinks he’s above all that.
      If Labour really want to understand why it has come to the end of the road they should not look at the enemies abilities they should look at this article.
      Tom Harris, Murphy, Curran, Alexander and all the others we can’t remember the names of and never actually heard of, are yesterdays people, These people, fellow Scots, that claimed to represent us, actually believed that for some obscure reason, (membership of the Labour Party) they had a right to rule.
      Those days are over.
      GCC should set up an old folks home for retired members of SLP.
      Any ideas as to afternoon classes?

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