Ben Procter says Scottish Labour must be realistic about its plight and the challenge it faces, and must approach the future united if it is to survive at all.

There is no denying the scale of the challenges that lie in front of the Labour Party. For us to achieve a majority of one in the next General Election there would need to be a national swing in the range of 14 – 16%.

A swing of that magnitude would be larger than the swings to Labour in 1987, 1992 and 1997 combined. To call it a Herculean effort would be an understatement.

In Scotland, as many have already pointed out, the results paint a far worse image. There were a number of reasons why voters felt that they couldn’t trust us with their vote in this election. And after losses in every election in Scotland since 2007 (barring 2010) we really do need to identify the root causes.

To suggest that the Labour Party rulebook or our internal structures are what lost us support is not just sticking our heads in the guillotine but offering to pull the lever ourselves.

It is only right that there is a review of what we got wrong, but by this stage we have nearly had as many reviews of the Scottish Party as we have had leaders since 1999.

This one must be different or it may be our last.

For starters, the review must have clear terms of reference. It should be about the results of the election, and should set out a clear set of options as to our next steps.

There must be a clear and impartial outside perspective as far as possible, and that is why it should be led by an external body and not by an elected representative who owes fealty to the leadership team or has personal desires that would gain advantage from an antagonistic approach.

And finally, it must present a long term plan to rebuild our party with clear milestones.

Now, less than 18 months out from the next Scottish Parliament elections, it would be foolish to think we can leapfrog back to being the largest party in Scotland with ease – but if Scottish Labour is to survive we must use that time wisely and as a springboard for the years to come.

We’ve seen the difference a Labour government makes, and we know how much better, brighter and more prosperous Scotland could be with a Labour-led government in Holyrood.

We are all on #TeamLabour. We all joined to make a difference and deliver a fairer and more just Scotland.

United we rise, divided we end.

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34 thoughts on “United, we rise

  1. The first step for Labour in Scotland is decide whether it will rule out working with the Conservatives to remove the SNP from power in Scotland. Until it takes a clear position on that issue there will always be a suspicion that it would, just like the coalition in Aberdeen city council between the Conservatives and Labour demonstrates – and no expulsions of Labour councillors suggest deep down that the Labour leadership approves

  2. I don’t know? A united Labour party–an oxymoron these days. There have always been splits in Labour, on economic policy, left/right/, nuclear weapons, devolution, privatisation—you name it, but these stayed largely within the party ranks. Now MPs, activists, funders, fill newspaper columns/ TV studios with anti-this and anti-that griping attacks on whoever (usually Corbyn). If attacks don’t originate within Labour, it doesn’t matter—the press will vilify Labour anyway.
    Who will the new Leader Be? How will he unite this fractious bunch? Corbyn at least had a pretty good manifesto—will that be dumped?
    Boris Johnson expelled those who disagreed with him from the party—some big names at that, but it shut them up. Would Labour be willing to do that?
    But party discipline is what is required, along with a coherent policy strategy that ALL can get behind. Everyone singing from the same hymn sheet they used to say.

    Too late in Scotland, I think.

  3. Hi Ben, did you join Labour to deliver a ‘fairer and more just Scotland’ or a ‘fairer and more just United Kingdom’? The reason I ask is that we in Scotland appear to have a choice between waiting until middle England can be persuaded to vote Labour or forging ahead as a separate country and getting a government and policies we vote for without having to rely on middle England to vote the same way.

    So Ben, are you happy to wait for middle England to vote for more fairness and justice before we in Scotland can get it?

  4. Hi Ben,
    “but by this stage we have nearly had as many reviews of the Scottish Party as we have had leaders since 1999”.
    1999, now there’s a date.Therein lies the problem, but you’re hardly likely to get turkeys voting for Christmas, not even in January.
    Holyrood is failing spectacularly, that needs to be addressed and should be on the table in any review.
    The concept of what resembles a clear message has been lost along the way, probably since 1999.

    1. Ronnie,
      When you say , “Holyrood is failing spectacularly, that needs to be addressed and should be on the table in any review”, what do you mean? What would you do with Holyrood?

    2. You mean Devolution is a failed experiment which is hardly surprising as it was setup as a counter to Independence and has done nothing but provide a springboard and greater argument in favour of Independence. The direction of Devolution was always only ever going to go one way. The disunion has run out of fingers to shore up the breaking dam. But rather than accept reality you want to take us back to pre Devolution and full blown English Tory rule from London as your preference to ever having an Independent Scottish Labour party running an Independent Scottish parliament.
      You’re part of the problem that has Labour sinking beyond all hope of recovery.

  5. This is from a man who has worked tirelessly to destroy the labour brand in Eastwood and then acted as an election agent for a candidate who told people Labour didn’t deserve their vote. He has now discovered unity!!

  6. Good to see you have realized the value of party unity Ben, after many years of actively undermining and attacking the party leadership. Not sure by-passing the party’s democratic structures to bring in ‘impartial’ consultants is the way to go though.

  7. Ben I salute Monica Lennon for her views on a breakaway seperate party from the UK Labour Party it’s refreshing to see someone who is going against the convention of the current Scottish Labour section’s leadership position of remaining as a section of the UK Labour party with no power whatsoever to getting Scottish Labour Party section policies into the UK Labour Party manifesto for general elections. The elephant in the room is IndyRef2 and the Scottish Labour section should have frank open discussions in a climate mutual respect for all members taking part in the review regardless of their views on an IndyRef2 good luck with that.

  8. Correct Ben the collapse in Scotland started long before Corbyn people have stopped voting for us at Holyrood and Westminster elections.
    To fix a problem you have to recognize it.
    This latest review will have to ask some very hard hitting questions but will we accept the result especially if it looks at the leadership how the party is seen in Scotland separate party indy etc and how do we reconnect with people.

  9. It’s worth noting from the Queen’s Speech that the Conservative are planning to change seat boundaries before the next election in a gerrymandering exercise. That will probably hit Labour by about another 3% to 5%.

    1. And photo I.D.

      Decrease elected politicians while increasing Peers. Reece-Mogg WILL be pleased.

      Pressurize Channel 4 and the BEEB to act more like Fox News.

      England may well vote Tory for a generation partly because of this. But mostly because Boris is a taste they like (no, I don’t know why).

      Scotland has a solution, if people grow a pair!

  10. Does it matter to the Labour party if Scottish Labour split? I would guess not, due to the lack of interest/comment down south over the latest voting collapse. Indeed they may want to distance themselves from contamination from the “lemming tendency” which argues a collapse in support in Scotland is fine, as long as the (UK) Union is safe ( polling suggests the Union is not such a big deal in Labour or Tory parties in England). The North is now Labours priority, whatever anyone in Scotland says.

    The point however: who will win the tarnished crown as Labour leader and how will it play out? A candidate from the centre/right might win (if it was based on MP’s preference), but that wont unite the wider party.
    What I think is an option is—-.Keir Starmer (perhaps the most personable candidate) wins from a Left platform and moves Right gradually. Hoping the bulk of the party membership somehow either doesn’t notice or finds the move attractive.
    Will they notice? Of course they will—there will be howls of anguish from the “Keepers of the Flame”.
    Will they object? Of course they will—- winning for some, isn’t everything.

    Labour hasn’t got time to waste—Boris cannot fulfil his promises, and no one left to blame after Brexit. If the media report facts, he should be in trouble within a couple of years.
    Will Labour be ready by then? The million dollar question. I very much doubt it, given the lack of disciple, and deeper animosity in the heart of the party.

  11. Ben,
    I just read this article in Huff Post.
    I dont think your plea for unity is going to be as smooth a journey as you hoped it might be.
    PS. You see this ‘external review body’ ; If you mean by ‘external’, outside the labour party please put my name forward as a member. It would be an honour to serve.

  12. While I support a separate Scottish Labour Party can we afford it and we don’t have long to mess around the Tory Government are looking at ways to reform the courts no more Boris lied to the queen .BBC and CH4 to be reformed for as I see it annoying the Tories especially Boris during the election .
    I think changes to health and safety laws workers rights and benefit rules are all coming and Labour I hope instead of internal rows should be fighting that .
    We should at Westminster persuade Ian Blackford and friends to join with us in pointing out to all those new tory MPS did your people elect you to vote for cuts to your living standards Put pressure on Boris day in day out where are all those new hospitals and the people to staff them .
    In Scotland we agree with the Finance Secretary as I do A UK budget in March leaves no time to properly set a Scottish budget nor can local councils .
    And why don’t Labour ln Holyrood put bills of our own forward make the SNP Tories vote them down .

    1. Hello David,
      I fear of what may come with this Conservative government. This is not ‘normal’ conservatism (which is bad enough) but as near a fascist government as you can get. To exacerbate this, the political situation in the country is not normal (due to Brexit) and so many undesirable political initiatives might be pushed through without proper scrutiny. You are right in saying that “…instead of internal rows Labour should be fighting…changes to health and safety laws, workers rights and benefit rules…” which as you say might well be just around the corner. It is unfortunate that after almost every general election Her Majesty’s opposition go into an (understandable) internal wrangle rather than focusing on the politics of the day – this allows the government to push ahead almost unfettered with their plans. With the majority the conservatives have they will probably get things through very easily anyway, but it might help alert the media and public if they were held to account with more co-ordination. This is where I both agree with you and disagree – if you’ll forgive me – I agree there should be more co-operation between the opposition parties down in Westminster, but I find it difficult to see how they can do that while the Labour party are sorting out their internal problems and at the same time the SNP priorities have moved onto our own constitutional agenda, these are two forces pulling in different directions, but we have to find a way quickly to (and I quote Laurel and Hardy here) “put our minds together and forge a-head” to create an opposition that benefits all the people of the UK and deals responsibly with the Scottish question and indeed the Northern Irish question. (I support independence by the way).

      One thing is for sure, the Tories have a majority but all of us, Labour, SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru etc., must try to work together to resist all the policies that this government will bring forth, possibly with constitutional changes such as replacing civil servants, that will adversely affect all the peoples of the UK. It is frightening what might happen to workers’ rights with this lot in charge of the country because they just do not seem to care.

  13. Thank you for your comment Wynn
    I agree its frightening what Boris can force through with his majority we have got to work together and say to those new Tory MPS changes to employment and benefit rules etc which I think will come is that what your constituents voted for and we need to get professional and use the press its their viewers and readers who will be affected.

  14. I watched Alister Jack on the Politics Show (Scotland) this morning. He ruled out a Second Referendum for 20years (if ever being granted).

    In 2021 the Tories will be standing on that message. Simple, short and rigid,
    The SNP will stand for a mandate to hold a 2nd Referendum.
    The LibDems will repeat the Tory message.

    What will Labour’s message be? I am not debating the merits in the case for the Union or Independence. I’m simply asking what the message to the electorate will be in 16monrhs – it isn’t long!

    How will Labour compete for votes between two camps? Once again I’m not suggesting that it should but facing the reality that it will be

    1. Scottish Labour did, collectively and individually, sign the Claim of Right, that states that Scots have the right to chose their own form of government.
      Does Labour still believe that?

      Labour signed up to the Good Friday Agreement that gives N Ireland the right to hold a referendum every seven years.
      Does labour think Scots should have the same rights?

      The Downing Street Declaration also affirms the Right of Self Determination for Irish people.
      Does Labour think it apply to Scots?

  15. What will be the Labour message for the 2021 Holyrood election?
    Compete for votes with the Tories to stop a 2nd Referendum?
    Support the right to have one?

    Agree or disagree on the merits of either it will be a black and white campaign. No other message will get through and certainly not a complex message.

    14 months to go! What will the message be.

    1. Julie you are bang on the money the problem with Labour is the indecision you just seen what happened in the general election with a lack of a clear position on Brexit a total wipe out of North of England previous traditional Labour seat’s. As for the Holyrood election Scottish Labour are in a no win position even before the election because all the parties have already got their stall’s set out with clear positions even at this stage it will all be down to the IndyRef2 so anybody regardless of party allegiance will either vote Tory for remaining in the Union or alternatively SNP for Scottish Independence, as a Labour Party supporter I will be lending my vote to the SNP in support of Independence. ps I know a lot of other Labour Party supporters who do likewise.

    2. Leonard has been utterly humiliated by his own National Executive Committee, a pretty sizable body of people, representing XXXX ??????

      When Scottish Labour disappears as a political entity, they will have enough people on that committee to have a tea party and hold a dance.

    3. Julia,
      You ask ‘What will be the Labour message for the 2021 Holyrood election?’
      I dont know is the answer. But I know what the message should be.
      Labour saved The Union back in 2014. It should be proud of its achievement. Instead Labour seems to be ashamed. Ashamed of holding the 300 year union of Scotland and England together. Which is odd. When you win, the normal reaction is to claim the victory and be proud of it.
      Labour in Scotland are convinced that their alliance in Better Together was a huge tactical error. It doesnt seem to bother the Torys. The Tory’s in Scotland arent embarrassed by BT. Although the minor party in BT the Torys have claimed all the glory. Now they are the second party in Scotland and Labour are irrelevent and split down the middle.
      So what should Labour do?

      Out do the Torys on the constitution.

      Labour in 2021 should stand on a platform of ‘ vote for Labour and if Labour get a majority of MSPs Labour will aboliish the Scottish Parliament’. The logic of the argument is; Labour introduced devolution. The SNP asked the Scottish people if they wanted to take devolution further and become an indepedent country within the EU and the Scottish people said No. The ‘Devolution Project’ has been tested and Scotland does not want to take it further. There is therefore no longer any point in maintaining a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.
      Back up arguments;
      1) 300 years Scotland was goverened successfully from Westminster.
      2) Bring the country (UK) together after Brexit.
      3) Savings to be spent on things that matter.
      4) Governance of Scotland is a mess. So, abolish Holyrood but reorganise and strengthen Scotland’s regional councils. i.e. Devolve the powers at Holryood to the regions of Scotland.. (at the same time, cut the number of local councils from 32 to a sensible number and give real power to Scottish regions).
      Number 4 argument has to be worked on. But the creation of a parliament in Edinburgh in1999 has sucked power out of the regions of Scotland.
      Every MSP knows that Holyrood is a massive vanity project. Its been an embarrassment from the day after 18/09/2014. Eventually the Scottish electorate will realise what their elected representatives already ken and when they do they will turn against it.

      I bet you, before I press ;Post Comment’ , that this idea is going to go down very well on Labourhame. I will go further, I bet you that there will be Labour politicians that will pick this argument up and run with it. But remember where you heard it first. .

      1. Richard sorry to say the Genie’s out of the bottle the Scottish Parliament is here to stay in the interim period until Scottish Independence, the idea that Scottish Labour would even consider abolishing Holyrood is highly unlikely as is the Scottish Labour Party gaining a majority in the Scottish elections so sorry to burst your bubble but do yourself a favour don’t put any bets on you could end up losing your groat’s, however on a positive note if you fancy a flutter put some groat’s on the Scottish Labour Party coming in as the fourth party in the Scottish elections.

        1. Ted,
          It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single referendum held good faith, will not be repeated.
          Trust me. It will not happen. Scotland had its chance and blew it. The union is secure.
          You know why Im so sure of this?
          Because the winners back in 2014 wont let it happen or more precisely, wont let it work. Quite right. They won.
          Even if the AUOB brigade force the SNP into holding a second referendum, and believe me they (SNP directors) dont want one for this same reason: in the event of a second referendum the unionists will not take part. (please note that last statement) “in the event of a second referendum the unionists will not take part. ”
          That is the unspeakable predicament facing Nicola Sturgeon (and thats why I think she will step down this year).
          A referendum with a turn out of 30 to 35 % will not command any authority. It will be laughed at by unionists.
          But your right about one thing; Scottish Labour will never abolish Holyrood. They may not like Holyrood but Labour likes big government. I wonder why?

          1. Richard on the turn out of 30 to 36% your probably correct that unionists would laugh, but l cannot see if an article 30 is sanctioned by Boris that the Scottish Tories would boycott the referendum. I think a Catalonia style unofficial referendum would be a victory for the SNP and would increase support for the means of gaining a legitimate Independence it’s all part of a drip effect.

      2. So Richard, your path to success is to “Out Tory the Tories” in Scotland and that will be a winner and will give Labour a majority of MSP’s.

        Sounds like a crowded Unionist field to me, but I can but admire your optimism.

        1. Yes Stephen that is exactly what Labour should do.
          “Out Tory the Tories”
          The present set up for governing Scotland is a mess. We have Westminster, where the real power resides, and then Holyrood, a devolved parliament, responsible for in reality no more than the divi up of the block grant.
          Then we have 32 local councils, with very little power (what powers they had has all been sucked away by Holyrood). Scotland’s population is only 5 million. It is bonkers..
          Eventually the Scottish people will realise the absurdity of the present set up. The politicians already do. Watch them at FMQs. They are bored, embarrassed, bad actors and a waste of a lot of our money. When the Scottish people realise this what will they do? They will turn on Holyrood. Just now the dissatisfaction is with Westminster, cleverly managed by the SNP, but that cannot last.
          What I am suggesting is that there is a real opportunity here for Labour to be ahead of the game and come up with a radical proposal based on common sense and not political opportunism.
          We are in the mess we find ourselves because of political opportunism. Why was Holyrood created in 1999? Labour created Holyrood for one reason only. It had nothing to do with improving the way Scotland is governed. We all know why. I dont need to waste my time explaining.
          And I dont have the blue print, (I do have some ideas). If I were a Labour MSP I would come up with a working plan to reshape the structure of governance and I would put it to the next Scottish Labour conference.

      3. Hello Richard,
        I have to disagree with you here. I think your analysis is based on an assumption that devolution has increased calls for independence and that Donald Dewar was wrong in thinking devolution would stop the Nats in their tracks. Well, devolution certainly did not stop the Nats, but you may forget that that period marked the real start of the SNP’s rise as a political force whilst at the same time calls for independence/devolution were on the increase – I suggest that it is equally as possible that Dewar was partially correct, that the setting up of the devolved parliament slowed the push for independence by quite some time, and that perhaps by now Scotland would be independent. However, I concede that I do not know if in that parallel universe I am right – we only have this one to look at. Similarly, you cannot read the future and say that you are right about the prospects of your ‘out- torying the tories’ strategy (although some would say that Blair out-toried them for some time).

        A couple of things though:
        You say
        1) 300 years Scotland was governed successfully from Westminster.
        As far as I know it was in 1918 we had the Representation of the People Act with men over the age of 21 getting the right to vote, women following a little later. So, that’s 200 years of our betters choosing when we fought, how we worked, when we went to prison or got transported for the likes of stealing bread. Well, it certainly was successful government – but for whom?

        For the next 100 years up to present we – the UK – have been involved in wars or conflicts against Russia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Ireland, Somaliland, Iraq, Adwans, Ikhwan, Jewish Insurgents, Germany, Greek rebels, Malayans, Koreans, Dhofars, Nigerians, Argentinians and Yugoslavians. A number of these sorties were to crush independence movements. Not many toffs in the front-line in these and not much of a say for the public throughout the UK and certainly not for the working class in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Note: Since its independence in 1921 Ireland has been spared many of these adventures.

        2) Bring the country (UK) together after Brexit – under Tory rule? For how long is that desirable? Also, I do not think that the SDLP or Sinn Féin are going to buy into this UK unity idea.

        3) Savings to be spent on things that matter. There will be no savings – the UK is £1.78 trillion in debt.

        4) Governance of Scotland is a mess. So, abolish Holyrood but reorganise and strengthen Scotland’s regional councils.

        I agree with you that councils need to be strengthened – returned to what they used to be before Thatcher and her rate capping. I think a return to good services but higher rates (contributions) OR crap services but low rates is what is needed to invigorate local democracy but I cannot agree with you about the quality of the governance of Scotland. The record is good in comparison to the other areas of the UK. I would argue that the boredom you mention amongst MSPs is more typical of MPs behaviour in Westminster – playing candy crush on a mobile is one example that leaps to mind – sleeping is another.

        I fear that if labour followed your suggestion it would mark a further decline in in the party’s reach into Scotland. Labour has become reactionary to the agenda of the centre ground – it doesn’t lead any more as it has lost its heart. As a unitary party over a unitary UK it would be out of touch with the people of Scotland and indeed the other nations of the UK except (parts of) England. It will always be like that UK politics will be flavoured by the concerns of the larger nation. It is not the fault of the English – it is just what happens when you have a larger more powerful partner in control of the political levers. Look at Yugoslavia, the USSR, even Ethiopia -Eritrea as a few examples. Its also what happens when you have a constitution based on convention that is interpreted by different parts of the whole in different ways.

        Seriously, socialism is dead in England and it is never coming back. Time to leave before its too late.

  16. Julia I have a big problem with Alister Jacks comment no matter the result at Holyrood even if the SNP get a huge Indy vote in 21 the answer is still no .
    That plays right into SNP hands but leaves people like me who believe in democracy with a big problem

    1. David your right to highlight democracy this is exactly what happens to an individual people or parties who act in an undemocratic fashion as demonstrated a recent example being Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems policy regarding Brexit in the general election, undemocratic behaviour lead’s to individuals people or parties getting hammered at the ballot box.

  17. Thank you for your comment Ted
    Michael Gove was even worse and today Thursday on the Alec Salmond show George Kerevan said there will be civil disobedience that’s what happens when you ignore a vote and give people no where else to go

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