The Conservatives have infiltrated Labour

blue-labour

Liam Muir

Labour’s actions over the past eighteen months have led me to three possible conclusions. (1)They think the only path to a more equal and prosperous society is with a Labour majority Government (2)The party is full of sociopathic careerists, more interested in their own individual gain than the overall well being of the electorate whose votes they beg for every five years or (3)They are unaware UK citizens have internet access. I’m not willing to rule out any of them until Labour give me good reason to.

After the General Election, most Labour voters would probably have deemed the best course of action to be to incase Ed Miliband in concrete and dump him in the river Thames. In the run up to May 5th, political historian Tariq Ali, when asked how much of Ed Miliband’s Prime Ministerial campaign had drawn from his Marxist Father’s works, said, ‘Ralph Miliband would be spinning in his grave’. Some are of the opinion that Ed couldn’t distance himself enough from ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’, as the Daily Mail referred to him in 2013. Others think we needed him to be ‘Red Ed’. The problem was that he never actually seemed to make his own mind up. Corbyn faces a similar dilemma today concerning the division within the party. Stewart Hosie MP put it best recently when he said,

The Labour Party are leading him [Corbyn], he is not leading the Labour Party’.

Miliband tip-toed, tongue tied, stumbling off the Question Time stage as if Nigel Farage had sneakily tied his shoe laces together. A tactical error was made during the campaign when labour continually insisted on campaigning for a majority. It didn’t matter how much more socially progressive the SNP’s manifesto was or how appealing Sturgeon was to the English electorate, Labour hid behind Scotland’s national question with blind faith in the hope that Scotland would vote Labour to avoid the Tories.

When we really break down just what Labour’s campaign tactics in Scotland were, it is really little wonder they lost 40 MPs. We were being asked to put aside the numerous problems we had with Labour’s manifesto, pro Trident, pro austerity etc just so a Conservative Party, bearing a striking resemblance to Labour, could be avoided. After 5 years out of Government, all Labour could muster was a plea to vote for the lesser of two evils. Pathetic.

Osbourne’s failure to hit his target of eliminating the public sector deficit by 2015 and actually increasing our debt was apparently not enough ammunition for Miliband.

So what do we have on offer from Labour today then? That is a frustratingly difficult question to answer at this point. If Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Scotland in early October did anything, it surely only reaffirmed our fears. Regardless of how progressive his politics are, he is as out of touch with Scottish voters as the rest of his party. Someone should have told him that appearing on the same platform as Kezia Dugdale is the Kiss of Death. Mind you, he probably should have already known that.

In a piece I wrote on Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Dundee for The Scots Perspective in August(https://thescotsperspective.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/jeremy-corbyn-visits-dundee-2/), I made the point that the SNP need not be the enemy of Labour in the fight against Conservative rule.

They didn’t understand this during the election campaign. The SNP said they were willing to offer some kind of vote by vote agreement with Labour to ‘lock’ the Conservatives out of Downing Street. How did Labour respond? Nothing short of political suicide as Miliband actually said on live television that he would be willing to let Cameron back in to Number 10 rather than form an anti-Tory alliance. I understand they had anxieties about England’s fear of the SNP but if that really were the case, it would have helped if Labour didn’t aid the Tories in their quest to vilify Sturgeon’s party at every turn.

They don’t understand this today either. Corbyn’s factually inaccurate comments on the SNP’s supposed privatisation of Scotrail and Caledonian Macbrayne, did him no favours whatsoever. Whether or not he was uneducated or just uninterested, you wouldn’t blame Scots for taking these comments as more political dirty tactics from a party who has already been written in to Scotland’s bad books in permanent marker.

Even if Corbyn had his facts straight when criticising the SNP, it still comes across as the ‘SNP bad’ mantra Labour have been spouting since the Scottish Parliament became operational in May of 1999. You only have to look at the subsequent election results in Holyrood to know that has never worked. Corbyn should have already known that too. Uneducated or uninterested? Labour’s Failure to grasp that victory in Scotland is unachievable is a set back for the anti-austerity movement.

Most recently, John McDonnell drew more unwanted attention to Labour’s hectic division when he publicly announced at the Labour party conference that they would back George Osbourne’s Fiscal Charter despite telling ‘Scotland’ that the SNP are not anti austerity and that Labour are the ‘true anti-austerity party’. They then made a perplexing U-turn by announcing that they were actually not going to back the charter after all due to “growing reaction” to spending cuts since his announcement. Growing Reaction? No Shit Sherlock! Finally, when 20 Labour MPs abstained from the Commons vote, showing public defiance of their new leader, the bill was passed.

It’s no huge shock.

We knew Corbyn was not representative of the parliamentary Labour party but it is a sizeable task to undo the Conservatives’ infiltration of Labour. It can only be a good thing that Labour did at least ‘change their mind’, but its the flipping and flopping Scotland has largely grown tired of.

Unless things change fairly drastically, a Labour majority in 2020 is unlikely. For the sake of the fight against the Conservatives class warfare (cutting inheritance tax and working tax credit simultaneously and so on), I hope Labour realise that their insistence on a majority Government has to end. Its time they thought about what is more important. Getting as many of their pals elected as possible or getting the Tories out. I fully accept if Corbyn is going to be an advocate for Labour’s transformation, it is going to take time. Cohesion is a necessity for any party, however, it’s like former US president George W Bush once said,

‘If you don’t stand for anything, you don’t stand for anything’.

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The Value of Opposition

parliament

Chris Napier

It goes without saying that most of the attention paid to parliament tends to be concentrated on the party (or coalition) in power because they are the ones capable of getting things done, changing laws, changing lives and in theory representing the majority of the nation’s voters.

However, like many things which are not appreciated until they are gone, the value of a functional opposition in a parliamentary democracy is often overlooked.

Parliament is not supposed to merely rubber stamp government policies but to dynamically debate, refine and reform them before being enacted into legislation by a vote.

A strong opposition can pressure a government into changing or at least mitigating their policy, they can press the government on details which expose unwelcome facets of their legislation and they can offer a genuine alternative to the populace, making elections a vital process by which the general public can choose between distinct political ideologies.

On the other hand, a weak opposition effectively leaves the government with free reign to do whatever they like, fails to pick holes in dubious legislation and reduces elections to a formality which results in voter disengagement, low turnout and a degradation of the whole concept of representative democracy.

In both the UK and Scottish parliaments, Labour are the second largest party and thus form the backbone of what should be the opposition* but the party’s inability to process the reasons for their fall from government over the last eight years, their ongoing leadership turmoil and seeming loss of identity has left them unable to perform that task.

* Indeed in Westminster, the Labour leader is the formal Leader of the Opposition, while Holyrood’s less adversarial format means that no such official analogue exists in the Scottish lexicon.

In both parliaments, Labour stand too close to the party in government, not wanting to seem too different lest they be deemed ‘unelectable’ while attempting to distinguish themselves from their opponents on evidently disingenuous ideological terms.

In Westminster, Labour feel they cannot oppose the right wing austerity agenda lest they be seen as economically irresponsible – effectively accepting the Conservative narrative rather than challenging it and offering an alternative. Since long before the recent general election they have repeatedly voted with the government or abstained on major votes, effectively negating their worth as an opposition – and in my eyes, making themselves unelectable in the process. After all, if you want a neoliberal, corporate sponsored government, why would you vote for the equivocating, vanilla version when the full throated Conservative version was right there?

In Holyrood, Labour suffer from being diametrically opposed to the SNP on one issue (independence), at odds on a few issues (notably how to deal with the ongoing financial crisis & austerity) and on most others, their manifestos could be copied and pasted from one another. This leaves them unable to tackle the SNP on most policy areas as they would not suggest wildly different approaches, they cannot wholeheartedly campaign for austerity knowing the mood of the Scottish electorate and are left picking at the edges and harping on about the SNP’s obsession with independence.

This leaves the SNP, with only 56 MPs to the Conservatives 330 as the main functional opposition in Westminster and they have set about doing their best despite the 6-1 odds (which are even worse when you consider that Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the DUP are as likely to vote with the Conservatives as oppose them.)

What makes this even more frustrating is that the majorities enjoyed by the governing parties in the both parliaments are laughably small, meaning that a strong opposition would be ideally placed to affect government policy and take advantage of any dissension in the government ranks.

It is necessary in the name of democracy that the Conservatives and SNP are confronted by a strong opposition in both parliaments, either by Labour rediscovering their principles or by increased representation at the next election for parties who are actually willing to provide that opposition.

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