Labour in Scot­land ‘lack­ing cred­i­bil­ity’

For­mer first min­is­ter says Labour must change view on Indyref2

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS POLITICS - GARETH MCPHER­SON PO­LIT­I­CAL RE­PORTER gm­cpher­son@the­courier.co.uk

Labour’s man­i­festo counts for very lit­tle be­cause vot­ers do not see the party as cred­i­ble, ac­cord­ing to for­mer Labour first min­is­ter Henry McLeish.

McLeish also called on Kezia Dug­dale to soften her op­po­si­tion to a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

Mr McLeish, who led the coun­try in 2000-01, said the UK party’s man­i­festo had its mer­its but is un­der­mined by the party’s rep­u­ta­tion.

“All the in­no­va­tive poli­cies in a man­i­festo count for very lit­tle if the pub­lic view­ing them do not think the Labour Party is cred­i­ble,” he said.

Re­fer­ring to con­cern over Jeremy Cor­byn’s lead­er­ship skills, Mr McLeish added: “For UK Labour, in an in­creas­ingly presidential style of politics, to what ex­tent is cred­i­bil­ity wrapped up in the lead­er­ship of the Labour Party?”

Mr McLeish said that Labour must ac­cept that a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum is in­evitable, adding the party’s re­sis­tance gives the per­cep­tion they are in league with the Tories.

The ex-Fife MP’s in­ter­ven­tion comes in a week in which Ms Dug­dale, the Scot­tish Labour leader, con­vinced Mr Cor­byn to take a tough ap­proach against Indyref2 in the Labour man­i­festo.

Mr Cor­byn’s elec­tion prospec­tus, which was pub­lished on Tues­day, promised that Labour would “cam­paign tire­lessly” against an “un­wanted and un­nec­es­sary” ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence, which the party warned would lead to “turbo-charged aus­ter­ity”.

Mr McLeish said: “The party must re-en­gage with the con­sti­tu­tional ques­tion by eas­ing its op­po­si­tion to a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

“It is go­ing to hap­pen some­time, al­though cer­tainly not any time soon.

“Try­ing to avoid it iden­ti­fies the party with the Tories and will not de­feat in­de­pen­dence or make it go away.

“In­stead the party could hold out the prospect of an al­ter­na­tive way for­ward – a fed­er­ated struc­ture for the UK.”

Ms Dug­dale has ad­vo­cated fed­er­al­ism as a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion to Scot­land’s con­sti­tu­tional stale­mate.

The Labour man­i­festo has pledged to set up a con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion, which would con­sider cre­at­ing a more fed­er­alised coun­try.

A Scot­tish Labour source said: “Henry McLeish is en­ti­tled to his per­sonal views. But he is out of touch with the Labour Party in 2017, and out of touch with the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in Scot­land.

“Those who claim to share Labour val­ues should never give up on fight­ing for so­cial jus­tice.

“That’s why op­po­si­tion to a ref­er­en­dum that could re­sult in so much hard­ship for the very poor­est fam­i­lies in Scot­land is at the heart of our mod­ern move­ment for the many, not the few.

“A vote for Labour on June 8 will tell Ni­cola Stur­geon to get back to the day job and drop her plans for a di­vi­sive sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.”

“To what ex­tent is cred­i­bil­ity wrapped up in the lead­er­ship of the Labour Party?

It is a long time since Henry McLeish was First Min­ster of Scot­land — and look­ing at the polls, it may well be a long time be­fore Labour can boast another per­son in that par­tic­u­lar lofty po­si­tion.

Cer­tainly the man him­self is not pulling his punches as he re­flects upon the party’s chances in the forth­com­ing West­min­ster elec­tion.

Warn­ing that too few peo­ple see the party as “cred­i­ble”, he also urged Labour’s cur­rent leader in Scot­land, Kezia Dug­dale, to soften her stance on op­po­si­tion to a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

There will be many within the loyal Labour ranks that will doubt­less sug­gest Mr McLeish has lost the plot.

How­ever, such di­vi­sions are stark ev­i­dence of the cur­rent con­fu­sion and ap­par­ent lack of iden­tity within the party un­der Jeremy Cor­byn.

With a gen­eral elec­tion just around the cor­ner, Mr McLeish’s in­ter­ven­tion could not have come at a worse time for Labour.

What­ever you think of pro­pos­als for a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, one thing does ap­pear abun­dantly clear — it is the Scot­tish Tories and not Labour who have suc­cess­fully pi­geon-holed them­selves as the main Union­ist voice.

Dam­aged by their as­so­ci­a­tion in the Bet­ter To­gether cam­paign of 2014, Labour have strug­gled to find their own iden­tity ever since.

It is a malaise the party needs to shake off — and fast.

Pic­ture: Kim Cess­ford.

Henry McLeish, who suc­ceeded Don­ald De­war as Scot­land’s First Min­is­ter, claims Labour needs to re­gain its cred­i­bil­ity, and that to do so means re­assess­ing its po­si­tion on the con­sti­tu­tional ques­tion.

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