Labour in Scotland ‘lacking credibility’
Former first minister says Labour must change view on Indyref2
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.
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.