Candid words from within on Labour
HE woes of Scottish Labour are nothing new. We might have expected the party by now to have devoted considerable time and energy to addressing its most pressing concerns in Scotland with determination and focus.
It must be disconcerting, then, for party members and supporters to hear Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, David Anderson, accept that leader Jeremy Corbyn recognises that he needs to raise his game in Scotland; better late than never some might say. This is unlikely to wash with those Labour supporters here, who recognise that Mr Corbyn has been lethargic at best in broaching party concerns in Scotland.
Mr Anderson’s explanation that the party leader has not been able “to make his mark” in Scotland because of a hostile media and the distraction of a leadership election has a hollow ring. The MP for Blaydon in Tyne and Wear, has yet to make a speech in Scotland, six months into his role as shadow Scottish secretary. Some might argue that this speaks volumes about Labour’s apparent disdain for its role and supporters in Scotland.
As we have previously noted, such failings suggest a party with serious internal communications problems at precisely the moment the latest academic research shows that Labour is facing the toughest electoral pressures in its history.
This does not bode well either for party morale and fortunes in next May’s Scottish local government elections, which some political observers believe could be calamitous for Labour north of the Border. Given these obvious challenges, clearly there are pressing questions as to why it has taken Labour so long to respond effectively in Scotland.
Why is it only now, for example, that Mr Corbyn will have an additional Scotland adviser to help with Scottish matters? This alone is the kind of appointment a party sorting itself out might have been expected to make a long time ago, given its failing fortunes. Mr Anderson’s reasoning that he would like to do more in terms of Scotland, but is caught in a “dichotomy” of finding balance and avoiding stepping on toes in Holyrood again points to a party flawed in organisation and strategy.
What should Labour’s Scottish supporters make, too, of Mr Anderson’s conclusions that there is no plan written down to revive the party in Scotland; or that Labour for years has taken the Scottish vote for granted; or, indeed, that people within the party for their “own reasons” decided they would not take on the job of shadow Scottish secretary?
Candid as his remarks are in today’s interview, they suggest an attitude that all but appears to have cast Scotland in the role of political pariah. Mr Anderson is correct, however, in his assertion that people are fed up with “the same old, same old,” and that Labour needs to do something different.
His belief too that Labour’s targeting of the centre ground of British politics has “failed” the party and that voters are ready to consider a more radical left-wing agenda may well have resonance in Scotland. This will be little more than wishful thinking unless the party shows conviction in its commitment to Scotland and puts its house in order promptly.