Can­did words from within on Labour

The Herald - - OPINION -

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.

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