On 11 September 2014, the defining moment in the Labour Party’s modern history in Scotland happened, on Buchanan Street, in the city of Glasgow, where I’m writing this right now. The independence referendum was at its peak. The whole thing had been incredible, but this was the day that topped the lot.
Labour’s contempt for Scotland and for Scottish voters was an unspoken fact up here for years. The loyalty of their “core vote” was so taken for granted that their MP’s and other elected officials saw their offices as essentially “jobs for life” and they acted accordingly.
The voters were little more than an afterthought and they treated the foot soldiers, the rank and file membership, like idiot children.
Selection interviews for elected posts were notorious, valuing conformity above anything else. The ability to sound you like you were speaking in complete sentences whilst saying nothing at all was essential to moving up the ladder. Managerial buzz-words and geek-speech were valued over plain talking, which held too many risks. As a consequence, the party was a lobotomised joke. You could find more intelligent life on a rock you picked up on the beach.
I was there for all of it, a member and activist, and saw the transformation from a vibrant, relevant organisation in the early 90’s to the hollowed out shadow of itself it had become by 2004 or so, when the pager slaves at Westminster voted for a war many of them knew was a fraud and which many others were simply too stupid to deduce as one.
I knew people who had joined Labour for no other reason than they wanted a “political career.” The idea that they might one day ever have to take monumental decisions with the rest of the country depending on their judgement, was the furthest thing from their minds. It scared the shit out of me to imagine these people ever holding high office, and in the Iraq debate I saw the full vindication of all of my fears.
I left then, when it was no longer possible to suspend disbelief.
Their moral purpose was gone. Their reason for existing had morphed into something horrible, the keeping of power, and there was no policy to which they were wedded which they weren’t wholly prepared to sacrifice on that alter if it became necessary to that “greater goal.”
By the time the referendum began I’d just about made up my mind that they had outlived their usefulness as a political force in Scotland. By the time it was over I loathed everything about the organisation. It wasn’t hard to make the jump. They earned it.
Scotland had barely blipped on the radar of Labour in London in the years following the party’s defeat in the 2010 general election. But they knew they would need Scottish votes if they were to return to power the following year. The referendum had served up raw emotion and revealed an undercurrent of anger against them that shook them to their foundations.
Labour was being lacerated on the blogs, social media sites and on the doorsteps. Everything about their conduct reeked.
A week before the events of 11 September, I spoke to one guy who told me that the Labour team had, in an effort to reach out to their core voters, bussed a bunch of high-society student types from one of England’s premier colleges to work the ground campaign in Labour voting areas; the pampered kids of Middle England, doing the rounds in a Scottish inner city, telling people how great the union was.
The enormity of their disconnect was summed up perfectly in that gesture.
These people didn’t have a fucking clue.
Ed Miliband’s brainwave, his magic wand solution, was one of the stupidest and most self-defeating political moves I’ve ever witnessed. He decided to send forth a battalion of Westminster’s finest – people who never gave us a second thought, who could barely have found us on the map – up to Glasgow, to “show Scotland the love.”
And when they got there, these cappuccino clutching, suited and booted technocrats, to put us back in our wee box, the reception that met them captured the moment for all time, one of the greatest political stunts ever contrasting beautifully with the stunt they were trying to pull, and their contempt was mirrored back at them.
A guy on a rickshaw, with a loud-hailer blasting out the theme tune to Star Wars, greeted them with “Say hello to your Imperial Masters! Your Imperial Masters are here!”
And that’s what followed them, live on TV, all the way up Buchanan Street from the train station where they had disembarked, smirking, many not even trying to pretend they would rather have been somewhere, anywhere, else in the world. On that street they had nowhere to run. They had nowhere to hide. They marched up it with that guy blaring contempt out in their ears, they waved to the cameras and then pissed off back to London.
And I knew, watching it on the news, that we’d never see some of these people again and that whether the country voted Yes or No that Labour in Scotland was heading for a cataclysm and a rout from which it might never recover … and it was richly deserved.
Even then, the scale – the totality – of that disaster could have been tempered but for Miliband’s own conduct in the week before the general election, when he treated Scottish voters with epic, suicidal, disdain by refusing to even talk to the SNP who were on course for a resounding, crushing, victory. He even said he’d rather the Tories were in office than have to treat Scotland and her voters as equal partners in discussions afterwards.
And that got the response it was due.
Labour’s crisis didn’t start in Scotland, but we had a first row seat to the unfolding calamity through years of watching them in what was, until the Parliament at Holyrood, essentially a one party state up here. The corruption at the soul of the organisation was about as profound as it was possible to get. Few in its elected ranks had a single principle left. No other political organisation in Western Europe was so thoroughly in need of such a hammering.
I never thought I’d see a comparable shambles at the heart of the party south of the border until Brexit but the recent behaviour of the PLP has been a scandal, an absolute scandal, which nails the coffin lid on the whole organisation. If the 1983 manifesto really was the Longest Suicide Note in History then their decision to support this loathsome government in its plans to remove us from the EU was the Shortest Suicide Vote in History.
It’s that bad. It’s buried them.
Who the Hell is ever going to vote for these people again? Half the party wants to surrender free movement of people, to appease the UKIP right.
Half doesn’t, and it’s hard sometimes to work out which half is which. The majority voted to leave the EU, some hiding behind the “will of the people”, in ignorance of how that will was expressed in their own constituencies.
It’s clear that everything the party does right now is about shameless political positioning, regardless of how it makes them look to the people they’re doing it to get votes from.
Nobody believes a word that comes out of the average Labour MP’s mouth.
The UKIP nut-jobs they are trying to win over loathe them. They don’t trust a single one of them. All the frantic reversing on free movement of people doesn’t matter at all. I don’t know how many of these MP’s have actually decided to concede one of the central political tenants on which contemporary liberal thinking has been based and which are simply saying what they think voters want to hear knowing they’ll just ignore it later, but that couldn’t matter less.
People do not believe them.
Even those who are genuine converts, or who were sceptics in the first place; it’s unimportant. It’s not even that people think they are full of shit, it’s that they’re no longer even listening. There’s no benefit of the doubt because the very idea that these people are being honest just never dawns on a lot of voters now.
Why should it?
Labour has been lying, misleading, changing direction with the prevailing wind for so long now that they’ve made the Liberal Democrats look honest and principled here! Yes, the people who were last in government on the back of blatant lies, who betrayed everything they ever said mattered, even conceding on giving the sodding EU referendum in the first place … people believe them more than the average Labour MP.
I could not believe Keith Starmer the other night, voting for May’s right-wing hard Brexit plan, and then getting up right after her to tell us how opposed Labour was to it.
I’m sitting watching that, and thinking “What the fuck are you talking about? You just legitimised it motherfucker, don’t tell me how against it you are …”
And that was the furious reaction only of someone who felt his intelligence was being insulted by a politician I wouldn’t vote for with a gun to my head. I cannot conceive of how that must have gone down in Labour households, who foolishly believed that when Labour was talking about opposing a hard Brexit scenario that they actually meant it.
How are voters in the main supposed to respond to that kind of bullshit?
By picking someone else from the list of choices.
And all this is going on when they are led by a so-called man of principle.
God, if they can’t even construct a coherent, dignified, sensible policy, in the national interest, when run by a man like Corbyn you dread to think what horrendous anti-immigrant bullshit they’d have signed up for under a guy like Chukka Umunna.
Labour looks like a party on its last legs.
This is an existential crisis, not a temporary one which will be solved by changing their leader. The entire party is chock-full of people who never thought beyond climbing the ladder. Give them a real crisis to deal with, a genuine, life shaping, world defining crisis, and this is what you get; gutless dissembling
This is a party being washed away because it is not anchored to a single thing.
Its elected reps believe in nothing. I foolishly thought a commitment to the European project and our partnership with the rest of the continent was an unshakable article of faith across the wide breadth of Labour, save from a small number of holdouts, but then I’d once thought free education, union rights, freedom of speech and a commitment to public services were too. I saw them all betrayed one at a time, but that didn’t shake the bedrock like this does.
Because there’s barely a one of them doesn’t know that this is a deeply shameful moment in the history of this island.
There’s barely a one of them who doesn’t believe that this is a disaster on so many levels, from the domestic political point of view – which surrenders vast tracts of ground to the right – to the international dimension and the necessity for the UK to cosy up to bigots and monsters to get trade deals which won‘t replace half what we lose, to the certain economic consequences … these people know all this, that Brexit is an act of national self-harm.
They talk about “respecting the will of the people” as if there was no ambiguity about the result at all, as though it were won on solid facts, in a landslide, instead of being secured by a narrow margin on the basis of lies so blatant some of those telling them didn’t even wait 24 hours before they admitted that’s what they were. It’s being held up as a referendum on immigration, in spite of a mountain of polling data which makes a nonsense of that claim.
What these gutless empty suits calling themselves Labour MP’s are “respecting” is the will of the right wing press, who has them hammered into submission, and that is pitiful and craven and disgusting. There is no comeback for any of them, no way they can go back to their constituencies and win back the support they’ve lost from this, save for the small number who voted against the Tory bill and stood up for what was right.
Here in Scotland there’s not yet a majority for independence; there are Labour voters up here who still cling to the vain fantasy that this is a party that will one day return to power. In a short time there are local elections here; hundreds of their councillors are going to be wiped off the map, and that, too, is long overdue. With them gone, the infrastructure of the party in Scotland will have been obliterated in the space of two and a half years.
The comeback from that will take decades.
Two, three, four electoral cycles.
Without Scotland’s seats, Labour will be lucky to see power at the UK level in my lifetime. (I’m 40. I genuinely believe that I might be gone before there’s another UK Labour government. At this moment in time that thought does not sadden me as much as it probably should.)
Scotland will never again vote Tory, but how long do these people want to cling to their fantasy?
How long do they want to chain their children or their grandchildren’s destiny to the dream of “socialism in our time”?
Can they look at Labour at the moment and seriously argue that it is a socialist party or that it will be again?
The right of the party has appropriate the label “progressive” for itself.
The smartest thing its MP’s have done since Corbyn won the second leadership election was to let him get on with blowing it. They will hang his failure around the necks of those on the left for all eternity, pushing his economic and social policies further from the centre than they’ve ever been.
This is not a fight the left will win over the long haul.
If the Scottish people want to escape Westminster politics and its ties to this disgusting American regime, if they want our country to be a voice in Europe, if they want us to be in charge of our own political and economic destiny, there’s one choice here, with all the potential dangers and hardships that go with it.
To push for that second referendum. To deliver a Yes.
We might rise or we might fall. We might succeed or we might fail.
I believe in this country and its people; I know we have different values and a different political outlook than others on this island – I am not arguing that it’s better, just different – and that we can, and will, make something good of it. But whatever we do, we’ll do it on our own terms, in our own way, and with the full knowledge that the decisions we take will be our own and that we’ll own the consequences of them ourselves.
Labour is a sinking ship. How much longer are we going to chain our futures to these people, who’ve proved utterly unworthy of support, far less loyalty? They are finished. The next election cycle will do no more than put them out of their misery.
After that, it’ll be time to end ours.
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