Sunday 23 November 2014

Neil Findlay for Scottish Labour Leader

Recall the Scottish independence referendum? Can you remember the panic when a few polls put the Yes camp in the lead? Politics is a fickle business but surely that was burned on every Westminster psyche. Dozens of Labour MPs should remember it. They tramped north of Hadrian's Wall to tell the fine people of Scotland to stay with us. We're better together because of reasons, etc. One of those MPs was Ivan Lewis, whose trip to Glasgow was serenaded by the Imperial March of Star Wars fame. I'm sure he looks fondly back on it now. I also suppose he remembers why he went. Scotland leaving the union would've affected us English and Welsh just as much as the Scots.

Writing for the Sunday Herald, Tom Watson makes the case for Neil Findlay's Scottish leadership campaign and recommends party members back him. Ivan Lewis disagrees. After Tom's article appeared, Ivan tweeted "It's essential that Scots decide best person to be leader of Scottish Labour. Others interfering not in the interests of the Labour Party." Tom tweeted back and it went downhill from there.

Whatever one's opinion on the leadership election, it's Ivan who's in the wrong here. It's an important contest not without consequences for Labour in the rest of Britain. Just like the referendum. Anyone who cares about our prospects in next year's election and the sort of direction the party should be taking need to pay attention. Just like the referendum. English and Welsh comrades, in the spirit of good neighbourliness, should be prepared to offer supportive arguments for their choice, if they feel so moved. Again, just like the referendum. Ivan's passive-aggressive "who could I be criticising?" tweet is symptomatic of all too many in the PLP who not just flee from, but fear political argument.

It's not hard to see why. Take the anointed candidate, Jim Murphy. He does have a number of qualities that recommend him. In the lead up to the Syrian intervention that never happened, he spoke for air strikes from his shadow defence brief on Assad's regime against the PLP's line which, at that stage, was a hopeless muddle. Ed Miliband did not appreciate the attempt to bounce the party into a hawkish position, and Jim was removed - ironically along with Diane Abbott, who made the opposite case. So with Jim you have someone who will speak up for what he believes in, even if you disagree with him. He's also a canny political operator and is probably the sharpest Blairite figure to have graced the shadow cabinet under Ed. That's one, not oft-commented contributing reason for his sacking and helps explain why the Scottish party machine is prone to oversights that favour Jim. Ed is happy to have a potential future rival tied up away from the centre of power. Lastly, what I especially like about Jim is a willingness to lead from the front. He is one among a clutch of sitting MPs who takes campaigning extremely seriously. He relishes the cut and thrust of doorstep politics, whereas most - and then not all - of Westminster's inhabitants do it out of grim necessity. To be sure, if Jim wins Scottish Labour will be shook up. His activist conception of politics will come front and centre as he remoulds a beleaguered and battered party independently of One Brewers Green.

The problem is Jim's politics and those of former Labour voters go together like cactus and cream. Were I not some weird ex-Trot pseudo-Gramscian pinko/Bennite sell-out but a hard-nosed Blairite who wants to see Scottish Labour bounce back instead, I'd still support Neil Findlay. It doesn't matter whether the SNP's social democratic turn is fake or not, the ex-Labour voters that have turned that way in their droves appreciate the party as a centre left alternative and treat it as such. Since Holyrood's foundation, Scottish Labour has been very New Labour, and that continued under Johann Lamont - albeit apparently imposed from afar. While it is true the leftishness of Scotland is somewhat overstated, a left platform that puts self-security at its heart stands a better chance against Nicola Sturgeon's SNP than a continuity candidate whose opposition is not backed up by popular policies. The Blairite playbook helped get Scottish Labour into its present difficulties, so why would more of the same produce different results? That way madness lies. Jim might, and probably would, tack to the left if he won but you, me, and Scottish voters know it wouldn't be heartfelt. Neil Findlay on the other hand is the real deal.

The "interests of the Labour party" in Scotland and the wider UK are best served by Neil's successful candidature. Jim, for all his qualities is the wrong man at the wrong time. If you're a member of the Scottish party, or have an affiliate membership through your union and/or socialist society, please vote for Neil when your ballot paper drops.


Dave C said...

Fully agree with your comments, lets get back to proper socialism our founders had.

Anonymous said...

If I were a Scot, the question of who who led labour in Scotland would be pretty irrelevant and I would feel insulted that you thought I believed personality politics it were that important.

What matters, surely, is the direction of the labour party itself and what policies it proposes for the next election and, if elected, how it implements said policies. Only then can the Scots judge Labour.

The idea that you can pick a token centre lefty to placate the Scots assumes you think they are idiots. It smacks of same old New Labour to me.

Phil said...

What blog post were you reading?

I'm under no illusions what needs to be done in Scotland - getting Labour back to the top of the politics tree is a long haul project. The best possible start it can have is a leader with the right kind of ideas and strategy. That you don't think it's important says everything about your naivete.

Anonymous said...

What I am trying to say is that this argument about the Scottish Labour leader seems to me to be missing why some Scots want independence and why they are now rejecting Labour. It goes deeper, to the heart of Westminster politics itself.

I think you are looking at the problem in superficial terms and ignoring the real problem. The idea that a token leader is even a start is, to me, insulting.

Maybe people are as stupid as you politicos imagine? I guess with the flak that Ed has taken this may be understandable, but I think my point stands.

Phil said...

You must be new here. I am well aware of the reasons for Labour's difficulties in Scotland and that they go back decades. I also know a new lick of paint won't cut it. Having a policy platform like Neil's would pull some voters back if it goes to the country with that manifesto, but to really win people over it has to do the activism, abandon the dodgy practices, and become a movement that makes itself relevant in communities across Scotland by merging with and becoming a vehicle once again for working people, the poor, the disabled, the young and the elderly. It's not about changing the head and issuing a glossy policy platform - I challenge you to find anything on this blog arguing such a ridiculous position.

And if that's wrong, if that somehow does not address the mysterious "real problem" then you need to spell out just what that problem is and how it is being filled by the SNP et al.

jimboo said...

One problem is Scottish Labour voters are probably more to the right than many realise, White Van Dan has many Scottish cousins. Talk to many who voted Yes and abandoned Labour and they show he same concerns as Dan, they are not voting for a radical left of centre Scotland but a protectionist alternative. Those of my family who are working zero hours short term contracts,one even has to pay his employers NI contribution as agency worker. 30 years ago my village was probably 90% NUM, now a union free zone of self employed or low waged who see the Poles in particular as a threat. Of course the SNP lost a chunk of their natural middle class support during the referendum so it is getting complicated. One thing, it is a political desert ideas wise and the nation is split.

Anonymous said...

I think the few remaining left activists would be pleased to see Findlay. Murphy definitely more effective on TV though. It's back to that classic dilemma about you can't achieve anything in opposition but how much do you trust a guy like Murphy to help ordinary working people?

treborc said...

I think it's vital to get Finlay into the labour Scottish leadership and to keep the Progress right wing Blair-rite Murphy out.

I cannot see to many on the left wanting to vote for Murphy he is simple way to close to New labour and as such I would hope that Finlay can take it. but Murphy will have the backing of Both Blair and Progress and possibly the money.

jimboo said...

No confidentiality for Parliamentarians, how MP's and MSP's voted will be published.

jimboo said...

Murphy 55.8%
Findlay 35.0%
Boyack 9.4%


Sarah Boyack 4.22%
Neil Findlay 6.75%
Jim Murphy 22.36%

Party members

SB 2.3%
NF 10.89%
JM 20.14%


SB 2.73%
NF 17.34
JM 13.26%

source vote2012