Wendy Alexander’s political demise was curiously similar to the former Labour first minister Henry MacLeish.
Henry MacLeish had made the mistake of trying to use the Scottish parliament to promote traditional Labour values of equality and social justice. This plan was in complete contradiction of the New Thatcherism being pursued by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. An expense scandal erupted concerning the letting out of his constituency office and Henry MacLeish resigned from office. He had been leader of Scottish Labour for only eleven months. He later resigned his seat and left active politics.
Wendy Alexander’s ‘Bring it on’ plan explicitly recognised the right of Scots to decide their own future – a position flatly opposed by Gordon Brown and the UK Labour leadership. Wendy quickly changed her tune, but the damage had been done. An expense scandal soon followed and Wendy resigned. She had been leader of Scottish Labour for nine months.
In the aftermath of her resignation Henry MacLeish was quoted in the guardian newspaper as saying that Gordon Brown should accept Scotland’s "new politics" allow a "distinctive Scottish Labour perspective" to develop, but that: "Westminster has not been good in allowing that to happen."’
Of course, no right minded person would ever believe the scurrilous rumours that it was the Labour Party that leaked the Henry and Wendy scandal details into the public domain. Rather, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, it is best if we accept that the loss of one Scottish Labour Leader was a misfortune, and the loss of two an act of carelessness.
The next Scottish Labour leader, the fourth since the establishment of the Scottish parliament, was Iain Gray, who was tasked with creating a new plan that would defeat the nationalists, but would not challenge Labour’s pro-austerity ideology or recognise the sovereignty of the Scottish people. Iain did eventually come up with a plan and shamefully it is the plan that Labour has pretty much stuck with ever since.
In 2008, in expectation of SNP governmental incompetence, the Labour party came up with a strategy of Disagreeing and Shouting. No matter what the nationalist government proposed, no matter what any of its ministers said Labour MSPs would respond with sneers, laughs, sarcasm and cruel jibes.
A better strategy would have been for Labour to use its time in opposition to come up with a coherent political narrative of its own. But by now there were no wise heads left in the higher echelons of Scottish Labour. In the 2011 election, the SNP manifesto again included a commitment to an Independence referendum. This was met with great hilarity and faux outrage by Labour candidates. Bolstered by four fun years of Disagreeing and Shouting, and with hugely positive opinion poll ratings, the Labour Party went into the 2011 election with not a doubt that they would be returned to power.
The SNP won again. This time by a landslide.
Labour, devoid of any strategy or any coherent political narrative, responded with a furious rage that often slipped into absolutely blinding hatred. In the Westminster parliament Ian Davidson accuse the SNP of being ‘neo fascists’ .
Yet the simple truth is that the SNP is not a Nazi organisation. Nor are the people who vote for them Nazis. The reason people re-elected the SNP in 2011 is that since 2007 the nationalists had been seen to be a party of competent and socially just governance.
Ironically, the sheer volume of Labour’s Disagreeing and Shouting strategy allowed no space for Labour to distinguish between the SNPs achievements and SNP failings. By lumping successes and failures together the Labour party has repeatedly highlighted its own lack of political discernment and strategy. As voters grew comfortable with the SNP in government, the more Labour’s indiscriminate and angry opposition was seen to be not just an attack on the nationalists, but an attack on the very idea of respectful Scottish autonomy.
Now read: Part eighteen. Labour's new cunning plan
All these blogs can be read from beginning at: Social Justice & Scottish Independence
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