Let it go!

I don’t doubt AR Brown’s sincerity. His analysis of where ‘Scottish’ Labour is and how it got there has the clear ring of truth about it. In particular, his identification of the fact that it was not simply the ‘party’s’ alliance with the Tories during the first independence referendum campaign which so many found offensive, but the eagerness with which they entered into that alliance. In respect of the leadership, at least, there was no sense of reluctance or even, as Mr Brown points out, any apparent consideration or reflection. It simply never seemed to occur to them that they might make their participation in Better Together conditional. To all outward appearances, the leadership of British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) instinctively felt that the ‘party’s’ natural and appropriate place was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories. There was the distinct impression that, when the great constitutional question was asked, they were British first, and Scottish only as a matter of electoral expediency.

I don’t use the terms ‘British’ and ‘Scottish’ in any shallow nationalistic sense, but in reference to two quite distinctive political cultures. When push came to shove, BLiS chose to associate itself with a British political culture characterised by corruption and venality and inequity and injustice in preference to a political culture informed by the needs, priorities and aspirations of the Scottish people. And it did so with unseemly relish.

But for all its undoubted sincerity and all its insights, AR Brown’s analysis is built on a couple of pretty significant fallacies. Firstly the notion that British Labour in Scotland is necessary. The idea that Scotland needs BLiS. The assumption that there is a place in Scottish politics for BLiS. That there is a niche in Scotland’s political environment which can only be filled by ‘Scottish’ Labour. And, alongside this, the belief that BLiS is capable of being a real political party such as might occupy that niche.

I find both propositions extremely dubious. And that’s being generous. I ask myself what reason there is to suppose that BLiS might actually change? What cause do we have to believe that this is an organisation amenable to reform? Certainly nothing that has happened to date. There has been much talk of ‘listening and learning’. But, as Mr Brown himself has discovered, the phrase has never been anything more than a platitudinous sound-bite.

And even if we stretch credulity to a point where BLiS actually becomes the party AR Brown evidently wants it to be, where would it fit in the Scottish political landscape? How would it differentiate itself from parties already occupying the political territory? Even supposing BLiS could convince people it had genuinely metamorphosed into a Scottish political party, what part of the electorate might it address? Basically, how would it compete with the SNP? Because, unless you are so lost to tribalism as to be blind to objective reality, the SNP is self-evidently giving the electorate what it wants. For any party that aspires to effective political power, the challenge is to convince the voters that they can do what the SNP is doing, but better.

It is important to bear in mind that ‘Scottish’ Labour’s decline is not entirely explained by their role in the British state’s Project Fear. Nor even by the toxic legacy of Tony Blair. Not least among the other reasons is their obdurate refusal to accept that the SNP are winning elections because they deserve to. Because, in the eyes of the electorate, they’re got it right. The voters are not fools. They are not being duped by the SNP. They most certainly are not being roused to ferocious woad-painted nationalistic fervour by watching ‘Braveheart’. Blinded by bitter resentment at the loss of its status, BLiS has been incapable of accepting that voters are making rational decisions.

The upshot of this failure to recognise the true nature of the SNP and the reasons for its electoral success is that BLiS continues to entertain the delusion that its old place in Scottish politics is still there waiting to be reoccupied. They can’t admit that this space has been taken over completely by their rivals, because that would involve a discomfiting realisation that the SNP is not the grotesque caricature that they have been tilting at. It would involve accepting that the SNP has become what ‘Scottish’ Labour should have been.

To summarise, BLiS is not going to change. Even if it could change, it is not going to convince people that it has changed. And even if it could both change and convince people that it had changed, the thing it would have to change into already exists.

It is time to accept that British Labour in Scotland is a British political party. It is part of the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. As Scotland’s political culture develops and diverges, distancing itself from British political culture, it is inevitable that British political parties will become irrelevant. What ‘Scottish’ Labour is facing isn’t untimely death, but natural extinction. Let it go.

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5 thoughts on “Let it go!

  1. grizebard

    This response to A.R. Brown’s insightful comments (“a strong desire to protect the remnants of the 1945 social democratic settlement”) is itself well-made.

    It seems that raw tribalism (a rancid degeneration of the party’s former solidarity) is the only motor that keeps it going, but at the same time is only capable of driving it into a historical dead end.

    If independence is achieved, there could well be a significant political realignment before long. The SNP is a very broad church, and post-indy may well split off factions on the left and on the right. Maybe the aftershock of such an event would destroy the tribalism that has for too long been the bane of Scottish political life, and allow the emergence of an engaged and progressive social democratic party that many, including A.R. Brown, would be happy to support. (It might, of course, still be called the SNP!)

  2. Corrado Mella

    This ties in tightly and validates my theory that most of Labour politicians in Scotland are far removed from any socialist values because of the peculiar Scottish sociopolitical landscape of the past decades, where the only path to grow through the ranks of local politics was to belong to the omnipresent Labour Party.

    The SNP was a “regional” party that could not take you into the epicentre of power, government in Westminster; being a Tory was a political dead start – and let’s be frank, it still is here – so anyone with a pathological thirst for power could only quench it through Labour.

    This has populated “Scottish” Labour with an army of sociopathic psychopaths, not interested in the betterment of the masses but in power for power’s sake.

    Once in government, bowing to internal and international pressure, they reinstated the Scottish Parliament, believing they could extend and expand their power with a second Parliament to control.

    But one of the fallacies of every sociopath is to be unable to predict the possible consequences of his actions: rather than multiplying their power centres, Holyrood opened the gates for that “regional” party nobody had on the horizon.

    All of the Scottish Left, disenfranchised by a neoliberal, capitalistic New Labour quickly converged into the SNP, and the rest of the story is what Mr Brown summed up.

    This is my reading, looking at things at face value, as an outsider. But often it’s better to be removed and distant to see the big picture.

  3. Andy McKirdy

    The Labour Party of the the last 50 years has been about, as many others have said, the Labour Party. Party and power first, people second. They have been the British establishment’s tool to keep the working class and especially the Scottish working class tied to the idea of Rule Britannia.
    Indyref1 was their nightmare, ordinary Scots, becoming enlightened and given a real political choice was not part of the British game, they faced a choice, represent the Scottish working class, surely their reason for existing, or shore up the British establishment. They chose what they had become and they will pay the ultimate price.
    Good riddance and goodbye, they are now irrelevant in the constitutional future of Scotland.
    2 conversations with Labour people in 2014 and 2015 sum them up; “surely Labour will join the SNP and lead the Yes campaign, ensuring a Yes win and leaving Labour in power in Scotland for as long as they like? No, we hate the SNP and a No vote kills them”
    And, the 2015 GE will be for Labour what the 1924(?) GE was for the Liberals, 90 years of irrelevance. No, Politics is like the waves and the SNP have had their wave and Labour will return to their rightful place.
    That says it all about Labour, they are about serving Labour as part of the British establishment, Fuck the people, especially the Scottish people.
    Why would anyone with any level of intelligence even consider voting for them ever again!!!!!!

  4. David MacGille-Mhuire

    British Labour in Scotland and only, fleetingly, of it (Scotland): A drunken twinkle in the eye kind of thing hijacked by the BritNat Fabians and their allies the morning after with all kinds of Tammany Hall incentives for toeing the AngloBrit, WM line.

    John MacLean saw through this ruse as did and have done countless other principled Scots over the generations with increasing momentum unto the present day and continuing forward thereafter until we repatriate our inviolable popular sovereignty.

    Matthew Lygate and countless other internationalist, principled Scotsmen and Scotswomen – as well as principled folk who settled here from other airts ‘n pairts – kent this well and had a vision of Scots popular sovereignty restored and acting amongst the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind as a force of good.

    I smell the fresh air of this ancient and contemporary struggle beginning to blast through our Scots air and onwards globally to all those other folk repressed; the stench of corrupt and corrupting ordure dispersed in perpetuity and the flatulent gangster class and their enforcers dealt with appropriately and under the Geneva Conventions ( a cumnulation, I believe, of early Celtic Brehon Scottish/Irish Celtic Church jurisprudence).

    Thus and to paraphrase John MacLean, back to our progressive roots in order to go forward in the immediate future and forward via the generations to follow us and to whom we owe a debt of stewardship.

    Saor Alba agus bliadhna mhath ur.

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