Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gray wins Labour leadership

We shouldn’t have been too surprised but Labour has yet again shot itself in the foot by choosing the useless and uncharismatic Brownite clone Iain Gray as its Scottish leader. Cathy Jamieson came second while the most obnoxious candidate of all Andy Kerr was relegated to third place. In the deputy leadership campaign Labour members rejected the socialist Bill Butler in favour of Glasgow MSP Johann Lamont.

In my view Labour’s only hope was to choose Jamieson and Butler. While Cathy Jamieson’s hardly a radical socialist she does speak more for the left and has closer links to the unions than either Gray or Kerr. I also thought a victory for her might have been good from a gender perspective as she appears to have a record of speaking out on some feminist issues (such as her strong condemnation several months ago of the proposed opening of Hooters ‘restaurants’ in Scotland).

Cathy Jamieson was the one person who could have made the SNP seem bad from a left perspective and re-energised Labour’s core supporters. Whether or not she was actually committed to doing anything once in a position of power I think a shift to the left in tone from the Labour leader would have helped move Scottish politics in a leftward direction and forced the SNP to take more notice of ordinary people’s concerns.

At the same time that Labour have been imploding the Liberal Democrats have been moving rapidly to the right with its UK leader Nick Clegg attacking ‘social-democracy’ as somehow being no longer relevant and demanding a new wave of tax cuts, a call echoed by their Scottish leader Tavish Scott who has proposed an immediate 2p tax cut for everyone - this would apparently give the average Scot another £300 in their pocket each year (and of course mean the government has £300 less to spend for each person on education and healthcare).

The next general election at Westminster is almost certain to yield a huge majority for the Conservatives and unlike last time (ie. the 1980s) not one of the main UK parties is going to have any sort of alternative to offer whatsoever. Here in Scotland the SNP will keep on portraying themselves as the radical alternative which people want while in reality hardly ever doing anything differently.

Large sections of the electorate can be deceived for a few years, perhaps a decade, but not forever. When they realise the real agenda of those in power there is always an opportunity for new social and political movements to emerge. But the more likely outcome is yet more political disillusionment and a growing sense of hopelessness among those who are left behind, those who mainstream politicians ignore and wish would simply go away.

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