In 1900 the Labour party was formed in Scotland and stood for the working classes. One hundred and fourteen years later it is in complete meltdown and is no longer sure of what it stands for. Keir Hardie must be turning in his grave vigorously like a man possessed by extreme night terrors.
The resignations of Johann Lamont and Anas Sarwar as respective leader and deputy leader of Scottish Labour have begun a chain reaction which will prove to be an endurance test for the whole Labour party. Lamont’s assertion that the Westminster party treats them like a “branch office” succinctly highlights what the main problem is: there should be no distinct “branches” of the party. The recent referendum has shown that unity has prevailed and following on from that the Labour party needs to reunite under a common goal. Of course the new debate over “Scottish votes for Scottish MSPs” and “English votes for English MPs” throws this divide up into the air, but the Labour party ought to be strong and united enough to weather this storm and put up a credible fight in the next general election. If the Tories can do it, then surely Labour can too? Unfortunately, the complete demise of the entire Labour party is looking increasingly more likely.
There was a time when the Labour party was at the forefront of change in this country; for example, the Labour government under Clement Atlee in 1948. If it was not for him and his radical social reforms then Britain today would be without her beloved National Health Service. More recently, Tony Blair’s “Third Way” policies arguably gave politics the shake-up it needed in the late 1990s. However, the War on Iraq has been a wound that the Labour party has not been able to heal and the remaining “Blairites” in Scottish Labour have hampered the party’s growth, allowing the political left-wing vacuum to be filled by the Scottish Nationalist Party. In a recent YouGov poll support for SNP stands at 43 per cent, whereas support for Labour rests now at 27 per cent. This poll also suggests that in the next general election Labour will lose 30 of its 40 Scottish seats – crucial seats that had forced Ed Milliband’s hand in vetoing “English votes for English MPs”.
The grim reaper is indeed rising up and getting ready to suck the party into his lair – but is there any glimmer of hope? The recent referendum results prevented a divorce between the nations; now Labour needs to prevent its own divorce from happening. Miliband needs to pull himself together and work alongside the new Scottish Labour leader – whoever that might be – and bring his party back from edge of death. Labour needs to reform, elect credible leadership, and go back to its working class roots to find policies that appeal to its people. It needs to wake up out of this political coma and fight back to gain a credible position. This cannot be the end of the party for the working classes because there is no other party that will have their backs when things get tough again. Hardie’s party must live to fight another general election.