Sunday, 27 January 2008

And they're off ...

Andy Kerr made his bid for Labour leader this weekend (bit hamfisted, but what else did you expect?) - he came haring out of the traps waving Duncan McNeil as a battle pennant. "Hah!" said Sir Andy (for it was he), "I've caught that dastardly Salmond in a trap of his own making and my honour shall be redoubled as I take the Holy Grail into my mailed fist - it's mine I tell you, mine!"

Unfortunately for Andy, he turned out to be more Quixote than Lancelot and was beating a heavy retreat by lunchtime Sunday. Was Tom McCabe sitting chuckling in his cupboard as rumoured? A dastardly and most scurrilous rumour has it that the famous Hamilton South bruiser with his own video on Youtube has what amounts to an array of envisioned voodoo dolls and takes great pleasure in realigning their expectations. I can't bring myself to believe it though.
The Gray Man, though, must have been getting nodding back and forward in his rocking chair, cigarette in one hand and a glass of Himalayan Goji Juice in the other, his favourite Val Doonican LP spinning on the gramophone as he says "Too impatient, grasshopper, one must learn to play a longer game" before adding more inscrutability cream.

The happy whistling you hear from down by the burn is the escaping Jack McConnell - he's off playing Jim, he just needs to find Huck Finn (oh, read the book and stop jumping to conclusions - they'll finish you). Bet Labour members never thought a mere six months ago they'd be missing Jack come January (except those who can never aim well), eh? They all thought they were off on a six-week refresher course and they'd pop back into government.
Except one auld fella I met while out canvassing. He's not voting for me (not yet), and he'll probably 'give Labour one last chance, son'. He was a member of the Labour party until he let his membership lapse and no-one came round to ask why - in last year's election he voted Labour in the constituency vote, voted to get rid of the sitting Labour councillor in the council vote (good understanding of STV - we didn't get his first vote, but neither did Labour), and he voted for the SNP in the regional vote "In spite of Alex Salmond" because he thought Labour couldn't get anyone on the Lothian list (neither did Foulkes, right enough), and we were closest to what he actually believes in. Anyway, the point of this rambling is that he was pointing out that the Labour party just does not know what it's about in Scotland.

His reasoning was that those who are forming a coalition of the convenient to support more powers for the Scottish Parliament really wouldn't be any more successful at doing that than they were at holding off change altogether because "they still don't understand, son, that you lot actually believe in Independence". He reckoned that the fact they had given up all belief in anything other than themselves and only wanted power for the sake of being in power meant that they had no chance of delivering anything - they didn't know what they wanted to deliver. He used a tortured metaphor which seemed to suggest that they were at a tea-dance while we were committed warriors for a cause dear to our hearts.
Not exactly how I would describe it, but I know what he means.

So what Labour needs isn't a refresher course or a while on the sidelines licking the wounds of defeat, what's needed is a rediscovery of a cause. It might be a half-forgotten cause buried under the detritus of the glory years of Blair or a cause that some thought buried with Keir Hardie. It might be a cause born from the need to renew or a cause brought in by an outsider, but it must be a cause that Labour members believe in - imposing one would make the death throes of a once proud party all the more painful.

So, bearing in mind that it's more than a change of leadership, tactics and direction Labour needs, where can Labour members turn? They're a bit knackered, but I would suggest that they have either to look way back in their past or into their future for the answer - well, for the answer to the immediate question of where their next leader is coming from.

They have to stop looking to recent failures - no David Whitton, no Cathy Jamieson, no Andy Kerr, no Iain Gray. I know that there's a desire in some of the female Labour MSPs to ensure that the next leader is a woman to prove that Wendy's failure had nothing to do with her sex. Fair enough, but in the position Labour is in it must find the best leader possible no matter what genitalia they have. Fortunately for Labour women, their female MSPs are far better than their male MSPs as soon as you exclude Margaret Curran, Jackie Baillie, Rhona Brankin, Pat Ferguson and Johan Lamont.
Labour can look to the future with, for example, Claire Baker - she's young and can learn. On the other hand, she's not very good, she's a Fifer, she's never had a proper job - and she's married to Richard Baker (Labour MSP, not the broadcaster, not the composer and not the author), so her judgement is suspect.
With Labour's future looking pretty shaky, it's got to be a swing back in time, bring on the experience and let's sort the whole thing out. Altogether now:

She's Helen, Helen, Helen Eadie
Without her Labour's far too needy...

Alternatively (and this is a cracking wheeze if they can pull it off), the Co-op splits off and follows its own path, leaving Labour free to put the right-wing, free-market version of socialism it has dreamt up while the Co-op can act as its conscience, then there would be two Labour leaders in Parliament and not so much pressure on the one.

I should charge consultancy fees

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