Wednesday, 2 April 2008

In the kingdom of the blind

Elaine Smith, Labour MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston, is never afraid to say what she thinks.

Recently she put forward for consideration her thought that Labour should not be afraid to support the SNP where the SNP Government was doing the right thing for Scotland. She argued that Labour MSPs should be voting for the ending of prescription charges, for the abolition of the Graduate Endowment tax on learning, for ending the right to buy on newbuild social housing, and so on.

In the Kingdom of the Blind the one-eyed woman is a heretic proclaiming her belief in the existence of light - Labour will not follow the eminently sensible advice offered by Elaine Smith and she will, no doubt, be decried for actually understanding how politics in Scotland must work under minority Government.

While it is obvious to most people in this country that the SNP Government is making a decent fist of delivering, Labour continues to sit in denial and continues to look for instant and short-term victories over the Government. Continuing attempts to ensure that the majority unionist grouping in Parliament gangs up against the nationalist minority results in the people who watch politics siding more with the minority Government.

Why? Because Labour started in too early and too bluntly, they never had cause for their complaints (and still don't), speculated beyond the available evidence, and never accepted defeat in the election. The people of Scotland had elected an SNP Government - by a painfully thin margin, but elected nonetheless - and the public attitude was one of contemplation and consideration. They'd kind of shoved the cake in the oven and were waiting to see how it came out but Labour keeps opening the oven door. The public view of the Government was of one that was prepared to stand up for Scotland when it was necessary and one that would try to govern well.

The majority opposition ganging up on the minority Government was always going to look like bullying unless they had some seriously string grounds for it - the Conservatives learned that lesson very quickly and the Libdems have cottoned on latterly, but Labour still doesn't get it. Labour preoccupation is with being in power rather than being effective in Parliament, Labour's Shadow Cabinet cannot see that this is no strategy for a Parliamentary session - they continue to run headlong at a brick wall instead of opening the gate in it - that's why Wendy Alexander has had to reshuffle her pack after six months - they're already exhausted.
Partly this comes from Labour's belief that it owns Scotland, owns compassion, and owns all the righteousness - for a look into that particular heart of darkness, you could do worse than take a look at a recent Compass article written by the very cream of Labour's Scottish talent from Michael Connarty to Ian Davidson. I intend to come back to this article at some later date, but a clipping from it may be instructive -
The SNP are fighting hard to steal the social democratic mantle away from Labour.
The idea that any party 'owns' a part of politics is absurd in the extreme. We are watching, I believe the death-throes of a once respectable party.

It's not a new socialism they need, it's some humility and a desire to ask what they can do to make amends.


Anonymous said...

I have just read the Compass article (and left a comment). It is the most backward-looking, revisionist pile of nonsense that I have come across in a long time. These people just don't get it, and that they are reduced to scratching around in failed and inchoate 1980s arguments about the soft left is indicative of the extent of their intellectuial crisis.

Anonymous said...

In the country of the blind it said the one eyed man is king. And in the country of the bland its 8 o'clock on ITV....

With many thanks to Half Man Half Biscuit