Ewan MacAskill has written a measured and thoughtful article that I would recommend reading: “How disillusionment with Labour in Scotland has turned to raw rage“.
I agree with the picture MacAskill is painting here, but in some ways it’s actually months late. When I was chapping doors for Yes last summer in the villages in my area, that anger, that rage at “Labour” was already there.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and all that, but barring some kind of radical transformation – and Jim Murphy’s election and his behaviour since then continually shows that is not happening – I see no discernible way back for Labour in Scotland from their current position. Looking back on the summer of 2014 now, I realise people were really angry at them for siding with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for the No campaign – and that anger made them think of all the other reasons they disliked Labour. Some of those mentioned on the doorsteps included:
- Trident (again and again)
- austerity (no perceived difference in any of the three Westminster parties – they all want to make people pay for the bankers’ mistakes)
- ignoring democracy (Scotland doesn’t vote Conservative, but look who’s at Westminster – and I suspect that is not changing at the moment, with all the hate-speech about the SNP and Scots more generally)
- failure to improve social conditions (an older surgeon who commuted to a Glasgow hospital told me: “people have voted Labour all their lives, as have I, and inner-city health is as bad now as it was when I started working in Glasgow many years ago. You don’t need to convert me to vote Yes: my patients have already done that”)
- complacency (Labour politicians don’t care about their constituency, they just use it for their own political careers)
- and so on… the key word again and again was: betrayal.
Siding with the other two large Westminster parties made people realise there were lots of other things they didn’t like about “Labour” and that the party bore little relation to what they had thought it actually stood for.
What we are witnessing now are the death throes of Labour in Scotland: even if there is understandable Schadenfreude at the party’s well-deserved fate, looming death is not pleasant to witness and people are badly hurt by it. Eventually, Labour in Scotland will die – and as is often the case with painful deaths, the sooner the better. However, those of us who have long since moved on from Labour should not forget to look back occasionally, not just to remind ourselves of what not to do, but more importantly, to reach out a helping hand to those who are wanting to move on from the wreckage that was once a (justifiably) proud left-wing party. We must be gentle in doing so: remember that death hurts all those around it.