Monday 13 October 2014

SNP surge brings gloom for Labour

Another week and there is more worrying news for Scottish Labour.

SNP figures show that a significant proportion of the colossal number of new members they have signed up since the referendum come from traditional Labour heartlands.

Peter A Bell's insight:

Surely the most striking thing about British Labour in Scotland is the fact that they appear to be totally oblivious to their situation. They seem to lack any awareness of the profound changes that have been wrought in Scottish politics by the referendum campaign.

We saw this same blinkered denial following the 2007 Holyrood election. And the second most notable thing about the 2011 election was British Labour’s abject failure to learn any lessons from the SNP’s historic win at their expense.

The referendum, and its aftermath, represent the third warning for British Labour in Scotland. But, rather than taking heed of that warning, they choose instead to regard the outcome as a triumph.

In the early hours of Friday 19 September, as it became clear that the forces of fear were to enjoy an inglorious victory over the forces of hope, I was talking to a grinning, gloating representative of British Labour in Scotland. I remarked to them that their delight was likely to be, to paraphrase Burns, as short-lived as the rainbow’s lovely form, evanishing amid the storm to come.

I pointed out that they had treated the referendum as a party political battle with the SNP. By their actions, not least in forming an alliance with the Tories, they had won that contest, but it had cost them the country.

I doubt very much if my words had any lasting impact. British Labour in Scotland continues to equate its interests with the interests of Scotland despite the enormous gulf that has opened up between party and people. They continue to behave as if political power in Scotland is their entitlement. They genuinely seem to believe that nearly a decade of profound upheaval in Scotland’s political environment is no more than a blip.

They seem to think they are not affected by this upheaval. That it requires no response from them. That they need not change to accommodate the new political realities. That they need only wait and the voters will eventually come to their senses and everything will get back to the way it was before.

Some will regard this as an exaggeration, or even a total misreading of the situation. They will insist that there are people within British Labour in Scotland who are fully aware of the problems the party faces. They will point to various instances of British Labour politicians in Scotland talking about the need for change. My response would be to challenge them to point to something more substantive than talk about the need for change.

If there was genuine awareness within its upper echelons of the extent to which British Labour in Scotland has gone astray then we would be seeing, not just ordinary members burning their membership cards, but high level defections to the SNP. That this is not happening is a measure of just how detached from reality British Labour politicians are.

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