Harriet Harman, the level-headed leader is trying to hold the sinking ship known as H.M.S Labour together with duct tape and shoestring. While the rest of the Parliamentary Party are fighting for who should lead it, Harman is trying to steer the party in a direction where it can create a genuine opposition presence. This has culminated in Harman voicing her support for a number of welfare cuts the government have recently proposed. Comparisons were made to The thick of it character Nicola Murray, and her support of cutting school breakfast clubs. While the comparison is witty, and on the surface seems to be accurate, it doesn’t really bare any real relation to the current nightmare that is the Labour Party. This is the party which has given Corbyn second place in constituency PLP votes , and that is a statistic which sums up the current purgatory we find ourselves in.
Labour’s task isn’t easy, the party has three key problems which it doesn’t know how to solve. First, is the rise of the SNP. The SNP always did well in Scottish Parliamentary elections, yet never broke much ground in the Westminster Parliament. This of course shifted gravely for Labour within the confines of the last election, turnout skyrocketed, and so did the SNP vote. They wiped out every other party like an oncoming tsunami, and little managed to survive its path. How does Labour win back support in Scotland?
It depends on who you listen to, Mhairi Black used her historic victory to outline the problems which she believes engulfed Labour. Black has argued it was the party’s abandonment of socialist values which denied Labour any support North of the border. Does this stand up to scrutiny? Since the SNP reduced spending in the NHS, and the party have worked with the Conservatives in Scotland in the recent past why would anyone view them as a genuine Socialist force? The Scottish people have traditionally been more nationalistic than the Welsh people. This nationalism was also seen more recently in the independence referendum which set the Labour party against the SNP.
The alternative to the SNP narrative would be to set up a Scottish Labour party, rather than have one party. A not dissimilar idea was proposed by Tristram Hunt just a few days ago, he wanted to see an English Labour party. In my mind if you have an English Labour party, you must also create a Scottish Labour party. This move would eradicate the SNP’s narrative of a London centric Labour party, and it allows Labour to move to the left when it needs to north of the border. It would make the SNP attack on Labour look apocryphal, and would allow Scottish Labour to make new headway, new policies, and become a genuine presence in Scottish politics. I’m surprised no-one thought of this after the referendum, when the atmosphere was becoming febrile
The second problem which is sure to concern Labour is the emergence of an electoral attack in its heartlands. Ukip only won one seat, but they managed to secure 120 second places in the General Election. Many of these seats were slap bang in traditional Labour territory. The real problem with this block of voters isn’t UKIP siphoning off those votes, I am sure they will implode in time. The real obstacle for Labour is that the very people who we need to win back in England have different priorities to those voters it needs to win back in Scotland. Of course with a devolved party this difficulty can be avoided with the non scottish Labour party. However, even if this project did come about it wouldn’t necessarily halt the hemorrhaging of the white working class vote to other parties. This group of voters aren’t being presented with a coherent internationalist argument for why immigration is a good thing, they aren’t being presented with a genuine alternative on economics, and social policy. We won’t win votes back if we cannot present an intellectually clear coherent argument which is as persuasive as it is dynamic. The alternative doesn’t necessitate an anti austerity ticket, Blair won 1997 on the promise of keeping the budget tight while in office.
The real nightmare which is becoming an ever greater burden on Labour, is the leadership of the party. The lack of innovation is potentially life threatening. Jeremy Corbyn offers the same tired, almost perfunctory solutions, as I have outlined in a previous article. Andy Burnham is the definition of the Westminster bubble, becoming a special advisor straight out of university, and having been an MP for 14 years despite only being 45. His quixotic rhetoric on ending that image doesn’t match up to the reality of his experience, and he has offered little in the way of concrete plans to change the nature of politics in such a radical way. Liz Kendall is the change candidate, on the right of the party it’s seen that she’s the only one who can save us. While it’s true I’m a blairite, Kendall has been distinctly unimpressive as have all the candidates. None of them have offered a vision of where the party needs to go, rather they’ve been arguing over the distant past and policy pieces which few outside the Parliamentary party will pay close attention to. A vision is needed, and it needs to be bolder than just helping working people getting on. We need to outline the vision of the country that we want, and until we do we’re destined to fail at the ballot box.