A guest post by Denise Findlay
The SNP did wonderfully in the general election but not all of the credit can go to the SNP. Labour played a part in the victory, by making a catalogue of errors and running an abysmal campaign. So here is a nice baker’s dozen of Labour mistakes:
1. First Past The Post Reality
45% will not win a referendum but it will win you an FPTP landslide. Labour did not recognise this reality and made no attempt to engage with the independence movement. Labour instead continued the Better Together tactic of demonising the SNP and supporters of independence.
2. The Tories are the Enemy Not the SNP
Labour spent far too much of their TV and press time criticising the SNP, seemingly forgetting the real enemy entirely. The SNP was able to present itself as the anti-Tory party, while Labour became the anti-SNP party.
3. Sidetracked by EVEL
In the Westminster debates immediately after the referendum Gordon Brown - the guarantor of the Vow - used his speeches to rail against EVEL instead of focusing on the new powers he promised to Scotland. This was made worse by their next mistake:
4. Losing the mantle of the Party of Home Rule
Labour’s submission to the Smith Commission conceded the bare minimum of new powers. Labour’s reluctance to concede powers to Scotland stripped them of their Home Rule credentials. While Labour shed the clothes of Home Rule, the SNP picked them up and dressed themselves in them. Incredibly the SNP became the party of both Home Rule and independence.
5. Electing Jim Murphy as Leader
When Lamont left claiming the Scottish Labour Party were treated as a ‘branch office’ it was a gift to the SNP, but not as much of a gift as her replacement Jim Murphy. Quite why the Labour Party members chose a Blairite and one so associated with the referendum to try to win back Yes voters is incomprehensible. It did, however, confirm to the many people that have left the Labour party, that as far as socialism is concerned, Labour are a lost cause.
6. Glasgow Man
Labour devised a tactic to win back ‘Glasgow Man’, a Labour-Yes voting Glaswegian. For some inexplicable reason, teetotaler Murphy though that offering alcohol at football would succeed. The motivation of Yes voters was to ‘build a better country’, and that dream is unlikely to be traded for a pint of beer. It was a contemptuous idea of ‘Glasgow Man’s priorities and had the side-effect of also alienating women.
7. Patriotism and the Labour Constitution
‘Scottish Labour is now a patriotic Scottish party, putting Scotland’s interests first’ begs the question what have you been these last 100 years? It confirmed many voters' suspicions that Labour had not been acting in the interests of Scotland.
8. 'SNP Bad' Overkill
A tactic of constant attacks on the SNP, Labour aided by their friends in the press drummed up a ‘A&E crises’ and nightly we were treated to the latest statistics and how bad the NHS was under the SNP. Eventually it became background noise as there was no event to hang it on, i.e. Mid-Staffs. 'SNP Bad' became a joke when in answer to any issue the Labour response was ‘SNP to blame’.
9. Full Fiscal Autonomy Bombshell
The ‘£7.6 billion FFA bombshell’ poster which simultaneously reminded people of : the Tories (copy of ‘Labour Tax Bombshell’ Tory poster), Iraq (bombs) and Trident (Trident shaped bomb) was a work of genius. And in any case, the Yes voters they needed to win back had not been scared by full Project Fear and independence so they were hardly likely to be put off by Full Fiscal Autonomy.
10. Contradicting UK Labour
Labour in Scotland could have piggy-backed on the UK Labour campaign and defended the Austerity-Lite agenda of Miliband. Tarring the SNP as fiscally incompetent could have had traction. They decided to offer a different Austerity policy to UK Labour, with Murphy stating that there would be no cuts in Scotland. This caused issues for the UK Labour party and Murphy had to be very publicly slapped down, Chuka Umunna’s statement ‘The leader of Scottish Labour does not write the UK budget’ highlighted what we all knew; UK Labour called the shots.
11. Project Fear (the Sequel)
The Scottish debates saw the Project Fear band back together, with Labour, Tory and Lib Dem haranguing Nicola, reminding everyone of the Better Together Labour-Tory alliance.
12. Second Referendum Gambit
The tactic, again aided by Labour’s friends in the press, was to connect the general election result with a second referendum. This tactic also featured a poster with a signpost onwards to a second referendum or backwards with Labour – prescient perhaps. A second referendum was something the SNP could not talk about for fear of losing the SNP-No voters but luckily Labour was saying it for them. It was a call to arms to the independence supporters giving them an incentive to get out and vote.
13. Ed Miliband Ruling Out SNP Deal
Scottish Labour lobbied Miliband to rule out a coalition with the SNP - this was to stop the SNP being able to say ‘Vote SNP Get Labour’. Normally Labour and Tory would stick to the mantra ‘We are going to win a majority’ and not talk about coalitions. Ed Miliband ruling out a coalition or deal with the SNP said to voters ‘I might not win’. Ed Miliband saying ‘he’d rather a Tory government than work with the SNP’ said to voters ‘I don’t want to win’. Of course it also allowed the Tories to drum-up anti-Scots sentiment and the SNP to dominate the news cycle for weeks. A mistake on so many levels.
So, what now for Scottish Labour with UK Labour turning rightwards? Even a Blairite such as Burnham is too left-wing for middle-England, where does Scottish Labour go?
You can follow Denise on Twitter HERE.
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This is guest post no. 2 since I made my 'appeal' the other day. Guest posts are welcome on any topic (within reason!). My contact details can be found at the top of the sidebar.