My my my, wonders will never cease. The devastatingly lacklustre leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour, Johann Lamont – she of the genetic ‘lack of programming’ to make important decisions – has resigned.
Not before time, one might well respond, and that would seem, on the face of it, fair. Yet it appears from her resignation statement that some of her lack of visibility during Independence Referendum One (oh, there will be more, do not fret) was not due to incompetence but to the fact that she was being told what to say by London and resented it. That she waited this long to act on her resentment makes her parting words seem rather like crocodile tears; but those are the only ones that will be shed over her doffing the Poisoned Crown, so we ought not to be too harsh.
To be fair, Lamont was actually no worse than several of her predecessors, notably Iain ‘Buzz Lightyear’ Gray, the most invisible leader of a ‘major’ party in my recall. But Buzz was a man, and a great deal of the hostility towards Lamont was just because she wasn’t. If anyone was in any doubt as to the general misogyny of ‘Scottish’ Labour after Wendy Alexander was ousted in a palace coup, Lamont’s treatment at the hands of her own party will hopefully have disabused them.
Leaving aside ‘did she fall or was she pushed’, there is now the matter of Lamont’s replacement. Various ‘big’ names from Labour have been mooted, and it will be interesting to see which one agrees to play coconut at the shy; but the real question is not ‘who would be best for Scotland’, but ‘who can best assure a Labour victory at Westminster’. (Stop laughing at the back there, this is serious.) Nobody in the Labour Party gives fig about Scotland, they only care about the trough in London and how to get their noses into it.
At UK elections, Scotland traditionally produces a Labour majority and while this has not actually decided the Westminster result in half a century, it is still hung on to like the precious family jewels by the party; and that is why it has an interest in Scotland.
The problem is that more than half of the Scottish electorate want far more powers for Holyrood. Clearly those that voted for independence do, and surveys after the event show that many of those who did not were swayed by the promise of more powers, given by all the English parties in the run-up to the vote. Not delivering these is seen by most observers as a one-way street to electoral disaster in Scotland.
But none of the English parties gives a hoot about Scotland. The Tories have nothing to lose, with one Westminster seat in Scotland, and the slimy-say-anything ‘Liberal’ party already has its neck on the chopping block thanks to its toxic alliance with the Tories. Ukip is irrelevant in a Scottish context, so we can ignore it.
Which leaves, of the major English parties active in Scotland, Labour. Now Labour is hampered with a joke for a leader at UK level, Ed ‘Wallace and Gromit’ Miliband, the more absurd of the eponymous family comedy act. This makes its electoral hopes in England somewhat optimistic. So it really does need those forty or so Scottish Labour MPs as lobby-fodder.
But hold the phone – aren’t all the pundits promising electoral calumny for Labour in Scotland after it jumped into bed with the Tories and gave them a good hard blow-job? How can it avoid the ballot-box retribution that is surely coming its way? Oh, yes, of course, get rid of that wee bachle Lamont and replace her with a big snarly bear. Like Brown. Or Murphy. That’ll do the trick, surely?
But what if the Scottish voters have been hoodwinked just once too often? What if they really do have a mind to get more powers and no more nonsense?
No problem for Labour – arrange a leader who can argue for this. Either of the above two might do.
It’s not so simple. English voters matter here too. English voters who have been persuaded, wrongly, that Scotland already gets more than its fair share and would like to see that cut. English voters who are suffering austerity that Holyrood has in part shielded Scots from. The last thing they want is more powers for Scotland.
So if Labour puts in place a politician with real clout as leader in Scotland, and that leader argues – as she or he must – for drastically increased powers, which the London Labour Party must deliver or make their creature north of the border look like a fool, that will alienate vital swing voters in England. And if they put in place another talking-head muppet whose strings are clearly being manipulated by London, they face meltdown in Scotland.
In the end, English votes matter far more to Labour than Scottish ones, so Scotland will be hung out to dry. Labour will promise the moon in order to win a Westminster majority, and once they have that, forget all of it. Just as they have repeatedly done in the past, and for the same reasons: power in Westminster depends on not pissing off English voters.
Schadenfreude, an emotion that I have particular fondness for, will not let me empathise with whichever poor schmuck gets landed with the task of trying to sell Labour’s hollow promises in Scotland. And one has to wonder just how often London Labour thinks it can hoodwink the Scottish voters – though the collapse in the Labour Party’s fortunes in Scotland already should warn them that they are, as was once said, ‘drinking in the Last Chance Saloon’.
Scotland has changed and the demographic is grim for the English hegemony of politics. A majority of older people, especially pensioners, voted to stay in the ‘Union’. A majority of everyone else voted to leave. The bartender has already called time. The countdown has begun.
For me, the matter is simple: I want the party that can most damage Labour in Scotland to be in power at Westminster. It was not Cameron or the other chinless, yapping, poodles of his ilk that swung Indyref One; it was Labour. I always knew that Labour would sell out Scotland for the sake of Westminster and so its destruction has been the only political ideal I could support.
For decades, the greatest threat to Labour has been the Tory party and while I detest these people, realpolitik has meant that I have had to not only accept them at Westminster, but support them being there. Tactical politics have not been easy or comfortable.
Now, however, it looks as if Labour may have made itself its own bogey-man, unable to deliver the powers it promised to Scots in order to buy their votes, for fear of alienating an already fractious English electorate. In a paradox of delight, a Labour Party elected at Westminster may be the coup de grace for its underling in Scotland, the moment when Scots finally wake up to the truth: Labour just doesn’t care about them.
Schadenfreude. It’s such a lovely feeling.
Also published on Medium.