I briefly thought of calling this post, ‘Why the Labour Party is losing support in Scotland’ but as there more reasons than those listed below, I won’t presume to write on behalf of other Scottish voters.
Scotland and her voters were looking east to the Scandinavian countries for inspiration long before it became fashionable in England. Those nations were, historically at least, our main trading partners before union. Norway is a model of what we would like to be: an oil-rich nation with a similar-sized population to our own in a land that can be as rugged and sparse as ours. The Scandinavian countries are social democracies (and despite the election of a right-wing government in Sweden, the Swedes haven’t taken to casting the babies out of their hospital beds as the Tories are planning for England).
The Labour Party likes it’s leaders posh. We’ve noticed this. The first working-class leader of Labour to get the keys to Number 10 was also a Scot, Ramsay MacDonald. He was subsequently betrayed by his own party because he formed a National government with the opposition in an attempt to deal with issues of poverty. More recent Scottish leaders of The Labour Party, John Smith, Tony Bliar and The Broon, were middle-class. Why is it that The Labour Party doesn’t trust working-class leaders? Is it because we have an innate distrust of Big Business and The City of London? Surely, these are prerequisite qualities in anyone seeking to represent the best interests of ordinary working people.
Johann Lamont, get back in your box (and will you please learn how to debate without whining? Click, channel changed) because for all its claims to now be able to decide affairs for itself, The Labour Party in Scotland still takes its orders from that hero of the workers, Ed Milliband. What trade was he in before he got into politics? Ah, yes. He went to Oxford where he got a degree in PPE: Philosophy, Politics and Economics. The middle-class elite in The Labour Party appear to be so distrusting of the workers that it takes a deal over a meal at The Ivy (have you ever eaten there, reader?) to block John Prescott (a man who was infamously too shouty for the unions and who encouraged him to go into politics) from winning the leadership contest.
Like a lot of working-class folk in Scotland, I worked hard to pull myself out of a council-house future on benefits and got myself into university, despite the distractions provided by the junki wasters subsidised by state benefits living on the Knockinlaw Estate where my family lived at the time. Heck, I even rose to a management position while work ing in the south-east of England but am I middle-class? Nuh. Perhaps because I’ve never had the means to take the rest of my family out of the council estate where they live, I refuse to forget where I’m from.
When living in England, I voted for whichever candidate was most likely to usurp the Tory candidate in my constituency. You know what the Tories stand for: business, money and the greedy grubbing in the gack for it. It’s like spotting pigs on a farm, simply listen for the squeals. Squeal. Yup, Tory.
Labour, however, can’t rely on the support of big business for its funding but that doesn’t stop it trying. Remember thinking it curious when Mandelson came out with that quote in 1998 about being comfortable with the filthy rich? Me too. People get filthy rich in only one way: by treating others in a filthy manner.
As much as I’m averse to voting Labour, I live in hope and so like anyone else who’s been given a shift of shovelling rotten food into damp cardboard boxes in their supermarket job, I cheered when Labour won a landslide in 1997. There might even have been a tear. Oh joy, oh rapture. The pigs have been nudged from the trough however temporarily.
Remember how temporary those cheers were?
One of Gordon Brown’s first actions on being made Chancellor in 1997, was to make the Bank of England independent of government control (hurrah?) and to have the regulation of the markets overseen by a new independent body, the Financial Services Authority (eh?). Further still, he tore down the divisions between investment and retail banking that had stood for decades even under Tory governments (WTF?) and in so doing, laid the future ruination of the world’s economies just ten years later… Even my dad predicted that would happen and he was working on the Glasgow buses at the time.
Lest it be forgotten, the reform of the NHS was not initiated by Andrew Lansley and the Tories but Labour in 2005. Remember Primary Care Trusts and ‘patient choice’? They’re not scheduled to be abolished until 31 March 2013.
How about bringing corporate investment into English primary and secondary schools (because having that sort of investment worked so well in the US, didn’t it?). Yup, that would be Labour bringing the Neoliberal philosophy of PFI into the local state asset you most trusted to help your child out of poverty and funnily enough, Ed Milliband’s old school, Haverstock Comprehensive School, got a £21m rebuild in 2006… PFI, let’s see what results emerge from the
laboratory, sorry, LabourTory initiative.
Student fees? Blaming the Liberal Democrats for voting with the Tories to ensure that students from poorer backgrounds will struggle to get into universities in England and Wales? Not so fast sunshine. It was in 1998 that Tony Blair’s Labour government introduced tuition fees with the Teaching and Higher Education Act. The Labour Party did not fare any better in Scotland either, introducing a £2,000 charge on graduation for students in 2000 which was only abolished in 2008 by the SNP administration.
I was visiting friends in the Midlands when on my return through London, I saw how the ordinary men, women and children who had had the courage to protest against an imminent and illegal war in Iraq were being treated by the police. Shepherded one at a time past police with cameras who took their names and addresses, I decided I had had enough. The number of people protesting was no longer the issue for me – and it was clearly a lot – but the way in which these law-abiding people were being treated was simply appalling. Any notions that The Labour Party had respect for democracy were crushed but then hey, as a kid I’d seen how The Labour Party campaigned in Amber Valley.
Last but not least, nuclear power. Remember in the good ol’ days when Labour leaders like Michael Foot marched with CND campaigners against nuclear proliferation? Heck, even Ed’s mum, Marion Kozak was an early CND member. Which idjit in the Labour government decided that not only should nuclear submarines remain based in Scotland within 20 miles of Glasgow city centre but that these weapons should be replaced at great expense to the tax-payer without public consultation in 2007? Initial estimates of the bill are £3bn (and we know how the final bill on government contracts always matches the original estimates, don’t we?). The last date to call a halt to this nonsense is 2016 – after the next UK general election and assuming that we haven’t voted for independence.
Just in case you have trouble visualising just how close nuclear weapons are parked to the most loyal outpost of Labour Party voters in Scotland, then have a look at this: