All posts by Paul Cruikshank

The week that was…

…or what seems like the end of the beginning of the end of Scottish Labour.


It seems that whenever there is news coverage of the Scottish Labour Party it is always negative. Some would be inclined to blame this on media-bias or an anti-Corbyn-agenda (the focus on Corbyn, perhaps, being part of the problem), but when you see what we give them…I don’t think there’s much else to work with? This week, the Corbynisation of Scottish Labour reached a major milestone.

The week started with John McDonnell MP – the Shadow Chancellor and the widely-accepted mastermind behind Project Corbyn – saying Labour would allow a Second Independence Referendum if it was Holyrood voted for it. This, with the benefit of hindsight and knowing what followed later in the week, is a big red flag – and not one of the good ones.

Scottish Labour Party policy is, and always has been to oppose a second referendum – even if Jeremy Corbyn has been somewhat unsure of this in the past. But McDonnell in not Corbyn. His comments weren’t a slip of the tongue , and he has repeated them since – they were a calculated overture to the SNP to support a potential future minority Labour Government. There have been suggestions of a SNP-supported Labour Government before and, they did not go down well.

A 2015 (English) Tory Election Poster

But apart from such an overture being self-defeating, it is also unnecessary. The SNP MPs after the next General Election (provided there is a hung parliament), will have to make a choice: do they support a potential Labour Government or allow the Tories to continue? The need not be tempted, they need not be bought – they can either agree with the Labour program for Government, or not. They can decide where their principles lead them – which may, indeed, be in two different directions.

But aside from the external politics of the situation – the internal signals are clear – The UK Labour Leadership doesn’t care about Scottish Labour any longer. After repeating Scottish Labour’s post-referendum mistakes in 2016 by trying to please both sides, they are now trying to force us to repeat them! To hell with Scottish Labour Policy or processes.

And that was just Tuesday!


Over the next couple of days what has been rightly described as a ‘Civil War’ broke out across the party. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the members who had fought in the 2014 referendum, who bore the scars of that vote, and the General Election who followed it – who remember being shouted at in St. Enoch Square and balled at outside our own rallies (including by some who are now members and claim to speak for ‘true Labour values’); who faced abuse on the doorstep – are the ones who feel most hurt and abandoned by McDonnell’s calculated comments.

They are the ones who have remained with the party through the (increasingly) hard times but now all-to-readily dismissed as the ‘Anti-Corbyn gang’, without those accusers considering the reasons for that position. And when they stand up for agreed party policy, their commitment to the party is questioned and they are called anti-democratic. Though, of course, when they support a 2nd EU Referendum, they’re being anti-democratic then too.

On Thursday, when Richard Leonard attempted to re-state Scottish Labour’s Policy, opposing a Second Referendum – that didn’t stem the tide. Even a statement supported by the majority of Labour MSPs couldn’t act as a ‘unity comrades’ moment – thanks to the Scottish Campaign Coordinator who led the party to a recent 5th place finish:

Neil Findlay MSP appears not to mind the UK Labour Party “undermining the official position of the Scottish Labour Party”

But, this wasn’t the end of the week – nor the most telling.

Brian Roy, The Scottish General Secretary for the past 5 years resigned on Friday morning with immediate effect. According to Davie Clegg of the Daily Record, this follows a meeting with Richard Leonard just last week where Roy was told he no longer enjoyed Richard Leonard’s confidence – for what that’s worth.

Over the past 5 years, in various roles and to various degrees, I’ve seen Brian Roy in action – and he was a dedicated and loyal servant to the Party and to each leader he worked alongside. His commitment to varied and risky campaigning was demonstrated in his facilitated Jim Murphy’s “we just need to see if anything works” plans; his focus on long-term strategy over short-term tactics was on display when working with Kez Dugdale to try and slowly re-build trust in the party (which stemmed the losses in 2016 and bore first-fruit in 2017); and his commitment to the Party as a whole continued to the last as he endevoured to keep the peace among warring factions in Richard Leonard’s era. If anything it is the last of these which was Brian’s hamartia, if reports of Richard’s mentioning of the door (but not being confident to show him it) are to be believed.

Even after his resignation, in the circumstances, Brian Roy’s commitment to the Party comes before anything else.

Indeed, if I was to make any criticism of Brian’s tenure – it woudl be that he was sometimes too accommodating in trying to balance views that could not be balanced. He was too willing to try and keep the leadership happy, while still genuinely trying to make sure the members’ voice was heard. He was, in my view, too permissive of CfS (Momentum Scotland) and SLYS (the Momentum Scotland Youth Wing), even when they walked along or stuck their toe over the line. Too willing to bend or amend rules to keep the peace, rather than enforce them and admit the war. And in thanks, they seem to have overtaken him.

In all, however, Brian Roy’s tenure as Scottish General Secretary completed its one job – to keep the Scottish Labour afloat over what was bound to be , and will undoubtedly be remembered as, its most tumultuous periods ever. For that – I thank him, and his treatment has been deplorable.


But, as thoughts turn to Scottish Labour’s future, with Lorna Finlayson as acting General Secretary, I am worried that Brian’s not-quite-sacking marks the end-of the-beginning of Scottish Labour’s decline. Lorna would be a strong General Secretary for the upcoming storm (be that a General Election or internal battles).

But, while Lorna would be the sensible choice – experience suggests she will not be the final choice. As I’ve noted before, all of Richard’s appointments have been Corbyn-friendly, line-toeing, Richard-agreeing folk. I don’t see why that will change now.

All of this week’s events, then, suggest to me that the Corbyn-led ‘neutralisation’ of Scottish Labour is progressing rapidly. The Corbyn-project never got as strong a foothold in Scotland as it did in the rest of the UK (Smith is suspected to have won the 2016 Leadership Election in Scotland and nowhere else) though many who stood against it have now left and those who have stayed are demoralised. If Corbyn couldn’t control Scotland – he would at least make Scottish Labour weak enough so he can cut a deal with the SNP. And now that he has a friendly leader and will (almost certainly) soon have a friendly General Secretary – it may be that he can embed his support in Scotland after all.

And at that point – we’re firmly in the middle of the end.

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Up to the Nines

So – The European Elections happened, and they were a disaster.

They say that it’s in the small things the big issues become clear.

Tonight, after Mass, I spoke to a fellow parishioner. She has always voted, and has always voted Labour. The Funeral of her grandmother, great-grandmother to her young children, was on Thursday 23rd May 2019. She still voted.

But, for the first time in her life – she didn’t vote Labour. She voted for an unambiguously remain party.

From being out on the doors over the course of the campaign – and it was a fair number of doors – there are two reasons for Scottish Labour’s utterly dire performance last Thursday. Both are to do with leadership, but both in different ways.

Better Together

The first is at the UK level – and that Jeremy Corbyn has bent over backwards to avoid implementing the UK Labour Party’s policy over Brexit. That motion – formed and fashioned in a meeting that lasted over 6 hours – seems to mean nothing to the current party leadership. The insistence that only a ‘bad Tory Brexit’ (not a Labour one) need be put to a ‘public vote’ (which has been extended to include a General Election) killed our party for the European Elections.

Since September 2018, Corbyn has insisted – and his twitter army of fans and followers – have insisted that what the country really needs is a General Election, and that the real divide isn’t between Leave and Remain, but the ‘many’ and the ‘few’. And, the thing is, I agree with that. I agree that that division, the class division, is the most important one – but it doesn’t mean that any other divisions aren’t “real”. I would argue (and most experts and forecasters appear to agree) that Leaving the European Union would affect the many far, far worse than it would the few…but that’s not the conversation the leader of the Labour Party wants to have.

It is, however, the conversation the country is having – but Labour don’t want to take part in. In Scotland, we have tried that. After the 2014 IndyRef, Scottish Labour tried to move the conversation on, tried to talk about schools and hospitals – but the country wasn’t ready to heal, and move on. The Party were punished for it at the polls.

And yet, despite this warning – which was highlighted by several north of the border – the UK leadership failed to learn the lessons and trod the same path.

It seems clear that Jeremy Corbyn lies at the root of this – and with members overwhelmingly in favour of remain or a referendum on the deal – he either needs to unify with the rest of the party, or accept he can no longer lead it.

But, for viewers in Scotland

While the Labour Party did terribly in the UK, it was annihilated in Scotland. From a close second behind the SNP in 2014; to a distant FIFTH only just ahead of the Greens in 2019.

To be fair, the 2014 Euros were the last vote before THAT vote – so at least part of the slippage is the post-#IndyRef reality catching up with us. But even in 2016 and 2017 we at least came 3rd! So how did was fall even further from grace. I don’t think it’s all a consequence of UK Level decisions. I think there is something else that has to happen in the Scottish party.

First off – and this is the most important bit – I do not think Richard Leonard should resign as party leader. This is because, primarily, I think he has the potential to be a good leader (infra) and, secondly, because if he did resign, there are 4 people who would be a decent shout to replace him but one’s too obscure, one’s too divisive, one’s too wise and one’s not an MSP until July.

But what I do think needs to happen in Scotland is that Richard Leonard needs to start showing some personal leadership. I am willing to be corrected on this, but every leader Scottish Labour put out was based on the UK Labour template. Every message was a UK Labour message. There was practically no Scottish message or input at all – but there could have been.

The issue is, not just in respect of the most recent elections, but since Leonard took office just under 2 years ago, is that the call of “unity comrades” – which Corbyn/Leonard supporting Campaign For Socialism have adopted as a rallying cry over the past few days, despite previous positions on other leaders – doesn’t seek unity, it seeks conformity.

The view from the membership, and this is not a view exclusive to me, is that Richard staffed by people who wholly agree with him; speaks to people who wholly agree with him; campaigns for those who wholly agree with him; listens to those who wholly agree with him; and listens only to those that wholly agree with him.

This attitude is best demonstrated at 2018 Scottish Labour Conference, where my own CLP submitted a motion on Brexit after over a year of the Scottish and UK parties doing practically nothing. On the eve of Conference the Leonard-supporting SEC decided to issue a policy statement (which they were allowed to do), but that would scupper the motion. Just the year before, when Kez Dugdale had the opportunity to manoeuvre to prevent a motion on nuclear weapons being debated (which she was bound to lose), she didn’t take it, allowed the debate to play out and took it on the chin.

Yesterday, Neil Findlay MSP, who was in charge of the 2019 Election Campaign and was a key Leonard supporter, stood down and that was the right thing to do. But the leader’s office will still be full of ‘true-believers’ who agree with Leonard, and any replacement is more likely to be a slavish ally than a critical-friend.

If we continue to ignore the reality that the debate is Yes/No, Leave/Remain, and we refuse to take part in that debate, then is it any wonder that people aren’t going to listen to whatever else we have to say?

In Scotland, the issue is not one of the Leader (I think we have the right once) but of Leadership and the lack of it. From the back-room staff to the front bench, we all need to hear what we’re being told, and realise that we’re not currently fighting, sadly, for the next Labour Government.

We’re fighting for the next Labour Party grouping.

On 10 years’ Membership…

…this piece was originally posted on LabourHame on 8th September 2018.


I am a child of the Labour Party. My Mum was CLP Secretary and my Dad was CLP Chair, and they spent their honeymoon leafleting for Donald Dewar in Glasgow Garscadden. So I suppose it was inevitable that politics would be in my blood. But it was my decision, not theirs, when I joined the Labour Party on 8thSeptember 2008.

But much like Trigger’s broom or Theseus’s Ship, that Labour Party has changed so much that, at times, it can feel as if I am a member of a completely different party 10 years on. Today’s Labour Party – Corbyn’s Labour Party – seems almost proud of that fact, but I think that it is a great shame.

The party I joined was led by one of the political giants of the early 21st century. It had a record in government to be proud of and worth defending. It had cut child poverty across the UK by almost half, devolved power to the nations (and was trying to do the same with English regions); increased human rights protections in the UK and moved women’s, LGBT+, BAME and workers’ rights forward in the face of great opposition.

The party I joined never forgot that it wasn’t some exercise in academic Marxism but existed to further the interests of the people who put it in power, even when that involved imperfect compromises or uncertain solutions. It didn’t strive towards some hypothetical perfection at the expense of achievable progress.

And the party I joined was not perfect. At times it lacked ambition and could have afforded to take an electoral hit for political efficacy. At times it made terrible mistakes, the most obvious of which has had lasting effects in the Middle East and only history will tell just how much of a mistake it was. It was when it refused to listen to different views and the leadership blustered on ahead with its plans that it made the biggest mistakes.

But most importantly, the party I joined knew that it couldn’t remain the same forever, it needed constantly to change to meet the challenges of the times it was in. It knew that the best way it could achieve this was to listen to different views and reflect their ideas in its politics.

The party I’m a member of today is different. It feels very different.

The party I am a member of today is not proud of the party it was 10 years ago, to the extent that it cannot even seem to accept it was ever the same party. It cannot acknowledge that the party of 10 years ago did any good; nor can it acknowledge that the party today can do any bad. And that is a great shame.

The last 10 years have been a time of massive change for our party, as were the 10 before that and, particularly, the 10 before that. The Labour Party has always been party that changes to create a change in the country. In the 1990s and early 2000s that meant New Labour – because “secur[ing] for workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry” didn’t really work in a country whose industry was killed the decade before.

So in the 2010s and the early 2020s that must mean something new again – but to establish what that is means we must look at the world around us and deal with what is in front of us, not what we wish was there. We will have to deal with the issues and situations that face us, and, most importantly, convince the electorate that we are worth trusting again.

But for that to happen we have to show that we’re trustworthy. We have to show that we allow a plurality of ideas and views and that, even if you don’t agree with our leader or manifesto on everything, we can work together to make the country better. We have to show that we’re able to represent not just “the many” but everyone, and we need urgently to start demonstrating that we are a party that allows everyone to come together “freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect” for all.

The last year or so has been very difficult for our party. Just this week, our members decided to re-elect someone to our most powerful committee who questioned the widespread existence of antisemitism in our party. Yesterday, it emerged that the Iranian state broadcaster Press TV had live-tweeted and had pictures and video from a members-only CLP meeting covering a vote of no confidence in a Labour MP who has challenged antisemitism in the party.

These situations, the decisions members of our party have taken, make it more difficult to demonstrate that we deserve that trust to govern. The fact we have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism is a step on the right path, but it is only the first step. Saying we will not tolerate active hatred, is not the same as saying we will promote active inclusion.

10 years after joining this party it is still, beyond doubt, my political home. But, like any home, it requires housekeeping. I hope that on 8th September 2028 we will be looking back on this period where we were unable or afraid to face up to our internal challenges as the point where we renewed ourselves, like we did 20 years previously, to meet the challenges of our time.

Just now, that means Brexit, the housing crisis, renewing the constitution across the UK, and dealing with the ever-rising cost of living and unstable and precarious work. But in a country where being working class now more likely means you are the means of production, the challenge to our party is to re-examine our traditions and offer solutions that are right for now.

I am proud to have been a member of the Labour Party, our party, for 10 years. In that time I have followed in both my mum’s and my dad’s footsteps in being both CLP Chair and Secretary. But this is a dark time for our party, and I do not think history will judge it kindly. It is in our domain to change that and show we do not represent merely ‘many’, but all who seek fairer work and a better life.

I hope, in 10 years’ time, to be reflecting on that – and on the achievements of the next Labour Government.

Labour and Anti-Semitism…

…or why it’s still worth fighting for Labour


Now is not a great time to be a Labour Party member. Yes, we are ahead in the polls – though nowhere near as ahead as we should be given this shambolic government – but it is still a difficult time to be a Labour Member.

The Party now is markedly different from the party I joined almost 10 years ago (my 10th Anniversary is 8th September 2018). That Party was committed to fighting all forms of inequality and discrimination, of whatever kind, where it existed, as fully and as forcefully as it could. Recently that difference has shown itself clearly in the Anti-Semitism row, and the NEC’s decision not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA’s) Working Definition and Examples of Anti-Semitism in full.

Continue reading Labour and Anti-Semitism…

Your Concerns are not Legitimate…

…or how we lost the Windrush in 2010.


“I’m not a racist”, it begins. It always begins that way. A Statement of being. If you misunderstand what the meaning of what I am about to say, that is your fault, because am not racist.

“…but…”, of course, there is a but. ‘But’ means I am about to say something contrary to what I just said, but ‘but’ doesn’t mean I’m a racist. Because I just told you that, remember.

“but…there’s a lot of foreigners about now, isn’t there? Lots of Immigrants”. Is there? I mean, probably – but is that a problem? I mean, is it affecting you?

“I have legitimate concerns about the effect of increased immigration is having on my country”. Do you? Or do you just not like people who look different?


This kind of attitude or justification for casual racism is accepted now. And it has to stop.

The idea that people “aren’t allowed to talk about Immigration any more” is a situation of which I’m well aware, as Nigel Farage seems to raise it every time he appears on the BBC’s flagship Political discussion show Question Time, becoming its most regular guest in its past 5 years. The people who dare to broach this subject, and raise the common sense legitimate concerns they have are labeled ‘racists’ or ‘old-fashioned’.

But, when these attitudes aren’t challenged. When parties like UKIP dominate the airwaves during the biggest national debate of the modern era and produce posters warning of hordes of immigrants who can come into our country – our political system changes. When a major British Politician can stand in front of a poster of refugees or immigrants declaring that the country is at “Breaking Point” because of it – we have lost our way.

Farage.png

But I don’t blame Nigel Farage. He’s open about his dislike of immigration. He seems almost proud of his race-baiting at times. So no – at least he declares what he is.

I blame Gordon Brown.

In 2010, during the General Election campaign, the then Labour Leader was at a campaign stop in Rochdale. Enter Gillian Duffy, a 60-odd year old woman who has worries and concerns. Concerns about hospitals and schools and the deficit. Concerns, she raised about ‘people on the dole’ and when Mr Brown, consummate politician that he is, explains that a life on the dole is a thing of the past she asks:

“You don’t say anything about the immigrants…all these eastern Europeans that are coming in…where are they coming from”? [1]

Mr. Brown accepts that, but then talks about the important of Helping people and, as Ms. Duffy is a Labour Supporter, she will appreciate that is the overriding principle. The importance of investment. “but what about all the students coming over”. Deftly, if awkwardly, handled.

Then – the infamous hot mike – “what a bigoted woman” he remarked from the safety of his car, while wearing a live microphone. He heard his remarks back on the radio…live…and his face says it all.

And then, he apologised. He had been caught, out-of-touch with ordinary working people. Why didn’t he share the legitimate concerns of those people? Why didn’t he listen to them. Why wasn’t he thinking what they’re thinking? How dare he call an ordinary woman bigoted just because of her concerns about “all those Eastern Europeans coming in”!

Immigration.jpg
The Tories, on 2005.

4495052254_9e5d730fc4_b.jpg
…just in case the first one was too subtle for you.

 

But what if he didn’t apologise. What if he asked Ms. Duffy and her supporters – none of whom are racist or bigoted, of course – what they meant. What their concerns were. If it was underfunding, whether we should be demanding the richest people and businesses to pay their proper taxes and not, ironically enough, move their money off shore?

What if he – we – challenged how legitimate these concerns were.

Ms. Duffy voted Leave in the EU Referendum in 2016. Partly because she was frightened about us “losing our identity“. English Identity, she later clarifies.

It started in 2010…or 2005. On National TV, in the age of rolling news and the cusp of social media. It brings us to 2018, where thousands of people from the Windrush Generation – a moment so important in our National Consciousness that it was part of our 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony – are facing deportation, withdrawal of health care and even losing their jobs because they can’t prove that they have lived here!

But it’s OK. When they landed they had to give Landing Slips which will have been retained by the Home Office. They will confirm the exact date they decided to cross the world to Britain, make the country that so many Windrush travellers felt they belonged to, their home. Except 8 years ago, against Legal Advice, the Home Office decided to destroy them. They say it was due to Data Protection rules where information cannot be kept past the point it is useful – and it’s not useful any more…unless you need to prove how long you’ve lived in the country under the Immigration Rules. Set out By the Home Office. Who have just destroyed the only way you may be able to prove how long you’ve lived in the country for.

I’m telling you, when the Prime Minister Theresa May gets a hold of the Secretary of State for the Home Office who presided over this mass destruction 8 years ago, I’m sure there’ll be trouble.

Except there won’t be, of course. The Current Home Secretary hasn’t resigned and the then-Home Secretary has said she is sorry, so that’s that then. Sorted. Unless you’re deported of course. Or lose your job and lose your livelihood. The Windrush Generation abonded by the law an country that promised to look after them if they came.

Nothing will happen because why should it? We’re allowed to have legitimate concerns about immigration. And these, after all, are immigrants (even though they’re UK Citizens). And it’s not racist to talk about Immigration.


“But they’re not really Uk Citizens” – except they are and were promised all the protections and rights that British Citizenship promises.

“But they’re not really British. You know. Like you and me. You know”.

‘You know’. What begins with “I’m not racist, but…” ends with “you know?”.

“You know what ‘you know’ means. It’s obvious isn’t it? You know. You’re like me, and I know, so you know.” Is it that they’re black?

“WOW. Don’t bring race into this!” – what else could you mean?

“You know”.

Nah – I don’t. not any more.

From now on, I’m gonna need to ask you; and you’re gonna need to tell me exactly what you mean.

But, of course, it won’t be racist.


[1] The answer, for people playing along at home, is “Eastern Europe”.

 

2017: A Shanky Retrospective

…or, applying the lessons from Cadogan Estates Ltd v Morris and Jacobellis v Ohio.


2017’s been some year. That’s true in many respects, and for most people. For me, though, it has definitely been the case. So much has happened this year that the traditional “Hogmanay look back on the year” isn’t a search for the high points (of which there are many) but more an attempt to make a conscious attempt to reflect on everything that’s happened to me, and around me, in the past 12 months.

Continue reading 2017: A Shanky Retrospective

The Ern Malley Christmas Quiz 2017

Good Afternoon everyone! Welcome to the “PAShanky ‘Ern Malley Christmas Quiz’ 2017” Live Blog. It’s been on the go since 9am this morning and the live blog starts at midday.

We’re looking for the 8th word in the 27th line on the 3rd randomly selected page of the 23rd book in the 2nd horizontal stack of the rear-left hand pile in Room C which was upstairs in @GeoffShadbold’s home!

Good luck and remember, there’s #NaePrizes!

Continue reading The Ern Malley Christmas Quiz 2017

Wealth Tax 2: Revenge of the Blog…

…or why context is everything.


So, my recent blog post on Richard Leonard’s plans for a Wealth Tax had an audience, which is nice. I mention this, not to brag about #numbers, but because at least one of the members of the audience was a senior partner at Thompsons Solicitors, Patrick Maguire. He disagrees with my view, so decided to produce a rebuttal blogpost on Unison’s Dave Watson’s website (albeit without linking to or describing the post he was rebutting). Continue reading Wealth Tax 2: Revenge of the Blog…

On Taxes and Turmoil…

…or why reading the interpretation section is always important.


I haven’t blogged (yet) about the Scottish Labour Leadership Race. I probably won’t (until it’s over anyway) – though I did go on a short twitter rant last week about how dreadful the race had been up to that point. It ended with a call for both candidates to  improve themselves and their campaigns, and noted that Anas Sarwar had, just that day, released his tax plan, which is the substance that the campaign had long been lacking. Continue reading On Taxes and Turmoil…