Category Archives: Politics

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.

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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…

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…

Thanks Kez

…and how quickly things can change.


This will not be the first Scottish Leadership Election I have written about. When I looked back on Johann Lamont’s leadership I said that there were two things that the Scottish Labour Party had to face up to and change if we were to improve and succeed with going forward: We must be Scottish Labour and we must be Scottish Labour. Under Kez Dugdale, we have done both. Continue reading Thanks Kez

Back to Blogging…

…a summary exhortation on the Summer elections.


I’ve been off the blog for a while for two very different, but equally important reasons:

  1. I changed phones in March and I forgot to change my phone number on WordPress, so my two-factor Authentication wouldn’t let me in and I needed to hunt on old laptops for the back-up codes.
  2. Elections got in the way.

Continue reading Back to Blogging…

Immediate Thoughts on #IndyRef2

Shortly after The EU Referendum I was with a few like minded Labour friends discussing where we go from here. We had all been part of the No campaigns in the #IndyRef in 2014 and all bore the scars of that 18 month long campaign. We remembered the long days,the abuse we faced, the lack of sleep, the 20+ hour polling day – but also the celebrations afterwards.

In spite of this, we all agreed that, if there was another independence referendum was called, after the 2015 Election; after the Scottish Elections just past; after Brexit; after Theresa May…we’d  vote Yes. Continue reading Immediate Thoughts on #IndyRef2

Head in the Game…

…or Heart on the sleeve.


“Tony Blair (and Gordon Brown) were the most important left-wing politicians in the UK since the 70’s. Discuss”.

Over my lifetime, I have experienced, in a very real sense two different kinds of UK government. Both have affected real social change across the country, but only one has done it in a way I like. But for some, this wasn’t enough. This is what is at the heart of the Labour Leadership election.

My brother has recently become politicised (thanks to the #IndyRef of all things – he was very strongly Pro-Union) and has taken a great interest in American Politics – mostly, I think, thanks to tumblr. He has recently told us that he supports Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination because he has the best policies. I agreed with him, but told him that I wanted Hillary Clinton to win instead. He asked why and I replied, simply, that he wouldn’t stand a chance of winning, but Hillary would. He complained, as many people new to politics do, that I should stick to principles and should vote for who I thought was best, even if it would be harder for them to win.
In some ways, I feel sympathy for this view. Bernie Sanders would be a revolutionary in American terms (if he could get ANYTHING in his platform through a Republican Congress), provided that after winning the nomination, he won the Presidency. Although the disaster hairea that is Donald Trump (who once compared off-shore wind-farms to the Lockerbie Disaster) is leading the Republican field, when faced with a choice between a leftie and oblivion, I’m not convinced that the US would vote to survive.

Which brings us back to the question I’ve set myself. Since the 1970’s the Labour Party has had 6 Leaders that have faced an election: Callaghan, Foot, Kinnock, Blair, Brown and Miliband. Of that list, spanning 50 years, only 1 won a General Election. And out of that list, he is the one spoken of least fondly. Despite leading Labour to its first (and second and third) election victories after years in the wilderness of opposition, should he ever appear, he is hated and questioned. Why?
Iraq aside, which is a millstone around Labour’s collective neck, what did Tony Blair’s (and, let’s be honest, Gordon Brown’s and Co-PM-In-All-But-Name) Labour Party do that marked them out as right-wing. They funded the NHS and cut waiting times. They spent money on schools that was badly needed. They introduced the National Minimum Wage, which so improved the pay of so many people. They created Tax Credits which, while an IT-Nightmare, supported so many people and helped them out of shoestring budgets. All this while devolving to the nations, reforming the Lords – and the minor achievement of brining peace to Northern Ireland.
What he did, it seems, is what he didn’t do. They didn’t fund the NHS enough and dared rely on private investment to build hospitals sooner. They improved schools, but dare experiment with ‘Academies’, which the Tories bastardised to create ‘free-schools’ . They introduced the Minimum Wage, but looking back, it wasn’t that much – despite the opposition (and lack of support from some) at the time. And tax credits were good – but there were still kids that were poor in Drumchapel, even though Child Poverty was at its lowest point ever. And they didn’t devolve enough, and the Lords still exists and the fact there still is a Northern Ireland for peace to be brought to shows the real imperialist intentions. If they were really a Labour party, they would have been much more radical. In short, they bottled it.
But, and the important thing I think, was that they were in power. Tony Blair realised something – that a centre-left Labour government can do more than a far-left Labour opposition. No matter how amazingly redistributive and socially-reforming a Labour Party Manifesto is, it doesn’t matter one bit if we’re not in government at the end of it. We’ve only just had a reminder of this.

When I look at the story of the Labour Leadership contest so far, I worry that we have already forgotten this, and just how terribly frustrating opposition is. As I write, Brian Eno (that committed Labour supporter who voted Lib Dem in 2010) is speaking at a Jeremy Corbyn rally stating that “electability isn’t the most important thing“. What matters is wanting to do good things, not actually getting the chance to do them…apparently. So long as you are ideologically pure, you are fine; but should you temper (not change!) your principles for the niggling purpose of “getting into government” – then you do not belong in the the Labour Movement. If this is our outlook, then I may never see another Labour Government. We shouldn’t give up our goals and aims and principles, but we must convince the voters that they should be put into practice. Not forget who we are in the pursuit of power; but gain power by getting people to look at us.
The halls that Corbyn has packed out; the supporters he has encouraged; the members he has brought; the people he has swayed – how many weren’t already Labour people? How many has he pulled, even from left of the party (the Greens, the various socialists)? The answer, I give with 100% certainty, is not enough.
Cooper, Burnham and Kendall are all members of the Labour Party for exactly the same reason I am, and the same reason Corbyn is: they want to help the poorest and create a fairer, more equal, more socially just Britain. They want a strong NHS, a great education system, and a welfare state that supports the poorest in society. The difference is that they all accept that the public, generally, at large are not socialist. Not in Wales, not in Scotland and definitely not Middle-England. If they cannot support Miliband, they cannot, in the space of 5 years, elect Corbyn. And, quite frankly, I want a Labour government. A Labour Government is not a Tory-lite government. It might not do all you want, but would Brown’s “Red Tory” government have done all the Coalition government did? Would Miliband’s government have done all what the Tories are planning now. If you say yes, you are either lying, disingenuous or a cybernat.

If Corbyn is my Leader come the end of next month – then I will support him to the hilt. I will try and convince people up and down my nation and my country that they should vote Labour in 2020 and make him PM. And will love that campaign because our manifesto will be all I want it to be (and possibly more). It might help us a bit in Scotland (but not as much as people think it would), and I will be able to sleep easy with my conscience clear – but if I wanted to do that I’d have joined the Greens. I will sleep easy, but I will be up all night at the count on 7th May 2020 with a heavy heart as we once again fail to bring the country with us. We return to the opposition benches, once again leaderless, and once again wondering if we just weren’t Labour enough.

I would rather be in power doing some of the things we want, than be in opposition wanting to do something. And that is why Tony Blair (and Gordon Brown) were the most important left-wing politicians in the UK since the 70’s. They did it.


This post has been a long time coming, but was typed today thanks to my reading Stephen Daisley’s Open Letter to Labour. I think Kendall may have the gone too far in the principle/electability trade-off, but it’s an important read. I have not yet decided how I will vote.