Here we go again
Richard Rawles, a member of the Labour Party in Edinburgh Northern and Leith CLP, says we should conduct this leadership debate with a focus on defeating our opponents, not each other.
Some very brief thoughts about the Scottish leadership election — from an undecided Labour member.
Candidates and members should avoid trashing our past. People who disliked the leadership of Kezia Dugdale because she did not support Corbyn in the recent period of disunity should reflect that with her we placed ourselves unambiguously left of SNP in policy (see the 2016 Holyrood manifesto), which is (I assume!) exactly what Corbyn supporters and all Labour members would wish, and we ought to acknowledge this (otherwise we surrender to demonstrably false claims by the SNP that they have been left of Labour all the time).
Both of the candidates who have declared have gone out of their way to dampen down excessively factional spirits within Labour and to avoid making this contest a replay of recent quarrels in the UK party. They are right to do so. We may have another general election soon, and in every CLP we need to be working as well as possible together. We have new members; we should show them a party of respectful and friendly debate rather than anger and aggravation. Neither candidate is a proxy for Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Smith (or for Tony Blair!). Both are good servants of the Scottish Labour party.
It’s natural to look at ways in which Corbyn has brought success to the party (increased vote share, a much better GE result than many expected — but still not a win…), and to think ‘let’s have some of that!’ Many admire Corbyn far more than any other recent leader for different reasons. We may also reasonably feel that we want the Scottish leader and the UK leader to work well together. On the other hand, we shouldn’t retreat to the ‘branch office’ status that was complained of in the past. The job of the Scottish leader is not simple ‘loyalty’ to the UK leader: she or he will have their own mandate and their own independent role in the Labour Party and part of their job will be to represent Scottish Labour and its unique interests and situation in the party as a whole.
Scottish politics and UK politics just don’t map on to one another. The new leader should be willing to work with the UK leadership effectively, but our federalised party structure (which we owe again to Kezia — and to Corbyn) requires that they also plough their own furrow and think and act independently. Saying ‘S/he is completely loyal to Corbyn’ is not a commendation. (Saying ‘S/he and Corbyn both talk the kind of Labour language and policy I want’ is a different matter!)
If you don’t think Corbyn (or Attlee!) is disqualified from leadership by virtue of being rich and from a wealthy background, don’t think this of any candidate in Scotland either! (Still, it’s quite fun if the British Asian candidate is getting cast as the posh one!)
People who don’t like ‘Corbynism’ for the tribal, angry, aggressive qualities of some of its proponents: take great care not to replicate these attitudes yourselves…
A strong strand in left-SNP and pseudo-left- SNP propaganda says something like ‘Ah well, Corbyn may be OK, but most of Scottish Labour is on the right and little different from the Tories!’ This is clearly nonsense (again, look at 2016 manifestos!). So don’t let any of us repeat it, even in support of a candidate we really want for good reasons. Really: not ever! It harms us and helps the Conservatives and SNP to continue to fail Scotland and the UK. If you are arguing for a good candidate, you can make your case without doing this. (This is almost the same as 1. above, but I think it’s important enough to say two different ways!)
I really am undecided, by the way. I hope we can see some good comradely debate about policy and politics in the hustings. More of that, less of ‘team colours’!