Success often demands compromise. Perhaps now is the time then for Labour divisions to be set aside for the benefit of a party that keeps suffering humiliating electoral results
Eleven months have passed, yet there is no doubt that Scottish Labour’s crushing British election defeat remains fresh in the party’s memory. A meteoric shift in power saw the SNP capture all but one of the 41 seats previously held by Labour in what was their worst ever parliamentary result in Scotland.
Many aspects of heir decision to unite with the Conservatives during the referendum — a party whose image remains toxic in Scotland nearly 30 years on from Thatcher’s reign — have been viewed as a cataclysmic error of judgement. Image is everything in contemporary politics, and the image of Labour and Conservative politicians campaigning side by side is one that has clearly resonated with the Scottish electorate.
This was evident during the Scottish Parliament election on May 5th, where the polls predicted, quite rightly, that Labour could fall back to third place behind the Tories. It would appear that Labour’s longstanding image as the party of the people in Scotland is no longer one they can rely on; while the SNP’s continued anti-austerity rhetoric has evidently struck a chord with voters, in spite of a string of policies and cutbacks that conflict with it.
Labour’s failings have been further compounded by the infighting at national level that has become synonymous with the party since the appointment of Jeremy Corbyn in September. Corbyn has faced heavy criticism from a number of senior MPs who believe his principled, firmly left stance will make the party unelectable — and the way in which he has responded has only exacerbated matters. In particular, the recently leaked document featuring a list of Labour MPs deemed to be ‘hostile’ to their leader allowed the Tories to detract from the recent string of scandals that have engulfed their party.
The document, allegedly drawn up by the pro-Corbyn camp, features the party’s only Scottish MP, Ian Murray of the Edinburgh South constituency, who was quick to criticise the list and the way in which it deflects attention from a Tory party on the ropes.
It is true that the nature of the Labour Party has always been multifaceted, incorporating viewpoints from across the left spectrum, but if ground is to be gained and electoral success achieved in the near future, the party must unite behind a unifying ideology.
At national level, unity is imperative to capitalise fully on the cracks appearing within the Conservative Party. The divisions caused by contrasting EU Referendum standpoints have been inflamed by the Cabinet resignation of Ian Duncan Smith, and then the recent tax scandal that has had many calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation.
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour have been dogged by the fact that many of their policies are at odds with the party at UK level. Aligning with Corbyn and McDonnell may be undesirable to many Labour politicians north of the border, but unity is necessary for the long road back from electoral wilderness.