Labour’s moving left, at least according to the Herald’s politics correspondent who obviously is easily convinced and not a person you’d want on a jury if you were on trial for being a socialist agitator. The evidence for this leftwards shift lies not in any new socialist policy initiatives originating from the cerebral considerations of Johann and Anas, and more in the fact that the party has spent most of its conference in Perth attacking the SNP as Tartan Tories. Which is a bit like saying that David Cameron is a Trotskyist because he doesn’t like the Socialist Workers’ Party.
Labour’s moved to the left just like the time warp dance routine in Rocky Horror Picture Show, they put the knee into the SNP tight, take a step to the left, then a jump to the right. But it’s the pelvic thrusts that really drive us insane, when we’re getting shafted by Labour again.
Labour is still mired in the myth that they are the party of redistribution. The problem is that they’re relying on voters not remembering the 13 years of Labour government when the party was indeed an enthusiastic proponent of redistribution. It’s just that in a fit of absent mindedness they got it the wrong way round and gave more money to the rich and to London and the South East.
Labour are like Creationists who refuse to acknowledge the existence of dinosaur bones, only in this case the T-Rex is alive and well and ripping the flesh from the poor and unemployed. What makes it worse is that the party only wants back into power so it can run Jurassic Park instead of the Tories – ATOS has already bid for the contract. Abolishing carnivorous dinosaurs isn’t on Labour’s agenda, in fact they’re still leading the party.
This is a party which has spent the last 2 years gleefully citing executives of global corporations, Tory donating oil barons, and financial institutions as proof that Scotland will be a basket case if we vote for independence. Because whatever you do, you can’t speak a truth that a director in receipt of an obscenely large bonus doesn’t like – that’s bad for jobs and bad for Britain you know. Since the entire premise of socialism is that company directors are not the best people to make decisions affecting the entire national economy and bring about social equality, this does not bode well for Labour’s supposed reconversion to left wing politics. The sellers of Socialist Worker newspapers don’t need to worry about competition from Labour’s big issue.
Jim Murphy, in his speech to the conference, railed against the disruption that independence would cause. Jim losing his job would indeed cause him considerable personal disruption, but the rest of his speech was the same tired old scaremongering and dodgy statistics that have been the hallmark of the Better Together campaign. Independence is going to cost Scots £1000 annually, Jim said, citing figures he’d pulled out his arse. Or to be more precise, figures produced by George Osborne, so perhaps arse wasn’t an inaccurate description after all.
Labour may be moving to the left, but that won’t stop them using Conservative statistics or leading Scotland into a future determined by Conservative policies and Conservative spending plans that are enthusiastically adopted by the likes of Jim Murphy. There wasn’t much in the way of a socialist vision from the Blairite Murphy, but then that would be like expecting the Pope to extol the spiritual message of Satanism.
The proof of the socialist pudding is in the eating. So what is on Labour’s menu? On Friday, Anas Sarwar, the Hereditary MP for Govan and scion of the millionaire Governor of Punjab – who’s currently experiencing a little local difficulty after Islamic fundamentalists discovered he made his money flogging alcohol – announced the publication of Labour’s Red Paper. The large quantity of red ink used in its publication is the only socialist thing about it, but even so, it doesn’t actually commit the party to prepare any meals. The only thing Labour cooks is the books. If it was an alcoholic drink the Pakistani Taliban wouldn’t object to it, so it should at least keep Anas’s da happy. You’d get more of a kick from a nice cup of Ovaltine.
Labour’s Red Paper is full of fluffy statements like telling us that child poverty is a bad thing, but it doesn’t actually tell us what Labour is going to do about any of it. Far less does it apologise for Labour’s role in creating the current mess. The Red Paper is a statement of “ambitions”, as opposed to policies. Isn’t that what Labour criticised the Scottish Government for when the White Paper was released? It’s not costed, they said, the White Paper is just a wish list. They must have forgotten that bit as well. It beggars belief that it took them 2 years to come up with this pseudomanagementwank.
Vacuuous as it is, Labour’s wish list will only come to pass if Ed Miliband is able to persuade a large enough number of Tory and UKIP leaning voters in marginal constituencies in England that Labour deserves to form a majority government. This severely pits the hems on anything that might be termed leftwing.
Politics is relative. Labour is a left wing party, relative to UKIP or the French National Front. Compared to the Tories, not so much. Yet Scotland’s hopes of progressive government rest entirely upon the chances of convincing Conservative supporters in England that left wing policies are a good idea. As UKIP continues to make ground in opinion polls and the Tories drift even further to the right, the temptation for Labour to attempt a re-run of Tony Blair’s triangulation trick will become irresistable. At this stage in a parliamentary cycle, the main opposition party ought to enjoy a substantial and growing lead in the polls, but Labour’s lead over the Tories is already in single figures, and falling. The latest YouGov poll shows Labour just 5% ahead. This is deeply worrying for Labour, all the more so since Government parties tend to make up for lost ground during the election campaign.
The question facing Scots Labour supporters is how certain they can be that Labour will commit to left wing policies when it’s right wing policies which will win Labour the 2015 General Election. We all know the answer to that one.
Meanwhile Johann, in her keynote speech to the party conference in Perth, claimed that “The Nationalists are running the most dishonest, deceptive and disgraceful political campaign this country has ever seen.” Self-awareness is not Johann’s strong suit. Presenting new tax powers as a radical extension of devolution when the new powers are designed to be useless isn’t dishonest then. Even if it is an outright lie. Calling a proposal explicitly designed to meet Labour’s short term political needs as all the devolution Scotland could ever need isn’t deceptive at all. Even if it is manipulative and self-serving. And Johann being interviewed by the BBC’s Brian Taylor and making a cheap point about how Alex Salmond and his wife do not have children isn’t disgraceful. It’s just nauseating.
It was all on display from Johann. The full panoply of Labour was in full flow, the spittle flecked tribalism, the hatred, the spitefulness. It would still turn your stomach even if Labour was actually offering fully costed and detailed plans to overturn the structural imbalances that have led the UK to becoming the most inequal developed country in the world.
Labour want to make Scotland in their image. They want us to stay stuck in the time warp. A broken party in a broken system will only ever feel at home in a broken country. In September we have the chance to fix things.