SNP is as left-wing as the gold fittings in Trump’s bathroom
The Herald, by Kevin McKenna
These are strange and curious days for Scotland, this country that likes to eulogise its left-wing credentials and its radical soul. More than 100 years after the first tool was laid down in protest upon a factory floor the mainstream Left in this country has become an orphan.
Last week’s wretched capitulation by the Labour Party in Scotland to the forces of right-wing populism and the irresponsible narrative of race means the Left is now officially homeless – sleeping rough; lodging on its pal’s bed settee. Call it what you will.
It’s become clear that the only prescription issued by its leadership for the Labour Party’s recovery in Scotland is to wrap itself in the Union flag and take a lie down in the hope that everything will soon be alright again.
I first learned of this hopeless strategy before Christmas when it was suggested that some of us might go easy on it until the local council elections were safely out of the way. It signalled that there was no longer any stomach for the fight against social inequality and injustice.
The lights had finally gone out and all that remained was to get into a fight with the Tories in an attempt to reach out to working class Unionists.
The intervention by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, in which he classed Scottish nationalism in the same category as racism was simply embarrassing, but not as much as watching Kezia Dugdale attempt to justify it.
This ought to have been a healthier time for Labour in Scotland. The party has had two and a half years to recover from the mess bequeathed to it by Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Jim Murphy following their catastrophic involvement with the Better Together campaign.
During that time the caution displayed by the SNP Government has presented Labour with several golden opportunities to rediscover its mojo; to retake the territory from which it had retreated in the last decade or so.
Instead it has become obsessed with preventing a second independence referendum and the struggle to save the Union. Rather than attacking Ruth Davidson and her support for a one-sided austerity programme; her anti-trade unionism and her support for anti-immigration policies, Scottish Labour has decided to join forces with her on territory that is more familiar to the Tories.
Refugees from Labour who think that the SNP offers an authentic left-wing alternative are deluding themselves.
This has never been a party of the Left and nothing about its record in government suggests that the current trustees are any different. The SNP is about as left-wing as the gold fittings in a Trump Tower bathroom.
During the independence referendum I encountered several older voters from a neighbourhood in the east end of Glasgow.
One theme that united them all was the failure of the UK Labour Party under Tony Blair to do anything truly radical despite being handed a three-term majority in 1997.
By “truly radical” they meant the abolition of Margaret Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws, reform of the financial sector, renationalisation of some national assets and a programme for building more social housing. They had waited all their lives for Labour to be handed such a huge electoral advantage and expected this to act as a safety net in the task of unstitching the pattern of embedded privilege, unearned wealth and tax avoidance on the grand scale that had characterised the Thatcher years. They regarded these failures as a betrayal and had thus been driven to support independence. This SNP Government was handed a potential four-term mandate when it took Scotland with a majority in 2011.
The scarring of health and educational inequality which previous Labour administrations had failed adequately to heal disfigured the country, especially Glasgow. Two Holyrood elections and six years later the inequalities have grown.
Children from poor neighbourhoods still can’t get access to our top universities while John Swinney has dithered and dallied so much over educational reform that he will have received his bus pass before he has published his review.
Meanwhile the country’s top fee-paying schools still get their taxes paid for them and we’ll be locking up men and women at a rate quicker than anywhere else in Europe, while making Scotland the go-to destination for overseas doctors looking for some lucrative overtime. The pattern of land ownership will remain more unequal and unfair than anywhere in mainland Europe and largely untouched by the Government’s paltry attempts at reform.
The SNP’s spring conference in Aberdeen in a fortnight will be a jolly opportunity for many of its former senior advisers now working for big business to have a reunion.
They will congratulate themselves for successfully helping the party sell the myth that they were left-wing and big on social equality. You’ll see them as you make your way into conference. They’ll be the ones soliciting their old ministerial bosses to speak at private dinners for the edification of the corporate clientele of shadowy Edinburgh lobbying firms.
On the conference floor attempts by the recently-acquired rank and file to take slightly more radical positions will be adroitly batted into the long grass by party managers. So let’s not kid ourselves that the SNP is a proper party of the Left.
Yet, even as we wonder at the apocalypse that has engulfed Scottish Labour, hope springs from the youth wing of the party.
A statement by Scottish Young Labour on the party conference is a howl of justified anger at what they had just witnessed in Perth.
It concludes with these two sentences: “We’re clear in our purpose to be an active and socialist youth wing in the struggles ongoing across Scotland. We will stand up, not stand by even if Scottish Labour is sadly choosing to do the latter with its ever increasing focus on constitutional politics, rather than on the real issues of class in Scotland.”
Might I suggest that they get behind the campaign for an independent Scotland and quietly ditch their support for their leader’s plan for a federal UK? Such a plan is immediately rendered obsolete by the presence of a country to the south that is more than ten times the size of any of the other countries in such an arrangement. Thus any new polity will continue to be dominated by a country which looks set to be governed for a generation by a privileged, corrupt and inward-looking elite.
Scottish independence offers the only chance for an authentic left-wing party to be politically meaningful once more.
Having fulfilled its purpose the SNP will collapse once more into factions of the Left and Right and fade away with our gratitude at a job well done. The leaders of Scottish Labour’s “socialist youth wing” should then be well-placed to shape a party that resembles once more what Keir Hardie intended it to be.