Sunday, 3 May 2015

It’s hatred of Tories that is destroying Labour in Scotland

I used to have a Conservative MP. It’s hard to believe now, but there used to lots of Conservative MPs in Scotland. Elections in Scotland used to be much the same as elections in other parts of the UK. Sometimes Labour would do rather better, sometimes the Conservatives. The Liberals had a few seats and by the 1970s so did the SNP, but the electoral map of Scotland was overwhelmingly either blue or red. What changed this?  It was the long period of Conservative government from 1979 to 1997.
In Scotland there is one insult worse than all others. It’s the word ‘Tory’. Britain went through great changes in the 1980s. This was especially the case in the industrial areas of the North of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Change was no doubt necessary. There was a lot of industry that simply was not making a profit. But great suffering was caused by the changes that took place. In Scotland it has led to a lasting resentment. Thatcher is now viewed like Cromwell in Ireland.

Faced with continual Conservative Government, people on the left in Scotland decided to gang up on the Tories. There was a twofold plan. Everyone voted tactically against Conservative candidates in an attempt to get their numbers down as low as possible. Labour people voted in this way, so did Lib Dems and so did the SNP. The plan succeeded magnificently. The Conservatives ended up in one election with no seats and now have only one.  They were once the dominant party in much of Scotland, but they were effectively wiped out. Lots of people still voted Conservative of course, but when your party is hated and ganged up on, it is fairly hard to win many seats. The other part of the plan was the Scottish Assembly. This would mean that even if the other parts of the UK voted Conservative, Scotland to at least a great extent would still be ruled by the left. There would of course, always be a permanent Labour/Lib Dem majority in the Scottish Assembly.

It was a very cunning plan. I remember the delight at the time of those who had come up with it. Not only had they wiped out the Conservatives in Scotland, not only had they made an assembly that would always have a Labour/Lib Dem majority, they had done what was necessary to stop the rise of nationalism in Scotland. The SNP would never have any power. They would be crushed by the Scottish Assembly.

The hatred of Tories continued in Scotland even when Tony Blair created New Labour, which implicitly accepted that much of what had been done between 1979 and 1997 had been necessary. Labour’s process of modernisation from Kinnock through Smith to Blair was necessary in order that Labour would have a chance of winning elections in the modern world.  Economics has often been seen as Labour’s Achilles’ heel. One reason the Conservatives were in power for so long was memories of 1979. It was this process of modernisation which again enabled Labour to put forward a credible economic plan in 1997. It’s what got them elected. For a time that plan worked well. In the early years the UK economy did well under Blair and Brown. But again in 2008 the UK economy faced a crisis. This time it was far worse than 1979. It wouldn’t have mattered which party had been in power in 2008, there still would have been a catastrophe. Alistair Darling handled the catastrophe as well as anyone could. Nevertheless, it was primarily because of the economic crisis that Labour lost in 2010. This meant that Labour in opposition had, once more, to put forward a credible economic plan in order to become electable. This is how sensible parties respond to defeat at the polls.

The trouble is that in Scotland throughout the time since 1997 and the beginning of the Blair government the hatred of Tories has continued unabated. But now it has become the hatred of the economic consensus held by Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems that Britain must live within its means. Labour are now called Red Tories in Scotland, while the Lib Dems are yellow Tories.

The destruction of the Conservative party in Scotland and the hatred of Tories is directly responsible for the rise of the SNP. It is because Tories rule in Westminster that SNP supporters hate Westminster. It is because Tories rule Britain that Nationalists hate Britain. But it is because Labour modernised and accepted that there is an economic consensus shared by all mainstream parties that Labour is hated in Scotland, too. Because Labour no longer wants to overthrow capitalism, they are Tories.

The trouble with the Labour party’s strategy in Scotland is that it rebounds on them. They still campaign as the hate the Tory party. But they are immediately faced with the problem that if they hate the Tories so much, why do they more or less share Tory economic assumptions? Labour economics since 1997 are real world modern economics that have a chance of leading Britain to prosperity. They are economics that have a good chance of leading us to a balanced budget soon. They are sensible economics that will give us growth as well as a chance of making life a little fairer for everyone. But they are not socialism. Labour has become a social democratic party and for this reason Labour has a chance of ruling in a modern globalised Europe where social democratic parties frequently oversee economic success stories. But the nationalists in Scotland just see the Labour party taking on the Conservative party’s clothes.

By creating a bogeyman called the Tory, the left in Scotland has sowed the seeds for its own destruction.  It was wiping out the Conservatives in Scotland which legitimised the SNP narrative that Scotland voted fundamentally differently from the UK. It is the blind hatred of the Tories that is behind the hatred of Westminster and any Westminster party. The Scottish Assembly/Parliament far from nullifying nationalism has fuelled it. But still Labour campaigns in Scotland as the Tory hating party. It still tries to appease the nationalists. But all of this is simply turned back on Labour. The SNP pretend that they are Old Labour, the Labour of your youth. Labour can either try to outflank them on the left which would make them unelectable elsewhere or continue on the sensible moderate line which is making them unelectable in Scotland. It’s the fact that Labour has credible economic policies that is turning them into Red Tories in the eyes of the nationalists.

Finally, we must all learn the lesson of the past twenty years. Don’t work with nationalists. They will destroy you. Don’t appease or make concessions to nationalism, it will only increase. Labour’s greatest enemy in Scotland is the SNP. The only defence is not to work with them in any way.  The SNP also have the power to destroy Labour in the rest of the UK. A Labour government that helps the UK economy to recover still further over the next 5 years while making life a little fairer for everyone will do wonders for Labour reputation of handling the economy. On the other hand working with the SNP will create another 1979 or another 2008. Don’t let the SNP wreck Labour's economic reputation by demanding ever more spending that we can’t afford.  By all means disagree with Conservatives, but, above all, change the record. It is the hatred of Tories in Scotland that is destroying Labour.

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  1. It's hard to actually talk basic economics to people who can hardly read and write Effie. This populist mob knows nothing apart from a sense of their own entitlement.

    1. The most important thing is that reasonable people stand up against the mob. It is unpleasant at times as I have shown in the past week, but if we don't Scotland will hardly be a place where it is worth living.

      Nationalism is the most dangerous political card to play as it appeals to the instinctual and the base in human nature. It is a very powerful card, but it leads to irrationality and hatred. The mob is not interested in economics, nor in any argument. They react to reasoned argument with fury. We need time. This too will pass. We must outlast them. That is the key message to put forward to politicians. Don't try to appease nationalism. Block it. Don't work with it. For goodness sake don't encourage it. We can get our country back, but we will need to be clever and we will need to be patient.

  2. I can't remember if it was Pepys or Johnson who commented that it should be no surprise that the Scots hate the English as much as most of them hate each other! Nowadays of course, the claim by the most rabid of the haters who are in public life, is that it is Westminster and/or the Tories, which is the focus for their hatred, and not the English, per se. I am not convinced that majority of the SNP's most vocal supporters are not just plain old sectarian bigots...

    1. There are a lot words that are used as substitutes for what people really mean. The venom with which some nationalists talk of Britain, the British or Westminster shows that there nationalism is founded on hatred. As I have written frequently Civic nationalism sounds pleasant, but if you push the logic just a little bit it collapses. The logic of civic nationalism is not to be a nationalist at all. If there is no important distinction between someone living in Scotland and someone living in England why put up an international border? Civic nationalism then is the intellectual mask which people use to cover the root of their argument. They use it to hide it even from themselves. It is thus a form of self-deception.

  3. “It is the hatred of Tories in Scotland that is destroying Labour.” I am not sure this is entirely true, the truth being more nuanced, being a blend of circumstances such as continual vilification of the SNP tending to act as subliminal advertising (and you fall into the same trap), some Labour canvassing material and public proclamations have been subsequently proven not to be true, notably the referendum nonsense (an act to allow a referendum would have to be passed in Westminster and just how likely is that?), the behaviour of the leader and deputy leader in debates – shouting is a sign of having lost the argument, hasn’t helped and, finally, there is the view that there isn’t that much difference between the Labour and Conservative fiscal policies. The rise of the SNP is, in my opinion, a reaction to Cameron pronouncing on EVEL, a misstep if ever there was one. Finally, the way to combat the SNP, should it be deemed necessary is not to rant and rail but to extend and embrace; consider and discuss constitutional reform since, in a federalised UK with proportional representation the likelihood of any party, including the SNP, being able to generate such skewed results as seems likely at this election would be greatly reduced and, probably, result in a more balanced government. Unfortunately, the incumbents, whoever they are, tend to prefer the status quo and prefer to rant about and demonise potential insurgents. And then they complain that the electorate are getting cynical.

    1. Lots of good points here and thanks for the link to a blog that looks really interesting.

      I think it is perfectly reasonable that people in England should want a fair devolution settlement. Why should Scotland get huge amounts of devolved power but England have none. I don't care for EVEL too much either. It's all rather bitty and incoherent. Rather we need the UK to become something like Germany or the USA with equal devolution everywhere plus a strong central government uniting the whole. The whole thing really needs to rethought out in order to erase the inequality of devolution in the UK.

      I'm not opposed to PR but we had a referendum and our side lost. I believe that we have to respect that result and wait a few years before asking again.

      The SNP have shown that there response to concession is to ask for more. There is never going to be enough. They simply want to make little steps towards independence until they fall over the line. I think the way to counter that is to devolve power locally to towns and villages while at the same time strengthening and uniting the UK. We must both loosen the bonds and strengthen them. This is the federalism I'm interested in. Give real power to communities and thus bypass nationalism by going beyond it.

    2. So you say Cameron bringing up EVEL was a big mistake and then, in the very next sentence, say we need to consider and discuss constitutional reform. Isn't this exactly what Cameron was doing with EVEL ?

      I know that the SNP are using Cameron's EVEL as a political tool but then we know them to be a disingenuous lot at best. They also think the Smith Commission is flawed and a Westminster plot to keep Scots down, even though they were part of that commission and signed off on it.

      Cameron's EVEL comments was surely just an obvious next step after the indyref to show how the constitutional arrangements of the UK might change in the future. Otherwise we are left in the UK with Scottish exceptionalism regarding constitutional affairs to be the only permissible debate.

    3. No, I didn’t say Cameron bringing in (which he wasn’t, it was raised as a proposal) EVEL was a “big mistake”, I said it was a “misstep”, badly timed and ill thought out. Then you go on to vilify SNP (re-read the original response) before, I think, agreeing that the next step is to consider and discuss the constitutional arrangements of the UK, as does Effie, wanting to both loosen bonds (decentralise) and strengthen them (go and support your local community council). Thank you both.

  4. Your argument falls down on Labour's alleged economic competence when one looks at the appalling state of public finances after 13 years of Labour govt.

  5. Unfortunately, we DIDN'T have a referendum on PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. We had one of the ALTERNATIVE vote which as it uses SINGLE-MEMBER (ie ONE MP) PER SEAT constituencies WITHOUT a top-up proportional list CAN'T be proportional. The undemocratic Conservative Party refused to allow us to have a REAL choice on a proportional representation system.

    Here is a site that explains the important differences between various electoral systems:

  6. Conservatism offers a libertarian, small state approach to running the country with an emphasis on personal responsibility and fiscal prudence. I find it a breath of fresh air to be honest. We need more conservatism in Scotland, not less. We are in love with the dead hand of the state up here to the point we now allow it to invade family life like something from the old Eastern Bloc. We worship at the shrine of socialism. Whatever goes wrong is always "the government's" fault. But having made that assumption we then expect 'the government' to fix it. It's why Scotland is a sh1thole compared to the shires of England, where the people look to themselves - their own personal lives and habits - to improve their lives rather than expecting the government to step in. They expect the government to defend and police the land and provide the basic services required for civilisation and to not set foot outside of that remit.

    And, rather than slagging them off as selfish and evil, we should take a leaf out of their book. Labour are useless. The SNP are dangerous. The liberals are dead. Conservatism offers the only viable way forward for Scotland.