by Liam McLaughlan
Here we are then. A month to go. After 6 months of scattergun politics from Jim Murphy, Blair McDougall and John McTernan at the helm of the ship, Labour still looks to be heading the way of the Titanic. Johann must be thankful, she got the first lifeboat off and never looked back, puncturing a hole in the rest of them as she left. But what does the Labour collapse mean for working class Scotland?
Now, “Scotland” on its own, in the context of an election is often a vague and meaningless soundbite, in a society sadly scarred with the inequality of ours, how can it be anything other when 1% of Jock Tamson’s bairns exploit their fellow bairns to the extent we see today. So I’ll address this directly to working class Scotland. Working class Scotland which voted Yes, and now looks to be waving bon-voyage to the Labour party in unprecedented fashion.
Post referendum politics seems to be unpredictable times. Take my area, and the area I’m standing as an SSP candidate, a Labour stronghold, gradually melting away. Now, I’ll shamelessly steal the words of SSP co-spokesperson Colin Fox in that working class Scots should be thankful for the collapse, a good riddance to what’s been bad rubbish for decades, but what troubles me now is what we are replacing them with, or in some cases recycling them into.
After 2 years of referendum, in which the voice of working class Scots sent shivers down the Whitehall department corridors and Westminster benches, unprecedented levels of engagement and ideas, I find channelling our creativity and our desire into one centralised and powerful party very depressing. Particularly when in doing so expecting radical change and having to prepare for what will undoubtedly be the crash of realisation post 7th May as Westminster does what it does best, survive political turmoil. A true reflection of what the Yes campaign was and what it hoped to achieve would be a broadly based alliance, reflective of the country we wanted to build. Taking in socialists, greens, community campaigners and more, but that idea was put to bed long ago and we are where we are, so what next?
For the SNP, gains they never thought they’d see, even in the wildest of wet dreams. Potentially with a balance of power scenario on their hands, and the chance to determine the occupants of 10 Downing Street. For the Labour party? Disaster. With the loss of seats, comes the loss of income. The loss of income, comes the loss of staff. The loss of staff, comes the loss of campaigning ability. The loss of campaigning ability, comes the loss of reputation. The loss of reputation, comes political wilderness. It’s really that serious for them. Politicians who assumed their positions in these once safely head seats won’t be gone after May the 7th, they will relocate, somewhere on a regional list for the Parliament in Edinburgh no doubt, the same parliament they fought so hard to keep inadequate to solving the problems which scar Scottish society today. The infrastructure and party discipline in between? Evaporated. We are, make no mistake about it, witnessing the end of an era. Like the Liberals prior to the Labour movement, Scottish Labour is a beast that will soon be almost extinct over the next decade.
With the power afore mentioned for the SNP however, is an unprecedented hope. Working class Scotland may be about to put its trust in Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP on May 7th, and working class Scotland expects them to deliver. Minimum wage demands, scrapping anti-union laws, end to austerity, investment in local communities, a shorter working week, more powers for Scotland. Everything is up for grabs, and the weight of expectancy looms. We want, and we expect. Significant gains, nothing less will do, an £8.70 minimum wage and the holding onto a discriminatory youth rate by 2020 for example isn’t good enough, no-where near it. It appears we may be about to change the party, and if in doing so wields no substantial rewards for working class people, the time may well come that we change the system itself.
A timely reminder then this Easter weekend of the words of one of Scotland’s greatest sons, the late great James Connolly:
“If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country.”
Liam McLaughlan is a youth activist from Easterhouse in Glasgow, and the Scottish Socialist Party’s 2015 General Election candidate for Glasgow East.