Martin Hannan: A split decision whoever wins..

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No matter who wins the Labour leadership election, the party itself is toast. That can be the only conclusion from the very divisive nature of the current election process for the UK leadership.

The fault lines in the party have been dramatically exposed, and it says everything about their real concern – winning Westminster – that Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have hardly said a word about Scotland and the Scottish Labour Party, despite the fact that before the general election, 
everyone in Labour had plenty to say about Scotland voting for the SNP and the dangers that presented.

Ken McIntosh and Kezia Dugdale are an irrelevance. The real battle for Labour’s soul is between Corbyn for the “Old” left, and Burnham and Cooper for the “New Labour” right.

Consequently, and it gives this SNP member no great pleasure to say it, I have no doubt we are in the dying days of a once great institution that I supported as a young man before the so-called People’s Party became the poodle of the English middle classes.

The problem for Labour is simple – how can the party still appeal to people in Craigmillar but also to the residents of, say, Hayes in Middlesex, a constituency with a history that rather neatly sums up Labour’s dilemma.

Hayes had been a safe Labour seat since the Second World War, but in the early 1980s, as Labour’s internal civil war exploded under Michael Foot’s left-wing leadership, local MP Neville Sandelson, a barrister, joined the new Social Democratic Party along with many of Labour’s right wing.

The SDP was largely the creation of David Owen and Roy Jenkins. I got to know the latter when he won the Glasgow Hillhead by-election in 1982 as my father Jim was a Liberal councillor in Dumbarton and worked for Jenkins. One of the workers for Jenkins was a certain Charles Kennedy, and the Alliance had plenty young people like him who were both committed and able.

Yet the SDP-Liberal Alliance never made the great leap forward that was predicted for it. Labour should have coasted the 1983 general election, given what Margaret Thatcher’s shopkeeper economics were doing to the UK, but Foot was dreadful, and Thatcher had won the Falklands War and never ceased to remind people of it. That the Alliance split the centre-left vote across the UK made little difference – the Tories had the Iron Lady and won the most decisive election victory since Labour’s 1945 landslide.

In Hayes, Neville Sandelson stood for the Alliance and that very neatly destroyed the centre-left vote, allowing Terry Dicks to win for the Tories with Labour in second. Dicks held the seat until 1997 when John McDonnell, a decent man, made it safe for Labour again.

The point of this history lesson? The bookies are rarely wrong, and they say that left-wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn is going to be Labour’s next leader.

If that happens, Labour will fragment along the “Old” and “New” lines, and the party will be split again. It already is massively divided over the way forward on policies, and to me that spells out only one outcome – another civil war inside the party and a permanent fracture.

For Corbyn read Foot and a similar end. Anyone for a new Social Democratic Party?

Hold-up hero Peter’s classier than Smeaton

Everyone cheered Glasgow Airport baggage handler John Smeaton for his heroics during and after the terror attack in 2007.

“This is Glasgow, we’ll set aboot ye,” was his famous line.

Now we have a similar hero – and this being Edinburgh, it was done with a bit of class.

All hail Scotbet bookmaker’s clerk Peter Morris, who in January ripped up a gunman’s written demand for cash, saying “nae danger” and then, in the words of advocate depute Ross McFarlane in court last week, “challenged Barry Shepherd to shoot him”.

Shepherd’s in jail, and Peter Morris is deservedly a local hero.

Mhairi has been a real inspiration

Just to show that some of us in the SNP can take a joke, I was with a crowd of mainly English people the other day and we were all being

entertained, if that is the right word, by a particularly loud young Scotswoman in her late teens or early 20s.

With perhaps a drink or two inside her, she was holding forth to the assembled company on

every subject imaginable, particularly politics about which, to be fair, she was fairly knowledgeable.

A fellow SNP member leaned over and whispered to me: “Don’t mention it to our English pals, and I’ll deny ever

saying it, but that Mhairi Black has got a lot to answer for.”

You had to laugh.

NO PARTY? I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO

Lord Provost Donald Wilson’s Community Garden Party to celebrate the contributions made by citizens to Edinburgh was a great idea. My invitation obviously got lost in the post, though.

Action stations please, ScotRail

A Scottish parliamentary committee has written to the ScotRail Alliance to tell it to get the finger out and provide proper accessible taxi facilities at Waverley.

Not every disabled person knows how to gain access to the station’s lifts. It’s even worse for someone arriving at Waverley not knowing that vehicles are banned. Get something done and quick, ScotRail.