Labour needs to stop parroting SNP lines about Scotland not getting the government it votes for – John McLellan
Apart from an arrogance born of a belief that Labour would run Scotland for as long as it liked ─ as a very senior Labour figure told me in 2002, in front of witnesses and no drink had been taken ─ they spent the years of Conservative government fertilising the seeds of nationalism by repeating the mantra that Scotland didn’t get the government for which it voted.
It never crossed their minds that after half a century of controlling much of urban Scotland like Mafia dons and delivering little except more jobs for their cronies, one day their voters might tire of them.
Blinded by self-righteousness and superiority, especially after the rout of the Conservatives in 1997, they didn’t see the alternative coming, or appreciate the existential threat on both sides of the Border.
There was indeed a sense of optimism in 1997, reflected in the overwhelming support for the new Scottish Parliament which Labour had promised, and not to miss a presentational trick, on the morning after the devolution referendum, Labour supporters lined the High Street waving Yes flags uncannily similar to party merchandise.
But having introduced proportional representation through the backdoor of the new Scottish Parliament, they were in no position to refuse the same demand from their Lib Dem coalition partners for local government and in 2007 they not only found themselves out of power in Holyrood but in 19 councils after losing 161 councillors. Three years later, the hapless Gordon Brown was out of Downing Street.
So having told the Scottish public it didn’t get the UK Government it voted for and voters responding by voting SNP, it might be smart to find a new line because, unless you’re a totalitarian, one party will always be out of power, and it may yet be the Conservatives next time. And if you profess to being a unionist you must also recognise the writ of the democratically-elected UK parliament.
So it was with some astonishment that I read Susan Dalgety’s view in Monday’s Evening News that, “Our country is held hostage by a Conservative Party that long ago ran out of ideas, and cares only about holding on to power.”
I have a huge amount of respect for Susan, a former Labour councillor, special adviser to Labour’s last First Minister Jack McConnell, and indeed this paper’s excellent leader writer when I was its editor, but to describe a party which won an election with an 80-seat majority, and has two years of its mandate left to run, as holding the country “hostage” is the stuff of the most rabid independence supporter.
Every political party wants to retain power, and I don’t recall Gordon Brown saying in 2010: “You know what, 13 years is a good run so let someone else have a go.” Labour has been out of power for 12 years because it has been out of touch, not because the Tories are like some Lebanese terror gang.
If anyone has been holding political hostages, it’s left-wing extremists who captured Labour and made it unelectable and, like some Edinburgh councillors, still obstruct its interests. And Susan knows it.