It’s a mistake for Labour to cosy up to the force that’s destroying it – John McLellan

Voters could be forgiven for thinking that Labour and the SNP have become the same party, writes John McLellan.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 6:00 am
Labour leader Richard Leonard on the campaign trail. Picture: John Devlin

For someone most people have struggled to identify, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard can claim his place in history as the man who led his party to its worst election defeat in over a century.

The 18 per cent share of the vote it managed last week was the lowest since 1910 when it scored 3.6 per cent, but even with that it managed to win three seats compared to Ian Murray’s solitary victory in Edinburgh South.

So when Mr Leonard pledged this week that his party would “work on a cross-party basis to resist the attacks that Boris Johnson will wage on the people” the question was not so much what shape this would take, but whether anyone really cares what he thinks?

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With the eight per cent drop in the Scottish Labour vote going straight to the SNP, it’s more evidence of the Labour leadership’s lack of any idea how to get out of the tailspin that the response is to cosy up to the very party which is destroying it.

Locally, the hard-left diktat makes even less sense because Labour’s thrashing has made it much harder for the SNP in Edinburgh Council to make the case for more resources because of political pressure from its Labour partners. What pressure, finance secretary Derek Mackay can ask, when the SNP’s three Edinburgh MPs now enjoy huge majorities?

Labour’s councillors recognise Edinburgh is getting a stinking deal from the Scottish Government, with independent auditors Scott Moncrieff warning in September that the City Council faces cuts of £150m by 2023 as a result of Scottish Government’s squeeze on the block grant. Yet this is at a time when the UK Government is about to turn on the spending taps in England and Wales which will mean even more money for the Scottish Government.

By offering a left alliance with the SNP at Holyrood and keeping the SNP in power at the City Chambers, voters can be forgiven for thinking the two parties have become one and while Labour’s Edinburgh leader Cammy Day can keep drinking his tea from a Union Jack mug, his party is not just giving up votes to the Nationalists but its identity.