Socialist Worker

New Labour leader in Scotland will not mean a change of fortunes

Issue No. 2119

The election of Iain Gray as the new leader of Scottish Labour was greeted by one MSP with the claim that this was a “Tony Blair moment”.

By that he meant Gray could lead the party to two electoral triumphs. This rings hollow.

Gray was overwhelmingly elected the new leader in a contest between three New Labour loyalists.

The left could not muster the required six MSPs needed to nominate a candidate.

Gray is regarded as a supporter of Gordon Brown but refused endorsement by the prime minister or the chancellor Alistair Darling fearing it would harm his electoral chances.

He promised the party north of the border would be Scottish-run, stressing greater autonomy from Labour HQ in London.

But trying to present yourself in more nationalist ways begs the question why supporters might not be tempted to go the full hog and switch to the Scottish National Party (SNP).

New Labour has been repeatedly out-maneouvred by the SNP, which has taken up much “Old Labour” rhetoric.

Yet Gray has ruled out a shift leftwards.

So, business leaders will be brought in to give a “radical edge” to the new manifesto to be drafted for the 2012 Scottish elections.

The stark reality is that the Labour Party in Scotland is currently 16 percent behind the SNP in the polls and has failed to recover from the shock of losing seats to the SNP in the spring.

It is engulfed in a civil war over Brown’s leadership and all eyes are on Glenrothes, – where a crucial Westminster by-election must take place before early December.

Gray rightly points out that the SNP favours pro-business economic policies.

But he does not add that, on a series of measures implemented by SNP leader Alex Salmond, Labour is to the right of the nationalists, even down to scrapping parking charges at hospitals.

Little wonder that working people north of the border see the SNP as offering a left alternative to New Labour.

But real change will depend on working people building campaigns on the ground.

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Tue 16 Sep 2008, 18:05 BST
Issue No. 2119
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