Socialist Worker

Can divided Labour ever recover in Scotland?

The party faces a general election disaster as well as a bitter leadership race, reports Raymie Kiernan

Issue No. 2428

Blairite warmonger Jim Murphy shouting at supporters of Scottish independence

Blairite warmonger Jim Murphy shouting at supporters of Scottish independence (Pic: Duncan Brown)

The Labour Party is facing an electoral massacre in Scotland next year, according to new polls.

With an average 20-point swing from Labour to the Scottish National Party (SNP), Labour would be left with at most ten MPs after the general election—down from 41. 

The SNP may get as many as 47.

For 60 years Labour has topped the poll for Westminster general elections in Scotland. It would be remarkable if it managed that in 2015.

After the recent resignations of former leader Johann Lamont and her deputy Anas Sarwar, whoever is elected as Scottish Labour’s leadership has their work cut out.

The frontrunner in the election to be leader is Eastwood MP Jim Murphy, a Blairite who supports war and nuclear weapons. He could be catastrophic for Scottish Labour. 

Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale is standing for deputy, backed by many of Murphy’s supporters.

Long time Labour MSP Sarah Boyack is also standing for leader.

Getting in bed with the Tories to lead the campaign to defend the British state in September’s independence referendum has seriously damaged Labour in Scotland.

But its dwindling support is not a new thing. Labour’s vote has fallen in every Scottish parliament election since devolution.

The SNP pitched to the left over a decade of war, privatisation and racism driven by New Labour governments, picking up support from disillusioned Labour voters.

Ed Miliband’s failure to oppose austerity has continued the trend.

Despite losing the independence vote, the SNP has made huge political gains and claims to have tripled its membership to over 80,000 since the referendum.

Demands for social justice fuelled the support for independence. Huge political engagement has continued, mainly benefitting the SNP. 

Labour will have to fight on this territory to regain support.

Left wingers Neil Findlay MSP and Katy Clark MP are standing as leader and deputy respectively in challenge to Murphy. 

As Socialist Worker went to press, Findlay had secured the backing of the Unison, TSSA and Aslef unions. Unite, the union with most Labour members in Scotland, “welcomed” his candidacy.

Unison, TSSA and Bfawu back Clark.

Union affiliates make up one third of all votes in Labour’s electoral college system.

The leadership battle looks to be a straight fight between the left and the right of the Labour Party.

But the outcome is less than certain, as are Labour’s chances next May if its Scottish MPs lose on the scale the polls predict.

The left in Scotland can’t look to the Labour Party for a way forward. 

Activists need to use every opportunity to unite and organise around the class issues that invigorated the Yes campaign.

The Radical Independence Campaign’s conference on 22 November will be the next opportunity to debate the way forward.

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Article information

Tue 4 Nov 2014, 17:44 GMT
Issue No. 2428
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