Monday, June 15, 2015

A Really Good Idea... or a Really Bad One

In order to win back Scotland, Labour will need to have a compelling message to deliver, and also someone capable of delivering it. That's one of the reasons Jim Murphy had to go - the evidence was that the electorate had stopped listening, and it doesn't matter what you say if nobody listens.

Unfortunately, though, Scottish Labour find themselves in a difficult position when it comes to selecting their new leader. The pool of candidates is small and, frankly, unimpressive. Worse, the job is something of a poisoned chalice, as they're likely heading for another battering in 2016 and depending on the scale of the defeat they may well expect the leader to resign. (They're busily saying otherwise, but what politicians say before an election and what they say after aren't always the same.)

However, before leaving Jim Murphy has presented Labour with a recovery plan, including the advice (which has been accepted) to reopen selection for the regional lists.

The reason this is important is as follows: in the worst-case scenario, Labour could find themselves losing every single Constituency MSP, and reduced to a core of about 16-18 regional List MSPs. (It's worth noting, of course, that this is a worst-case scenario; it's not a prediction!) In addition to being an absolutely devastating result for 2016, what it would also mean is that they have only a few voices in parliament speaking for Labour - and only a few voices therefore who are able to deliver the messages they need for 2020.

It is vitally important that Labour get the very best people possible into the top positions on the regional lists. Because those are the only people they can be sure of getting into the parliament, and thus the ones who will have to lead any possible recovery. Mess that up, and they'll find themselves in a worse state than the Tories (but not the Lib Dems - things aren't quite that bad).

As I've said, the current batch of Labour MSPs are, mostly, a fairly uninspiring bunch. It's probably fair to say that they're not the people to handle the fight back from that worst-case scenario. And so, reopening the regional lists is a very good idea.

In theory.

But an awful lot now depends on who gets onto those lists. And this is where a large part of me expects to start seeing a lot of the "big beasts" make a reappearance - those former Labour MPs who have just lost their seats and who might now think they want to transfer to Holyrood and want a list position to ensure that it happens.

The reason that would be a problem is quite simple: the people of Scotland have just rejected that group of candidates, and done so emphatically. And if the electorate aren't listening to Jim Murphy, why would we listen to Douglas Alexander, or Anas Sarwar, or anyone else we've just voted out?

So if I were in charge over at Scottish Labour, right now I'd be laying down a strict policy that any former MP who has just lost his seat cannot be placed on the regional lists. Further, any former leader of the Scottish party, and indeed the two failed candidates who stood against Jim Murphy in September, cannot be placed on the regional lists. And, yes, that includes Iain Grey, despite his current role as interim leader. Fair or not, the truth is that none of those people represents the future of the party, and with so much at stake, the party cannot afford to mess this up.

(For what it's worth, I would also be ditching the idiotic Bain principle. The moment you stop defining yourself by what you're for, but rather by who you're against, you've lost - your opponent can then force you into all sorts of contortions, including pushing you to vote against your own policies.)

You might well ask why I care. After all, I haven't voted Labour since 1997, and won't be voting for the next year either, regardless of who they put in place. So, why do I care what they do?

The answer to that is two-fold. Firstly, there are an awful lot of people who do vote Labour, and those people are absolutely entitled to proper representation. Secondly, though, in a democracy it's not healthy for one party to have overwhelming dominance - it's far better if the opposition parties have strong voices of their own, and can present a potential alternative government. And the reality is that in Scotland Labour are that alternative government, and indeed are the only possible alternative government. So I would much rather see them recovering, and thus providing a strong opposition, than continuing on their current path.

(You'll also notice that I haven't said anything about the policies I think they should adopt. That's not my business.)

This Week's Mug: I briefly, and incorrectly, described last week's mug anecdote as the antepenultimate entry in the series, but I then realised that it is this week's mug that bears that honour. This week's mug is a speckled grey mug with a frog on it, as is appropriate for this blog. I forget when and how I received this mug, but it was almost certainly a Christmas present from my parents. This is usually my mug for measuring rice and pasta, but for this week has been brought into service for coffee. Of course, I washed it thoroughly first!

No comments: