This article first appeared in the first edition of iScot – Scotland’s new news, politics and features magazine. If you’ve not subscribed yet, do so now! I’ll be writing for them regularly – because they’ve asked me to contribute regularly unlike certain national newspapers – and I have just submitted my piece for their second edition due out in January. The magazine is online at www.iscot.scot and is published in both digital and print formats. Subscribe here – a year’s subscription is just £36. www.iscot.scot/subscribe/
I’ve given up smoking, it’s not always easy giving up ciggies even though you don’t get much pleasure from it. Over a month now without polluting my lungs with the evil weed, and I’ve also joined the ranks of thousands of Scots who’ve kicked the bad habit – that would be the bad habit of voting Labour. I used to vote Labour, but then I realised it causes cancer of the Scottish body politic and leads to the premature death of aspirations.
By an eerie coincidence, the percentage of Scottish voters who say they plan to vote Labour at the next election is more or less the same as the percentage of Scottish adults who still smoke. But giving up one is a whole lot easier than giving up the other. The main difference being that while former smokers still get cravings for a fag, no one in their right mind feels a desire to have a sook on Jim Murphy. Not even Anas Sarwar.
Labour’s been a bad habit in Scottish politics for far too long. We voted Labour without thinking as we wrongly believed it was the only way to keep the Tories out of office. But the truth of the matter is that the only way to keep the Tories out of office is for voters in England not to vote for them, and there’s precious little that the Scottish electorate can do to influence that. For all Labour’s calls for solidarity with folk south of the border during the referendum campaign, there’s precious little solidarity in the other direction. Voters vote according to what they consider to be in their own best interests, and if voters in England believe their interests are best served by voting Tory, no appeals to solidarity with Caledonians are going to make them do otherwise.
We voted Labour all the way through the 80s and 90s, and got Tory governments anyway. We voted Labour in 1997 and got a Labour government that had become Red Tory in order to appeal to voters in England because that was the only way it could get elected. So Scottish voters must take a leaf out of our English brothers and sisters’ book, and vote according to what is in our own best interests. Vote for parties that put Scotland first. That doesn’t mean we let the Tories in, no party which puts Scotland first is going to ally itself with David Cameron and George Osborne. But Labour will adopt Cameron and Osborne’s policies in an effort to appeal to voters in the English shires. Eds Miliband and Balls have already said they’ll implement the same austerity plan, just with a sad face and a more adenoidal commentary.
Scotland needs to break the Labour habit, and during the referendum campaign hundreds of thousands of us gave it up as we saw Labour stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories and wrap itself in the Union flag and cheer as bosses, bankers and big business issued dire warnings and threats at the behest of Westminster. Scotland is too small to go it alone, our economy too unbalanced and weak, they told us, conveniently sidestepping the question that if what they said was true, then it made little sense to continue to vote for the pathetic parties which had brought about this lamentable state of affairs. We’ve made you rubbish, Labour cried, so vote for us. Labour is no longer the people’s party, they’re the party of managing the people’s expectations on behalf of the banks and the bosses.
Labour may once have had principles, but now the party is epitomised by the man most likely to take over as branch manager in Scotland, Jim Murphy. It’s not true to say that the Smugurphy has no guiding political principles, he does, and they are clear and consistent and can be summarised in three words – and those words are : Jim Murphy’s career.
Since the referendum, Labour’s support has gone into freefall while support for pro-Scotland parties like the SNP, the Greens and the SSP has shot upwards. Due to the distorting features of the first past the post voting system, it now looks quite possible that Labour will be reduced to a tiny rump of Scottish seats, a backside that’s been severely kicked. We need to make sure this comes to pass, if Scottish voters can ensure that the Unionist parties lack a majority of Scottish seats then we can effectively block any claim to democratic legitimacy of any attempt by Westminster to tinker with the devolution settlement. And if the SNP were the third or fourth largest party in Westminster then pro-Scotland parties could be key to the stability of a future UK government. That’s the way to extract concessions, not by voting Labour and hoping that they’ll pay us heed when they’ve never paid us any heed in the past.
Once you’ve broken a bad habit, and realised it was nothing more than a bad habit, you start to see the benefits. In the case of giving up smoking you find your lung capacity increases – which is extremely useful for screaming abuse at the telly at a greater volume whenever Magrit Curran’s mug hoves into view – and your bank balance is a whole lot healthier too. In the few short weeks since stopping smoking, I reckon I’ve saved over £300. And in the few short weeks since Scotland’s broken the Labour habit, it looks like we can save an entire country.