It’s a hard life being a Labour politician in Scotland these days. There you were all those years ago, an idealistic young student with an eye on a career in politics and all you had to do was to turn up at meetings and schmooze with the right power-brokers. Play the game properly and you could win a safe seat on the HST of gravy trains which would wheech you away to a cosy future and a well padded retirement in the House of Lords. Canvassing at elections was MPs and cooncillors in other places, but to be a Labour politician in Scotland meant you could take the electorate for granted.
You were the establishment, you were the opposition, you were the only party that counted, and that meant your votes only needed to be weighed. When you’re the only party that counts your votes don’t need to be counted. When you live in comfort you don’t need to make any effort. Labour lounged on the divans of entitlement, carried on the backs of the working classes. Things aren’t so comfortable now. Labour needs to count every vote and hoard it like Gollum’s precious, only to discover that those pesky SNP hobbits with their hairy wee Caledonian legs have gone and taken it away. Scotland rings with the howls from Mordor, otherwise known as John Smith House.
It’s not easy trying to be relevant again after spending 50 years taking the voters for granted. It’s much easier just to keep on about how bad your opponents are, how nasty those precious thieving SNP hobbits can be. You don’t know how to go about making a positive case for yourself, you don’t know where to begin. Your world has been taken away from you. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Asking Labour to start making itself relevant is like asking a fish to start breating air. Labour evolved for a different ecosystem, one in which it was the only resident in a stale and stagnant pond. Now it’s got competition from parties with lungs.
Labour’s still struggling to come to terms with its loss of prestige and position. It’s still choking as it tries to breathe the fresh air of a Scotland which is thinking for itself. Perhaps it’s the oxygen starvation making what’s left of Labour even more delusional than it was before, but now their great new ideas to make themselves relevant again are as all singing and all dancing as a tone deaf contestant with a hamstring injury appearing at an X-Factor audition. Actually that’s unfair, because tone deaf singers do occasionally hit the correct note by accident.
This week Labour’s great wheeze to stop itself wheezing was to hold the Scottish Government to account by getting it to do what it’s been doing anyway. Labour introduced a motion to ban fracking in Scotland, even though there’s currently a moratorium on fracking which is due to last until spring 2017 while evidence is sought on the effects of cracking the rocks on which Scotland sits and injecting them full of chemicals. Maybe Labour is struggling with the concept of a moratorium, after all it’s a long word, a much longer word than ban. But it means much the same thing. Fracking is banned in Scotland until all the evidence is in.
Labour claims that it wants to hold the SNP to account, but if that was true then they’d wait until spring 2017 and then hold the SNP to account if they decide that after all they’re going to allow fracking. Instead what they did was shameless showboating which potentially makes it harder for a permanent ban on fracking in this country. Now if the SNP government announces that after it has consulted, after it has examined the evidence, the fracking companies can claim that the Scottish Parliament had already made up its mind thanks to Labour’s childish attention seeking and mount a legal challenge to the ban. Labour’s actions actually make it easier for the fracking companies to introduce fracking. Labour’s gesture politics are the gesture of two fingers in the face of Scotland.
So if in 2017 the Scottish government announces that after lengthy consultation, after a careful examination of all the evidence, that they’re still not disposed to allow fracking, the fracking companies will be able to take them to court and point to this week’s vote in Holyrood as evidence that the Scottish Government was going to ban fracking all along and was never going to hear the case for it. It doesn’t matter that the SNP abstained. All that matters to Labour is that it got itself a wee bit of publicity. Someone noticed them this week. Gollum got a sight of Precious.
They did the exact same thing with their campaign to defend Calmac. By insisting that the Scottish government ignored EU law on putting contracts out to tender, a law that Labour wouldn’t have dreamed of ignoring when it was in power, the Labour party gave the private sector a reason to mount a legal challenge against the decision to allow Calmac to retain the contract to supply ferry services. Labour poses as the friend an ally of the people, but in reality the only beneficiaries of their actions are the private sector and the rich and the powerful.
What Labour is doing now is damaging the public good in Scotland in a pathetic attempt to make itself feel better, to pretend that it’s still got some purpose, to score a few SNPbad headlines in a press which, unlike the people, still hasn’t given up on it.
It might be arguable just how bad fracking is, personally I hope that it never comes to Scotland. We don’t need it. We’ve got an embarrassment of energy resources as it is, and we ought to be investing in renewable energies that will suppy us with energy as long as the wind blows and the tides rise and fall. Fracking might be very bad for Scotland indeed, it might be seriously unhealthy, but there’s no doubt at all about how unhealthy Labour is. Labour is the fracked party, cracked at the foundations and leaking poison.
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