Labour’s ‘progressive’ talk that pulls in opposite directions

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Commentary by Derek Bateman

Hello Darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again…

Yes, it certainly is a murky view ahead with darkening clouds billowing under Brexit skies and storm warnings from across the Atlantic. But don’t give us your doom and gloom here in Bonnie Scotland where we’re forever laughing at the world. Oh yes, we are.

Derek Bateman
Derek Bateman

We’ve already started off with a sweetie bag of delights, just like on Crackerjack!

Labour is going to form a ‘progressive alliance’ with other non-Tory parties…devout Baptist John Mason becomes our own Katie Hopkins and Labour managed to get themselves on the wrong side of helping to save babies’ lives. It’s like Double or Drop. Give them a cabbage, Eamonn.

Poor old John. As a man of conviction he finds himself out of the loop in permissive society, questioning on abortion, querulous about homosexuality, he’s now ducking razor-edged ninja throwing stars from the monstrous regiment of ladies (as he calls them). Implying a girl doesn’t always say Yes first time unleashed the rage of the language guardians who in two sentences turned him into a rape apologist. Yet surely he was only giving us an insight into his own life? ‘Hello, I’m John. I’m an accountant. Are you interested in creationism? Did you know I won the Shettleston by-election with a swing of 22 per cent? What? You don’t want to go on a date?’

That this tripe made ‘news’ in our so-called national media showed how diminishing resources have hollowed out the Press, destroyed judgment and trivialised the role of journalism. Cod outrage is now the currency of our national debate.

I’m not outraged by Labour’s response to the baby boxes but I am as ever astonished at the acidity of their incompetence which could strip the paint from a Victorian pillar box.

BOX BEDS

Picture, if youse will, ladies and gentlemen…a poor wee baby at Christmas time born to a shilpit mammy struggling on her own, when arrives the saintly Nicola bearing all the basics for the bairn in a box bed found to prevent cot death – totally free. Opening it, the desperate mother turns on her. ‘Whaur’s the breast-feeding booklet, ya numpty?’ She glares. ‘A poem by the Makar? Could you no’ lift one from a real poet like Auden or Rupert Brooke? Typical Nationalists.’

Labour’s unerring capacity to misjudge and misread has rendered them ineffective. Nothing they say carries weight as a result and they can never escape their marginalisation. It isn’t that criticism of a good idea is impossible. It just takes strategy. To avoid opinion thinking you’re against the boxes, it is key that you first give them unequivocal support. You say this is a great idea backed by Labour.

When they are produced you express surprise that breastfeeding doesn’t appear a priority so you suggest that future boxes emphasise it more. Labour would make them even better, becomes your line. It will, in my view, still sound churlish (they do contain nursing pads and information on breastfeeding) but so long as you get the tone right you can instil the idea that the SNP idea isn’t perfect. You can map out a little bit of baby box territory for yourself.

What you don’t do is say this is just a PR exercise and a wasted opportunity which goes against the grain. Nobody but a die-hard would say the SNP are using this purely and alone for political marketing. It is a tested idea with a measureable success record. And it’s popular. Why fight it? Yet now the public thinks Labour is against a winning initiative which is aimed at families. And when we read of Labour politicians in England hoping to replicate it themselves, it leaves the branch office looking small-minded, grudging and tribal. What was the point? And who is advising this shambolic operation?

SIGH OF RELIEF

As for progressive alliances…I can think of many Scottish nationalists who will breathe a sigh of relief that the idea has been scotched. Destroying Labour is the motivation for far too many Yes campaigners who conflate it with independence into the twin aims of the movement. Labour’s antics have contributed massively to the Yes side’s recruitment with the sentiment of being betrayed perhaps the most salient mantra of a substantial number of indy supporters. Too many on either side simply could not countenance working together, however distantly. This is the true underlying reason for rejection rather than the mock horror of Labour claiming to be socialists. This is another Labour failed attack. Does anyone describe either the Labour Party they have known for the last 25 years as socialist or the SNP they have known as not progressive?

As Labour shrinks, so their message reduces. The socialism claim seems to be based solely on one point – a declared intention to raise the income tax rate by 1p. To the barricades, comrades…the revolution is here! Meanwhile, they will spend the people’s money on modernising the nuclear deterrent. They will abstain when social justice is on the line. They will surrender on leaving the EU. They will send people to the House of Lords. They will restrict immigration. They will contest the people’s right to self-determination.

Meanwhile the ‘non-progressive’ SNP gives out baby boxes, takes more in tax from higher earners, keeps further education free along with prescriptions, has a Welfare Fund for poorer families buying essentials, refuses to privatise water, extends childcare, gets 80 per cent of Scots on the living wage, ameliorates the Bedroom Tax, stands against nuclear weapons and nuclear power, reforms land ownership, works with the STUC against the Trades Union Bill, tackles climate change and takes on big business to curtail alcoholism. Why would a progressive party want to endorse that?

LAUGHABLE HYSTERIA

The reality of Labour is that it is forming an alliance with the SNP – by its members defecting to join the Nationalists. The laughable hysteria from Socialist Anas, the millionaire’s son with kids in private school, was identified years ago as the play- acting it is. He is one of a breed who thinks that saying simple things clearly wins over opinion, like Brits speaking l-e-n-t-e-m-e-n-t to foreigners. And it isn’t it telling that a quarter of former Labour voters can switch straight to the Conservatives in Scotland? What kind of socialists were they that they could swap Kezia for Ruth? It seems Labour harbours a lot of people who are very far from socialism in their beliefs.

I don’t see an alliance emerging here or in Westminster because Labour are now pulled in two directions at once. Anas’ socialists in England are now courting UKIP voters by backing Brexit and bringing down the shutters in immigration – surely an awkward fact for a second generation immigrant politician? The real question is why would other progressives work with Labour when it is itself split on the key issues of the day and no sign of which way it eventually take?

The Tory hegemony is set to continue and could be endorsed by a massive election victory in the coming months if the gap between them and Labour widens. Whatever does happen, it looks as if Scotland is going to be hit with the meteor of independence in the next two years, a kind of galactic collision between isolationist right-wing Tory Britain and progressive, internationalist Scotland. That’s how the dinosaurs disappeared and the same could happen to Labour.