The Achilles’ heel of the Jimmy Reid Foundation


by Peter Thomson

The recent announcement about the launch of the Jimmy Reid Foundation interested me, so I went to the site, looking to get engaged and see what it is all about.  I downloaded the prospectus for more information, looked at the promoters and then it struck me.  How will the Jimmy Reid Foundation create any separation between it and the failed and inept Labour Party of Milliband, Ball, Gray and ‘Staurheid Rammy’ Lamont when one of its backers appears to be the funders of John Smith House – Unite?

Seeing Unite on the list of the foundations supporters killed my enthusiasm at a stroke.  The super union represents all that is wrong with the left, in its introversion, dislike of subsidiarity, undemocratic nature and need to control everything – Animal Farm’s pigs writ large.  The recent Labour civil war, the Battle of Prestonpans between Unite and the Labour old guard over Ms Moffat, clearly emphasised this point.  The argument was never about what was best for the East Lothian Labour Party but what was deemed the best self-interested position for whichever the two cliques that won.

I was brought up on both my Granddad’s tales of 1919, George Square, Hardy, Maxton and McLean.  In Jimmy Reid here was a socialist of their ilk and stature, reminding us what Scottish socialism was actually about: people, looking out for people, not just for themselves, the opportunity for everyone to have access to a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work and the self respect that goes with it, a modern restatement of the truth behind the Govan Rent Strikes of 1916 onwards.

The modern Scottish left has a major image problem to overcome if it is to regain any real influence.  A growing number of Scots increasingly see it as irrelevant to Scotland’s future and find themselves more in tune with the social democracy of the SNP.  The SNP is seen as being a better reflection of the inherent conservatism of Scots voters’ socialist leanings.  It’s also seen as closer to Jimmy Reid’s view of modern socialist concerns which he expressed so eloquently in his 1972 rectorial address.

The aesthetes of the left in the Scottish media are living and writing in their own bubble, hardly listening to ordinary Scots.  There is still a tone in their style of writing that ‘nanny left wing intellectual’ knows best.  

I have a simple view on where the left wing in Scotland is at present – nowhere.  The Scottish left is lost.  Any cohesion outside of ‘Labour circles’ was wrecked in the fall out of the SSP/Solidarity’s self-destructive war over Tommy Sheridan.  

It is unlikely the Scottish left will see any great revival until the dead hand of Westminster is removed from the Scottish realm.  The left’s true revival will only commence when it engages wholeheartedly in seeking Scottish independence and engages in the process, rather than continuing to dismiss the inevitability.  

Part of the process will be the left accepting that its biggest liability is Labour’s Scottish Regional Party.  The only solution to the Scottish left being tarred with the same brush is to look to create a new left of centre party, independent of Labour and the Unions, which is looking out for Scotland and not looking over its shoulder to Westminster or the STUC / TUC for its policies and funding.

How will the left and the Jimmy Reid Foundation engage with the SNP and other independence seeking sympathisers given the official left’s – Labour in Scotland and its STUC cronies – complete and utter antipathy to anything and everything the SNP does?

This particular ‘Scottish left’ equals Labour in Scotland conundrum, for me, is the Jimmy Reid Foundation’s Achilles’ heel and why I fear the foundation will simply become just another old pals’, ‘intellectual left wing’, Labour lovies’ talking shop.

Maybe Henry McLeish or Elaine Smith, if they read this, as two of the Foundation’s promoters could explain to Newsnet contributors, like myself, who wish to see the Foundation be a real success and a true memorial to Jimmy Reid just how they are going to seek to square this particular circle?