This was first posted on Facebook on 15th January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
Richard Leonard, the leader of Scottish Labour, resigned today: his deputy, Jackie Baillie, will take over to lead Scottish Labour to inevitable defeat in the May 2021 Holyrood elections.
To recap, for those not familar in detail with recent Scottish history: we had an independence referendum in November 2014, and No won. (I voted No, for reasons I still think were correct at the time: and I noted at the time that whenever I listened to Yes Scotland’s campaigning, it made me want to vote No: whenever I listened to Better Together, it made me want to vote Yes. I don’t think I was just being perverse: both official campaigns were using incredibly bad arguments.)
On the morning of 8th May, Jim Murphy quoted Ernst Toller, who died on 22nd May 1939:
“It is not seemly for you to Mourn,
It is not seemly for you to delay,
You have received a legacy soaked in the heart’s blood of your brothers.
The pregnant deed waits for you.
…Wide burst the gates of bright morning.”
Murphy went on to say:
“Last night was gloomy for Labour. This morning as the sun rose we were hurting. But in a morning like this, before too long. We will bounce back. We will again be the change that working people need.”.
Does Jim Murphy have a hope?
On 8th May, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg both resigned. (So did Nigel Farage, but not Natalie Bennett.) But Jim Murphy didn’t resign: instead he declared his intention to lead Scottish Labour to the May 2016 elections, when he still wants to become a MSP and First Minister of Scotland.
“A Labour, a LibDem, and a Tory MP walked into a bar. Oh, said the bartender, I must be in Scotland.”
I stayed up til 7am hoping to hear Thanet South declare – the only Tory victory of the campaign that I’m delighted with.
Four party leaders will likely be gone by Monday: Jim Murphy lost his seat and will have to resign, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband look likely to go, and Nigel Farage already quit. (Update: Ed Miliband resigned as I was posting this blog: Harriet Harman, as deputy leader, is caretaker until the next leader is elected.) (Second update: and Nick Clegg’s also resigned.)
I wonder what Ed Miliband will do with his big lump of stone now?
It’s not funny. This is a horrific result. And it’s Labour who lost it. This is a re-run of 1992 – and in 1997 the New Labour won a majority and gave us Tony Blair and the Iraq war. Who will “reform” Labour after Ed Miliband?
Even now not quite all the results are in. But enough to be able to see the picture for the next five years. Six constituencies yet to declare.
The Conservatives now have 326 MPs. They have a working majority in the Commons. The polling results were wrong. The “shy Tories” are back – the voters who know how shameful their desire to vote Tory is, who know they should care about the people suffering more poverty, more food banks, the deaths via sanctions, but they want to vote for the Tories anyway because they think the Tories have done good for them personally or they’ve been frightened off Labour with hellstories of what Labour would do to them. (Analysis about “Is there a shy Tory factor in 2015?” at Number Cruncher Politics.)
So, Iain Duncan Smith will get to continue with his sanctions and bullying and lies at the Department of Work and Pensions. George Osborne will get to make his twelve billion cuts to welfare. David Cameron will announce a referendum on EU membership. There will be no taxing the rich, no ending the non-dom tax loophole, Rupert Murdoch will continue to own swathes of UK media, and people will die of hunger and neglect: because that’s what the Tories do. We have no hope of ousting them until May 2020, and perhaps not even then.
The exit polls look depressing:
- Conservatives: 316
- Labour: 239
- SNP: 58
- LibDem: 10
- UKIP: 2
- Green: 2
- Plaid Cymru: 4
If the DUP get 10 seats, as some polls predicted, the Conservatives would be able to choose between a coalition with the LibDems or a coalition with DUP, whichever they pleased: either would get them to 326, and if so, we are screwed.
Jim Murphy cannot take all of the credit for the rise of the SNP in the polls: even before he declared his candidacy, the SNP were looking set to take the majority of the Scottish seats.
But under his leadership, the likelihood of Scottish Labour remaining a significant force in politics at Westminster has continued to fall, to the point where there is an even chance that Jim Murphy may not even be Renfrewshire East’s MP after 7th May: Electoral Calculus currently predicts Murphy’s margin of victory as 1.1%, in a seat which was 20 points ahead of the Tory challenger in 2010, when SNP was in fourth place behind the LibDems.
This is a shattering upset for the man who wanted to be Scotland’s First Minister. In October 2014, Jim Murphy – the third candidate in the Labour leadership race and the only not an MSP – told the Scottish Daily Record:
“I want to unite the Labour Party but, more importantly, I want to bring the country back together after the referendum.
“I am not going to shout at or about the SNP, I am going to talk to and listen to Scotland and I am very clear that the job I am applying for is to be the First Minister of Scotland.”
The memo attack on Nicola Sturgeon, a day after she had been lauded at the leaders’ debates, was certainly an attempt by the Daily Telegraph to discredit her. If the Telegraph employees who contacted Labour and the LibDems for comment were subtle enough, it was also an attempt to discredit those two parties.
The Head of Content (as Peter Oborne noted, the Telegraph no longer has an editor) may have been instructed by David and Frederick Barclay to win the general election for the Conservatives: and it is a matter of simple Parliamentary arithmetic to see that if the polls hold good, providing Labour and the SNP are willing to vote together against the Tories, the Tories cannot form a government.
Scottish Labour had a night to howl about this: between the first tweet from Simon Johnson at the Daily Telegraph at 9:42pm, to a final tweet by Scottish Labour at 7:55am on Saturday 4th April, the Scottish Labour twitter account either tweeted or retweeted 22 tweets, including one apiece from Kezia Dugdale and Jim Murphy, and two from Scottish Labour candidates, Margaret Curran and Douglas Alexander. (If Mhairi Black, the SNP candidate for Paisley, unseats Douglas Alexander, she will be the youngest MP ever to be elected, aged 20.)
There were three women and two men in the Scottish Labour leadership contest: the media largely ignored Sarah Boyack, Kezia Dugdale, and Katy Clark: most of the mainstream publicity I saw treated the contest as if it were a race between two men, Jim Murphy and Neil Findlay.
Jim Murphy won, MP for East Renfrewshire, and currently his name gets about 2,750,000 hits on Google.
Kezia Dugdale also won: she is the Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour, and currently her name gets about 75,900 hits on Google.
I have a tiny fraction of a vote in the Scottish Labour leadership contest (as a Unite member) and here’s how I plan to vote.
Steve Bell’s shtick is picking a comparator for a politician whom he knows he’s going to have to draw a lot. Nick Clegg as cardboard figure with massive chin. Edwina Currie as giant chicken. John Prescott as a toothless bulldog. Nicola Sturgeon has just become one of those politicians, as the very-soon-to-be First Minister of Scotland.
Edwina Currie said of him a few years ago:
He’s never kind, never affectionate. So it can feel hurtful. Afterwards, you realise it’s very funny and clever, but at the time you feel miffed that your enormous contribution to the country is not being recognised. Does it make you feel better when you see your political rivals skewered? Oh yes!
Steve Bell is a remarkable talent. I’m not in the least surprised at his longevity. Long may he continue.
So, Steve Bell might have picked something offensive, it might have been funny, it might have been clarifying or illuminating or silly, but the shtick Steve Bell seems to have chosen for Nicola Sturgeon is… Hitler.