Some very odd stuff is coming out of the British Labour Party these days. Firstly there was the dramatic implosion of the party leadership in Scotland (following Labour’s drubbing at the hands of Alex Salmond’s SNP in the Scottish elections) with Iain Gray announcing his decision to stand down in the autumn. His on-the-stump performances were less than inspiring and many blamed him for the party’s poor showing, though even the most zealous of red flag waving acolytes should have by now realised that the tide was on the side of the nationalists, and Gray was just another victim of circumstance.
These convulsions were followed by the increasingly hysterical – not to mention histrionic – attacks on the SNP and Salmond in particular by Labour apparatchiks. It was as if some sort of crazy affliction had infected all of the Labour party’s MSPs, MPs and journalistic supporters leaving them twitching and gurning at every utterance or action of Scotland’s First Minster. From accusations of fascism to straightforward abuse, the champagne socialists went into spin-overload like a washing machine on speed.
The latest event to send them into eye-bulging apoplexy was Alex Salmond’s determination to publicly separate Scotland and the Scottish people in the eyes of the global media from the several days of civil unrest which afflicted a number of cities in England. Given Scotland’s precarious economic state, and heavy reliance on tourism and inward investment, it was generally seen as a wise move. However the reaction of the Labour Party and its supporters north of the border were anything but wise. In fact it amounted to a period of temporary insanity as Labour members and supporters in the media almost craved for the trouble to spread northward in a bizarre British Unionist version of the American tactics of the Vietnam War: burning the village to save the village.
As Newsnet Scotland reported:
‘In an incredible editorial the Scotsman newspaper responded by insisting that Mr Salmond’s tone was wrong when he stated that no riots had occurred in Scotland. The newspaper defended its description of the riots as ‘UK riots’ and argued that Scottish tourism could not be damaged as ‘foreigners’ were not able to tell the difference between Scotland and the UK.
The editorial read: “… he [Mr Salmond] is misguided if he thinks countries such as those that issued travel warnings distinguish between Scotland and the UK. Rightly or wrongly, they simply do not do so.”
The newspaper accused Mr Salmond of adopting a holier-than-thou attitude and warned that “his pledge that Scotland’s police are prepared to deal with any trouble, may come back to haunt him.”’
If the best answer British Nationalists in the Labour Party and news media can come up with to the SNP’s call for Scottish independence is a desire to see Scottish cities going up in flames just to spite Alex Salmond then we really do live in the dying days of a nation. But it is not the SNP who are digging the grave.
Joan McAlpine also takes the opportunity to focus on Labour’s descent into madness and points out in the Scotsman that:
‘First Minister Alex Salmond said the riots could not be described as UK wide. He reflected what thousands of Scots were saying around office photocopiers, in mother and toddler groups and Facebook sites with names such as “Not rioting in Scotland, too proud of my country” or “UK riots? Last I looked it was only England.”
When the Labour MP Jim Sheridan – fast becoming Michael Martin’s heir as most embarrassing Scot at Westminster – asked David Cameron to condemn Salmond (as opposed to the looters and murderers of Birmingham and London) it wasn’t just the Prime Minister who was confused. The folks back home must have wondered what the lumbering member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North was on. If the people of Scotland were up in arms, it was not at Salmond for doing his job right.
It wasn’t just backbenchers like Sheridan who got it wrong. Labour’s Iain Gray metaphorically linked arms with the Tories David Mundell and the Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie to denounce the First Minister for supporting the Scottish tourist industry at the height of its season. Have they learned nothing from May? One expects the has-been Liberal Democrats and the never-have-been Scottish Tories to be out of touch. But Labour, just a few years ago, could reasonably claim to be in tune with the Scottish psyche. Those days are past now.’
In some ways Labour in Scotland was a movement rather than a party, a Scottish Fianna Fáil, with all that that entails: good and bad. The good was a party that was at times almost intuitively in touch with ordinary Scottish people, that spread democratic rights and accountability far and wide, enfranchising many thousands of disenfranchised voters and non-voters alike, giving a voice to the voiceless. The bad was paradoxically the success of the good. British Labour in Scotland assumed the air of a ‘natural party of government’, and in the process became a gross, complacent caricature of itself, increasingly intolerant of dissent or competition, increasingly self-serving. When an anti-establishment party surrenders its core beliefs to become the establishment it sows the seeds of its own destruction. Fianna Fáil found that out. Can the Labour Party in Scotland be far behind?
So to the words of that very embodiment of Scottish Labour’s establishment credentials, Sir Thomas Dalyell Loch 11th Baronet of the House of the Binns, better known as Tam Dalyell, a veteran Labour MP and writer. In an interview with the Scotsman he discusses his new autobiography, and his fervent opposition to all forms of Scottish self-rule:
‘SCOTTISH independence is inevitable after the SNP’s landslide victory this year, according to the veteran Labour politician and campaigner Tam Dalyell.
His new autobiography, The Importance of Being Awkward, recounts his implacable opposition to devolution when the issued was raised in the 1970s.
Mr Dalyell told The Scotsman he was “not in the least surprised” by the surge in SNP support. “I told you so… is the most unpretty things you can say. But there it is. It is not just the SNP. But every party in any parliament that is set up is asking for more and more,” he said.’
However, he doesn’t think all that much of the voice of the people either, with the advice to the British establishment that a free Scotland is inevitable unless:
‘… you chose Tam Dalyell’s option and that is the abolition of the parliament.”’
Hmmm. So much for democracy. Perhaps this snippet in part accounts for Dalyell’s views:
‘According to his book, his attachment to the Union also has its origins in his formidable family tree. His ancestors helped engineer the 1603 Union of the Crowns, a role celebrated in the thistles and roses carved in the plasterwork of the Dalyell family home, the House of the Binns, near Linlithgow.’
Ah, aristos. Even red ones. Never really change, do they?
Brendan Behan famously answered the question ‘What’s an Anglo-Irishman?’ with the response: a Protestant with a horse.
Perhaps we should rephrase the question?
What’s a Labour politician in Scotland? A socialist in search of a knighthood?
- British Nationalists Launch Attacks On Alex Salmond (ansionnachfionn.wordpress.com)
- Scotland: Distinct, Separate And Different (ansionnachfionn.wordpress.com)
- Labour Declares Victory In Scottish By-Election – By Loosing 9000 Votes (ansionnachfionn.wordpress.com)
- Where I Go The HuffPost Follows (ansionnachfionn.wordpress.com)
- British Labour Party To Rig Welsh Elections? (ansionnachfionn.wordpress.com)
- Gaelic Scotland And Anglo Ireland (ansionnachfionn.wordpress.com)
- England riots: Alex Salmond angry as ‘UK’ headlines sweep Scotland into fray (guardian.co.uk)
- UK riots: Alex Salmond accused of ‘gloating’ over English violence (telegraph.co.uk)
- Alex Salmond accused of pandering to Rupert Murdoch (guardian.co.uk)