As Labour gets driven and split in it’s already post-Brown squabbling it faces a simle choice. It can revert to type, retreat to the ‘heartlands’ and avoid a whitewash, or change rapidly and adapt, try and roll with the punches, accommodating to the ‘change’ agenda hoping desperately that they can stitch a deal with the Lib Dems.
It’s too late for the first option. It’s a hopeless case and they face a wipe-out if they do that. In the efforts to go for the ‘change profile’ they need somehow to present that they are capable of supporting or at least backing electoral reform, and a series of key issues like scrapping ID cards and rolling back the database state and replacing the House of Lords with an elected chamber.
There is only one problem. Labour MPs don’t want this to happen.
Take Tom Harris, incumbent standing in Glasgow South. Power2010 - an independent campaign group campaigning for parliamentary reform and civil liberties - have identified six current MPs who have done the most to “block democratic reform and attack our civil liberties.” The only Scottish MP is Mr Harris. Faced with accusations that he represents the worst of this anti-democratic tendency by Power2010 Harris has hit back writing: “What is Power2010’s gripe with me or the other male non-LibDem MPs featured today? It is because we have “voted or spoken out” against Power2010’s pet policies. But hang on a minute: I actually oppose PR because I think it’s A Bad Thing. I believe it would be bad for our country and bad for democracy.”
That’s a quote it might be worth remembering.
Power2010 didnt have much impact in Scotland. Campaigning on issues like ‘reform of the House of Lords’ isn’t exactly the talk of the steamie, and we’ve had PR in Scotland for over a decade, and ‘English Votes for English Laws’ sounds like moaning about a illusionary injustice. But the issue highlights Labours essentially centralising anti-democratic tendencies. Having created devolution (after years of resisting it and opposing it and dilluting it) they have found themselves settled in a smug constitutional comfort zone.
On ID cards and the database state though it’s a different matter, and in Glasgow South there’s a real opportunity to turf-out sitting MPs like Tom Harris and elect the SNPs Malcolm Fleming, a young progressive candidate who has been leading Oxfam in Scotland for several years .
Hitting out at Labours anti-democratic candidate, Fleming says: “ Like many other local residents I am scunnered by the arrogance shown by MPs like Tom Harris, who despite all of the scandal of the last year, still don’t seem to see the need for change and instead seek to protect their cosy Westminster club.”
“The SNP has long supported many of the pledges that Power 2010 promotes. SNP MPs have been outspoken about reforming the House of Lords and the SNP Westminster Group have led the campaign to ditch ID cards. I don’t think it will sit well with voters that the UK Labour Government have ploughed millions into this pointless project whilst planning to axe £814m from Scotland’s budget.”
Is Glasgow South a seat where the Liberal surge will steal votes from Labour and let the SNP in?