Boss Class Miserabilism

“Scotland cannot be the only ‘something for nothing’ country in the world.”
– Johann  Lamont

The likelihood is that tomorrow or the next day a major announcement will be made about the referendum. It’s going to green-light votes for 16 year olds – a watershed in democracy strangely ignored or belittled by many – and a single question (‘the SNP has agreed to drop its call for an additional question on the ballot paper’ – stop sniggering at the back).

It’s in this context that the speech on universal targets from Labour’s luckless leader has arrived. It’s a game changer and promises to re-configure the referendum debate. The moment is replete with irony and pathos – Labour’s left delivering the final blow to their credibility on the left, and a female leader making the move. Just yesterday Elaine C Smith said: ‘In any country in the world, the key to real change always lies with the women of that country.’ Oh Johann. What have you done?

Scottish Labour’s policy departure announced this week has thrown up a unique consensus of condemnation across the media and the political landscape. Richard Seymour, who blogs at Lenin’s Tomb, wrote simply on the Guardian (‘Scottish Labour is blinded by hostility to the SNP‘) “Why is the Scottish Labour leadership so abysmal?” and received over 1000 comments.

Right across the media voices sprang up, angry, incredulous, dumbfounded, confused. Joyce McMillan wrote:

“It’s profoundly sad to note, this week, the Scottish Labour leader’s monumentally ill-judged decision to join in this oppressive chorus of boss-class miserabilism, orchestrated by people who care nothing for the lives of ordinary citizens, in Scotland or elsewhere.”

Only Gerry Hassan, Alex Massie and Margaret Curran disagreed that this was a train-wreck. Even Kevin McKenna the executive editor of the Scottish Daily Mail wrote a devastating piece accusing them of cowardice arguing: “The most disturbing aspect of this shift in Scottish Labour thinking is that it acquiesces lazily to the notion that only cuts to public services can help us navigate our way through a double-dip recession. This simply highlights the utter poverty of imagination and intellect that characterises Labour’s approach to curing the ills of Scottish society since the war.”

The Lion Rampant Is No Substitute for Having a  Job

Where does this leave Scottish Labour and their leader? Iain Bell was damning: “Historians can check the dates. For now, I’ll give you this: Scottish Labour died yesterday.” Iain Macwhirter shared the worry, writing: “There has been a whiff of decay around Scottish Labour for some years, but I’m beginning to think it has finally popped its clogs.” Will there be, as many are now predicting, mass defections or a split? I doubt it.

There’s not a coherent left party to go to. Tribalism will prevent defections straight to the SNP. What we will see is a significant desertion and undermining of Labour, who, we’re constantly being told are leading the NO campaign. Good people in Scottish Labour won’t stomach this.

This week should have been a great fillip for Labour. Media focus is just about the only tangible that comes out of party conferences now. But with their adenoidal leader running into cognitive dissonance about how a party of business can continue to be supported by unions – they continue to falter.

There’s a leadership problem. Labour are hampered by more than policies that make no sense. Ed Miliband is odd. He sounds like he’s ill. A cheeky poll this week showed people – Labour people – believe him to be weak and indecisive and would prefer his brother.

£40 billion is due to be stripped from the Scottish budget by 2025. That’s a reality. As protest at austerity measures sweeps through Europe with massive demos (largely unreported) in Lisbon, Paris, Madrid we need to have serious and deep conversations about how to deal with our severely destablised economy. Scotland is not immune to this. We need to think about how we challenge the politics that have created a society disfigured by inequality.

Lamont’s direction does none of this. All it does is undermine some of the key achievements of devolution. None of this is popular, and given that politicians are routinely portayed  as vote-chasing opportunists you’re left asking, why? This is fag-end Blairism. Richard Seymour explains:

“When in office, it (Labour) consistently attacked and undercut its voting base. Recall that Blair insisted on standing in 2001 on the most unpopular of Labour policies, the PFI. This was a huge middle finger to the core vote. Turnout was vastly down, three million Labour voters were lost. The only thing that stopped it being a crushing defeat rather than a ‘landslide’ victory was the utter pathetic weakness of the Tories. Or look at what they did to themselves in London, with Ken Livingstone, or again in the East End with Lutfur Rahman. Look at the 10p tax debacle, implemented right on the cusp of a global meltdown. There are numerous examples. Since the election they just keep doing it. Recall Ed Balls’ statement that he wouldn’t reverse Tory spending cuts. The thing is, this isn’t simply bad leadership or stupidity. It is structural; it is how the Labour leadership thinks you have to do politics since the Thatcher era.”

Being brave is the motif carried over from New Labour. It comes from hating the party you are part of and having inculcated wholesale the Thatcher vision of the world in which collectivism is a bad and ‘tough decisions’ equal good politics. It’s a form of madness but it does mean that Lamont – or whoever designed this – has successfully re-framed the referendum debate.

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  1. wanvote says:

    Someone needs to challenge the self-satisfied SG leaders who seem to think they’ve already solved the problems of those struggling on low income not that they ever atmitted such people actually exist in their Scotland. Resentment is alive and kicking, so get on with your sums, Johann Lamont and give us a decent wage/ pension, John Swinney. Earn your fat salaries + expenses, whatever team you play for, there will be no freebies in Scotland with or without independence.

    1. Dmyers says:

      I don’t think anyone at the SG has ever claimed to have solved Scotland’s problems.

  2. steven luby says:

    @wanvote Silly

    1. wanvote says:

      Silly is it? to be struggling on a low income or pension all your life. Silly to always be the last in th queue for everything. Silly to be sick of politicians showing off to each other and the big world while ignoring the poverty in their own backyard. Silly to expect current government in Scotland to spend its current budget wisely. Silly to expect the opposition to do its job.
      What IS silly is to expect folk to keep quiet so as not to rock the boat.

      1. Braco says:

        To Wanvote, I (and I think most people reading this site regularly) sympathise with your rage. It is however impotent rage if you remain unable to direct it in any politically focused manner (small p). I think that I come from exactly the same anti political party/system ‘they all benefit whichever party wins’ type of view that you very effectively voice. I have struggled to find my ‘useful’ position in this fight . One that I can get up every day and recount in my head for why I am getting involved and it has boiled down to something very simple.
        If the referendum is won then more than half the existing political bureaucracy in Scotland is destroyed with wanvote! That’s every MP, MP’s wife/family member/friend/next in line wanabe MP and Lord or Lord’s wife/son/etc…This is personal. I am working not to replace some useless Party yesman politician with another equally pathetic individual in the making as in the usual democratic farce every 4/5 years, but to destroy the post that attracts them in the first place. If I am honest I feel the same about the political class that inhabit Holyrood but I am not being given the chance to destroy them in 2014. Maybe me and you can stick together with some fellow travelers that have developed the taste for blood and look for effective ways of finishing off the other 50% post a 2014 victory. Above all this is the message that has to be delivered to the 50% of Scotland’s population who quite understandably have given up on gravytrain politics and are not even on the electoral register. Have you any Ideas how to reach this giant group of disenfranchised Scots because to me that’s the real key to winning this referendum and at the same time insuring the politics that follow truly represent the population of Scotland and not just the 50% that still in some way feel associated with the current failed system. I will leave you with the old anarchist saying, ‘If voting changed anything they would ban it.’ Well as far as I can see that’s exactly what they have done with a popular referendum on Scotland’s constitutional position for 300 years. Somehow they have fucked up and dropped the ball this time. I don’t know about you but I am going to leather it, because nobody in my past lineage and I am willing to bet that nobody in my future lineage will be fortunate enough to get the chance. Do you have any ideas?

  3. Easy to agree with,not much I can add,except,
    LAME LAMONT LABOUR’S LAST LIABILITY.

  4. John Souter says:

    I can never understand the mindset of individuals who wallow in the perverse rapture of masochism whether as dominant or dominated.

    The problem for labour is not confined to leadership but extends to a hegemony of hubris which has developed into contempt on every principle it ever stood and fought for. Every one, pawned, packaged until perished for the sake of Westminster power.

    This is not reality, it’s not even politics, just an unadulterated con.

    1. Babs G says:

      I am perversely enraptured by your use of language John – the image summoned up is like a door into the mindset of the morally and politically bankrupt Scottish Labour movement, left fractionally ajar.

  5. DougtheDug says:

    ” It’s a game changer and promises to re-configure the referendum debate.”

    It’s always good to look at this from the Labour point of view.

    They believe that they will achieve a No vote in 2014 whatever they do. Scandals, political rows and policy reversals in the past haven’t changed their core vote with Steven Purcell being a case in point in Glasgow.

    With a No vote secured in 2014 and a belief that the SNP will be in disarray because of that they will take the Scottish Parliament back and become the top party in Scotland again as is their right in 2016.

    But there are going to be financial problems. The Barnett formula will shrink in response to austerity cuts and privatisations in English public services and what they are doing now is preparing the way for cuts in 2016 under a Labour Scottish Parliament.

    What that shows to an external observer is two things.

    1. The Labour party believe they can win the No vote whatever they do.
    2. The Labour party recognise that staying in the Union will bring financial pain to Scotland but they are locked into it like some institutionalised convict.

    The jibes about Labour’s belief in the Union such as “better Tory than independent” or “better poor than independent” do not make sense to the Labour party because independence is not a valid choice.

    Let’s hope that Lamont’s speech is a game changer for the referendum and that the Labour party are not right.

  6. wanvote says:

    To Braco Thanks for your reply, your sympathies are noted. Came to the same conclusion about referendum as you and intend to vote yes. Am entirely in agreement with the universal benefits in existence in Scotland but doesn’t stop me wanting more. With 2years+negotiation period still to go surely more can be done now if some “non-essential costs” are pruned. Every one will have their own opinion of what these are, I’m sure. Maybe asking the non-voters, undecideds about this very point would give you some of the answers you’re looking for re why they won’t vote yes or why they don’t vote at all. Everyone I know has always voted (well that’s what they say). Oh, by the way, my rage(however did you spot it) was/is really about politicians patting themselves on the back, scoring points with one another and generally , abusing their time which is paid for by public money. Since I pay taxes
    I feel it’s my right to speak out.

    1. Braco says:

      To Wanvote, I think you are still in the trap of expecting politicians to live up to the schtic that they spread about themselves during elections. That is that they are just one of us and simply driven by a desire to solve societies ills in the most effective way at their disposal Ie. as pragmatists with the best interests of their constituents at heart. This is however impossible when they are in actual fact bound during the non election 99% of their time by Party loyalties and petty Party grievances. These are bad enough during our normally running system but when you throw in the fight for freedom/destruction of your country the general voting publics views are entirely secondary. I think that the SNP, although not perfect, must be commended in that they are still focused on their main aim of independence but through the mechanism of trying at all costs to stay close to the median view of Scots society. But as can be seen by the state of all the other parties in Scotland (and England for that matter) there is no guarantee that the SNP must continue with what seems such a common sense democratic policy. We must win this referendum and in winning it by engaging the whole electorate, including the currently disenfranchised, maybe the newer less party oriented and pragmatic system of representation that you and many others seem to crave can be developed. Starry eyed I know but it has absolutely no chance of happening without a bloody massacre of a victory in the referendum so no need to think any further than that. To expect any of this pragmatic cross party open handed politics to happen before the referendum I am afraid makes my starry eyed idealism look viciously hard boiled! I think if you continue to hope for this kind of change in the next 2 years you will be mad before Christmas.

      1. wanvote says:

        Braco – Cleverly worded and possibly well intentioned but whether starry-eyed or hard-boiled, it’s important that people speak out against unfairness and injustice even it falls on deaf ears. It’s most often anger (focussed or unfocussed) that prompts folk to speak up in the first place and is one of the main reasons for the popularity of blogs. Don’t waste your time worrying about my sanity I’m sure it’ll hold out for a while yet, with or without independence. Good luck with your quest to engage the disenfranchised but it may be wiser to listen more to what is being said by them – I also think that is exactly what they want from the political experts of the world. Best wishes, wanvote (same as the rest of us:)

  7. Clydebuilt says:

    Scotlands budget for 2012-13
    Free Personal Care £342m
    Free Bus Travel £187m
    Free Prescriptions £57m
    Tuition Fees £220m
    Council Tax Freeze £350m
    Total £1.156bn

    From GERS Report 2010-11 “expenditure for Scotland”
    includes a charge of £3.3bn for Scotlands share of UK Defence costs.
    (Trident, Afghanistan MOD procurement fiascos)

    An independent Scotlands Defencecosts would be around the £1bn mark.

    That saving on it’s own would easily pay for all the Benefits Johann Lamont would deny to those Scots most in need of them, or restrict them by means testing.
    Then there’s the £8bn of North Sea revenue that went straight to Westminister 2010 2011

  8. Braco says:

    To Wanvote, I am a non voter and I can assure you that I am listening to what I am saying :@) Voting and non voting is a habit. As you say you choose to vote because you think it’s important to, even if your view falls on deaf ears. I on the other hand have seen no reason or importance in voting, as my voice falls on deaf ears. Until now I have been asked only questions that have no interest to me. This is the way that modern politics steadily reduces the % of the population that bothers to vote at each election. It is not a sign of a declining intelligence or social awareness in the population but just a logical response to the political agendas put forward by all the main stream parties being of no or little interest. I eventually stop watching the telly when there is nothing on it that interests me, I do not go out and start making programmes that do. Just in the same way it is unlikely and very unusual for the uninterested to set up a political party/movement. I think the Tory party in Scotland is a very good analogy for where general British politics is going. That is, that a once mightily popular mass membership party slowly moved away from its publics view to focus more on it’s memberships views. Not something too noticeable at the beginning as the membership was mass, but the more the activists lead the agenda of interest to them the smaller the membership became. This of course gave the activists (now close with the leadership through methods of patronage) proportionately more power and so the spiral continued away from the views of the general populace. So the focus of the party became narrower and narrower and its membership followed. The members of the Scottish Tory Party are passionate people and care about what they believe but the Scots public just don’t care about the conversation they have decided to have with themselves over the decades. This same process, as far as I can see, is happening in every political party in Britain to a larger or greater degree and I just can’t see an easy solution to it for them. This referendum in Scotland however, I see as just such a transformational catalyst. Hopefully it will be like switching the computer on and off when something inexplicably bad has gone wrong. You don’t need to be a computer expert to know this manouver often works and I don’t think you need to be a political expert to have faith that a reboot of Scottish politics would more than likely see us in a very different and representative set up once all the power is back and the systems are up and running. Any way sorry to have gone off on one again Wanvote. Take care

  9. wanvote says:

    To Braco You’re entitled to your own views whatever they are.
    Good-bye

    1. Braco says:

      That is just the kind of generous permission I have been waiting for all these years . Thank you Wanvote.

  10. CEMarshall says:

    Remember when the SNP used to be called the “Tartan Tories?” Well, now we know who the REAL Tartan Tories are. Then again, Joanie Lament (if she’s on the ball for once) could score points on this by asking where did David Cameron get the idea to freeze the council tax in England.

  11. Parked Badly says:

    Lamont said in the parliament debate that she came up with the need to do this within a few days / weeks before making the car crash of a speech. As though she had had a startling insight and needed to share it with everyone.

    Fact is that Margaret Curran made a similar speech in January (Scotsman, 25th January 2012) and Liam ‘There’s no money left’ Byrne said the same thing at Labour Conference.

    Lamont was simply doing her job as part of a London-led campaign for the 2015 UK election. Everybody else got away with it. Her inflammatory language drew attention to her message and blew the gaffe on the whole affair.

    So, not only is she incompetent at her job, she also clearly takes her orders on such matters from London, and then lies to the Scottish Parliament in a desperate attempt to make it sound as though it was her idea.

    Please, Labour, keep her in place – anyone outside Labour’s inner ranks no longer believes a word she says.

  12. charlie says:

    Referendum agreement about to be announced. Johann Lamont about to denounce The Grapes of Wrath as dangerous liberalism, she didnae understand it, nae chips or pizza, or cushy jobs. Unrealistic 😉

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