Now that we’re done scratching our heads and picking ourselves off the floor after Johann Lamont’s “brave,” and “bold,” policy shift in which she announced the total abandonment of any principles her party may once have stood for, we should probably get onto looking at how we can exploit this for the political advantage of everyone else in the country.
At least as far as I’m concerned the really shocking thing about Lamont’s policy “initiative,” was that I wasn’t really shocked. I may initially have thought the BBC had picked up one of the Onion’s stories and run with it again, but that didn’t last very long. What washed over me very quickly though was the insidious sense that this was both inevitable, and nowhere near being the end of a party which, after all, brought us devolution in the first place. Granted that came 13 years ago, and 1 year before the death of the man who was apparently the last of the Labour leaders with the intellect and political vision to match legitimately leftist reasons for their political involvement.
Since Dewar it seems like Labour have been trudging, all-too-knowingly toward the sort of non-event typified by Johann Lamont’s speech two weeks ago. There was McLeish who resigned in disgrace over property deals, then the self-congratulatory blandness of McConnell, the brief tenure of Alexander, and then the stupefying drudgery of Gray. Now we see Lamont, fuelled by a singular loathing of all things SNP so strong it could only reasonably have been engendered by an unrequited blood debt.
With such dynastic inertia as a backdrop her “Something for Nothing,” speech seems more like the beginning of a prolonged end-game for her party, so long marred by inaction that it has no recourse against the opportunity and enthusiasm inspired by the notion of independence but to turn on its own historical supporters.
Those supporters will not suffer this for long though. In Shettleston, Inverclyde, and South Ayrshire there will be little support for a party apparently so out of touch with the needs of their constituents that they would turn on them mercilessly, and in such an unfounded way, for no other reason than to ingratiate them with a party of people who just don’t know how life is in their areas.
While this situation has been precipitated by Labour, and theirs is to wonder how they could have allowed it to happen, ours is not to wonder but to engage, at community level, with these areas. By taking our enthusiasm and vigour for Independence to areas abandoned by their traditional political set we can fulfil the promise of our movement while leaving others’ mistakes to them to sort out.
If we are serious about Independence and the benefits it can bring we have to show those in communities we may previously have thought unreachable that we will care about them regardless of whether they support independence or not. As Labour has failed them by slipping into a myopic stupor we will work with and for everyone in Scotland, regardless of their political background, and without the aim of winning over their vote in 2014. If we want to win Scotland in 2014 we have to win Labour’s voters also.
That means changing the political and social climate in the West though. We can’t tolerate the soporific vacuity of a politics based on decades-old notions of what industry used to look like. We’re better than that. All of us. We just need to prove it by living it.