This Time with Feeling


By Mike Small

On the day Labour have confirmation of what we’ve seen over months of polling (that there’s a political meltdown in the making that will make Holyrood 2011 look like a minor setback) we are now witnessing Sept 16th style panic.

With Labour facing the prospects of  being reduced to just 10 MPs in Scotland, the People’s Party have dug up some of their own recent policies in a resurrection pact. The Vow, famously ‘delivered’ is to be re-delivered, this time with extra bits. As one jester on twitter noted: “How many times can Scottish Labour say ‘Vote for us and get more powers’? At this rate we’ll be independent by September.”

There’s more. All those powers that Labour just spent months rejecting  and ridiculing? They’re back. You may remember we had chance to have full welfare powers in the Smith Commission and Labour turned that down. Now they want Scots to vote them in in order to get them.

It’s more Groucho than Karl from the People’s Party, Jim’s clearly remembering the dictum:

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

How Bad Is it?

Professor Richard Rose (from Strathclyde Centre for the Study of Public Policy) was commissioned to carry out a seat by seat analysis of polling across the UK by asset managers Toscafund (read it here).

His report states: “While the breakthrough of the SNP is startling when viewed from Westminster, it is consistent with trends in Scotland over more than a decade. Labour has never won more than one-third of the list vote in elections for the Scottish Parliament since it was established in 1999. After two terms of a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, in 2007 the SNP replaced it, forming a minority government with 36 percent of the seats.”

Things could get worse later this week.

Lord Ashcroft is due to  release his findings at 11 am this Wednesday and is already trailing it as being a bit special. But who’s to blame? They can’t touch the newly-installed Murphy now careering around in a bizarre double-act with Top Secret Never Before Seen Anywhere Person, Gordon Brown, who appears to have been fully-weaponised.

As Alan Cochrane put it in the Telegraph:

“Gordon Brown is to put himself at the head of a desperate bid to save Labour from general election defeat with an audacious plan to allow Scotland to pay higher pensions and welfare benefits than the rest of Britain. The former Prime Minister will also use a high-profile press conference, organised by the party, to promise that a Labour victory will mean Scotland getting the power to create entirely new benefits that are unavailable south of the Border.”

To be fair to Labour, almost anything is audacious to Alan Cochrane, but the dynamic duo may be more of an Odd Couple as the campaign unfolds. The introvert and bumbling intellectual Brown with the extrovert but unthinking Murphy, with McTernan lurking in the shadows like a Red White and Blue Gollum – ‘We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious.’

This is a farce of political illegitimacy shocking even by modern standards.

People have got used to the fact that politicians cover up, deny when they get found out, delay when it’s not convenient and seek power through compromise and endless slithering triangulation. But to actually have the gall to u-turn on such specific policies in such a short span of time is an extraordinary act of stupidity. It could only be attempted by a team of people who hold the electorate in contempt and are so blinded by their own right to rule that they must have assumed everything was just going to be as it always had been after the referendum.

B81NBCOCcAEUFuT.jpg large

It’s a desperate strategy, if you can call it that. It harks back to – and assumes a state of quietism that’s long-gone.

Like Labour like Britain. They could , with the continuity team they have on board from the victorious Better Together campaign patent a new slogan: ‘Better Yesterday’.

All of this was envisaged as early as 2002 by Tom Nairn (Pariah, Verso Books) who wrote:

‘Declining Britain’ had been happening for a century or so; but parody-Britain is a mere twenty-three years old. In that sense it is curiously like an unwilling new nation. Only here, the novel ‘identity’ happens to consist in a ceaseless puppet-show of sere age, ever-unfolding legitimacy and constant evocation of 1940. ‘Our Finest Hour’.


Parody Britain – Commemorating a Commemoration (2015)

This relentless staring backwards and the pursuit of power for powers sake looks threadbare and contemptible in the light of the last year’s revival.  There’s still enough idealism in the air to make Scottish Labour’s latest opportunism look ridiculous. It doesn’t help that the dwindling party is up against a movement. People keep calling the General Election on party terms, but we’re way beyond that.

The problem for Gollum and Co is that this isn’t Labour versus SNP any more it’s (still) about Hope versus Fear.

As Lesley Riddoch writes today:

” … a new party has been formed since the SNP quadrupled in size – and its new face must be more like its new support. It is – roughly a third of all candidates selected so far are relatively youthful women; Natalie McGarry, founder of Women for Independence, will take on Margaret Curran in Glasgow East; Alison Thewliss will challenge Labour’s Anas Sarwar in Glasgow Central; Joanna Cherry QC, a founder of Lawyers for Yes, will contest Edinburgh South West, a seat vacated by Alistair Darling; Margaret Ferrier is standing in Rutherglen; Dr Philippa Whitford in Central Ayrshire; Corri Wilson in Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock; Michelle Thomson in Edinburgh West; Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh in Ochil and South Perthshire; Carol Monaghan in Glasgow North West; and Kirsten Oswald against Jim Murphy (if he decides to stand) in East Renfrewshire.”

The energy of these new voices will be altogether too much of a force for a party in decline desperately re-treading policies to stave off the inevitable.

If the Yes movement was characterised by creativity and intellectual free-thinking, the No campaign was characterised by a crude form of threat / bargaining. The unconscious logic of Parody Labour will have gone something like this: “We offered more powers before and won. Let’s do it again.”

Unfortunately it’s Karl not Groucho that makes most sense here. What was it he said? “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”


Comments (29)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Les Wilson says:

    Excellent, like it, and it actually real!

  2. June Stewart says:

    Alas, Brown, Murphy and McTernan will huff and puff until they are red, white and blue in the face.

  3. Peter Arnott says:

    Thing is, they DO mean their promises at the same time as knowing they can’t keep them and that their delivery would split the Union as surely as a Yes vote would have done. Britain is melting down before our eyes.

  4. Marian says:

    The Labour Party fan club at the BBC, Herald, Scotsman, and Record, will have their work cut out to convince the voters of Scotland into believing anything will ever come out of Gordon Brown’s latest “dramatic intervention” – but no doubt they will try their best.

  5. Big Jock says:

    Brown paces up and down when he is talking. This is an old established psychological technique. Firstly people become mesmerised by the continuous movement . Secondly it allows the speaker being incincere ,to avoid eye contact with any individuals.It also gives the speaker more time to waffle like a schoolboy practising a speech in his bedroom. If you watch and listen to Brown the waffle is always the same. He is thinking to himself. This sounds good I just need to keep talking. The man is a professional charlatan. He is like a snake oil seller. Anything to keep Scotlands people at the feet of the London imperial masters. That’s all that matters to him. Don’t worry Ed I will speak tot he natives you will get your feeble 50!

    Alas this time Brown’s confidence trick has run out of steam. He doesn’t know it yet but his party are finished in Scotland. For good! SLAB will disintegrate if the SNP get over 40seats.

  6. Kenny says:

    Great to see so many fantastic women contesting seats for the SNP and representing Scotland.

  7. emilytom67 says:

    Just watched a fascinating documentary on Aaron Schwartz a young American computer genius,he died after taking his own life when under enormous strain facing trumped up charges by the US government,the real crime being to try to take all public information and make it free to all this was a bridge to far,but the real message was about the power of the internet/social media,the power to circumvent the establishment/msm,are we that are in the independance camp geared up to making the best possible use of these outlets,I certainly hope so as it is possibly our only means of getting a true message out,anybody have any ideas.

  8. Darien says:

    We dinnae want tae plead fir mair powers, as if we were some crappy colony. We want all powers, because we are a nation. Scotland must declare and take independence in May. We will have the majority to do so.

  9. Paul Coyne says:

    What’s hilarious is that all these ‘additional powers’ on offer will provoke such a backlash in England that they’ll get humped there as well! Smurphy said in his “inspirational” video that a new mansion tax across the UK will pay for more nurses in Scotland. How do we think that will play out down south??

  10. Tom Hogg says:

    My theory is that Labour have finally twigged that in Scotland they are no longer a government in waiting, they are an opposition that is so far off the pace that it doesn’t really matter what they say or do, so long as it keeps the SNP off the front pages. Everyone knows that governments don’t last forever and Labour’s constant tail-pulling about devo, fracking, justice, education and health will eventually pay off. If they survive that long.

    1. Jim_McIntyre says:

      I hope you are wrong. We are one more Labour government (in the UK) away from them being completely annihilated in Scotland. It is difficult to be for things like justice, health, education, devo, fracking when you are being bankrolled by frackers implementing austerity. I suppose the Labour vote might increase sooner or later. Let’s hope the radical indy left can develop a decent opposition instead of old, tired unionist claptrap.

  11. bringiton says:

    Scottish political parties are funded by Scots (by and large).
    Who funds “Scottish” Labour and for what purpose?

    1. Head Office in London funds the Scottish Branch Office. They haven’t been able to accept (yet) it’s for no purpose

    2. jimnarlene says:

      As it’s an “accounting unit”, the Labour party will be the funders and as we all know their plan is to put Scotland ” back in the box”, it’s not working.

  12. alistairliv says:

    In the original ‘history repeats itself’ quote, Marx claimed it was Hegel who said it first.

    “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”

    The event Marx was commenting on was the rise to power of Louis Napoleon, nephew of the more famous Napoleon Bonaparte. See

    But while Louis Napoleon replayed his uncle’s tragic reign as farce, here we have the same not-quite-world-historic personages replaying their own roles and even repeating their own lines in something closer to a Scottish Groundhog Day than a French farce.

  13. Lazarus says:

    ‘The introvert and bumbling intellectual Brown’

    -Fair enough having a pop at Murphy, he’s an easy target, but I get sick of the way Brown gets treated. Let’s not forget that ‘bumbling intellectual ‘ spent twenty years relentlessly and tirelessly pursuing debt forgiveness for the poorest countries in the world and is still at it. He helped end (African) austerity (for a while)! He did what all the ‘nueveau politicos’ in the indy ref who had never before uttered the word ‘social justice’ bleat on about. He did what Syriza are now attempting for Greece!

    He was at the sharp end/ leading end of the millenium dev goals, managed to pursuade/ bully the IMF into writing off 55 billion dollars of debt fromt he world’s 18 poorest countries 2005, this debt relief has now reached 36 countries, and the savings on debt repayment are earmarked to be spent on Education. (of course it wasn’t perfect and countries renaged – but that’s not Brown’s fault!) As a result hundreds of thousands if not millions of the world’s poorest kids now have a free education – fact! And he is still ‘bullying’/ ‘bumbling’ for 100% debt relief! He also ‘bullied’ the commons into passing a 0.7% GDP commitment to aid. More recently he ‘bullied’/ ‘bumbled’ the UN/ other countries into poviding a fund for the education for Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the Lebannon, when no one else seems hugely interested.

    While in office he redistributed more wealth than ANY other post war chancellor and pushed for the irradication of child poverty (look at the figures from before and after his term) – This is why he went soft on banking reg, as the tax receipts could be channelled to the poorest in the country. REDISTRIBUTION! – a word the SNP don’t seem to have heard of!

    And rather than swan around making himself super rich, – Brown donates most of his public speaking fees to charity and also has waved his PM’s pension – instead works like a dog for the UN’s Global Partnership for Education. And he actually gets results! He has done more to end child slavery than arguably any other politician except maybe Inacio Lula.

    So spare me you’re parochial chippy sneering Mike. Fair enough you want an indy Scot (and that’s about the extent of your Nats vision), but what exactly have you done recently to actually help other people? The Fife Diet? – a waste of 1 million pounds of tax payers money for your own vanity project – the you bleat on about food banks!!!!? (Just out of interest, when will the break down of expenses be released? – I sincerely hope none went on this chippy partisan website,or any other ‘Yes’ stuff because that would be illegal! and someone may have to look into SNP govt corruption!

    And what exactly has Alex Salmond done in comparrison? Destroyed the Mennie estate, one of Scotland’s most prized ecological sites + people’s homes? …the irony that was the SNP who reintroduced clearances into Scotland!

    Gordon Brown, even if he rubs people up the wrong way and is flawed, is also one of the great conviction politicians and a thoroughly decent man!

    So CAN it whinge bag!

  14. sparkyggb says:

    Yes!! Let us all be more charitable towards Gordon. As Lazarus says he is a decent fellow, who has committed socialist beliefs and he is a dedicated Labourite who tries to follow the ideology of the founding Labour movement.
    He is surely permitted to voice an opinion or belief like everyone else without everyone trying to discredit him. If you do not agree with him then you have the right to ignore him.
    Freedom of speech is a basic right. How much credence you put on what is said is up to you as an individual.
    BTW I do not agree with him or with him being ridiculed. Remember he had to put up with years of being second fiddle to Tony.

    1. Lazarus says:

      Now this is sinister. Seems my post has disapeared? Would be interesting to know why?

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        Would you now? For defamation reasons. I emailed you about this issue. Maybe your email is false?

  15. arthur thomson says:

    @sparkyggb. I must have missed the comment by Lazarus. Brown is given a ridiculous amount of exposure by the MSM which of course goes way beyond the right to freedom of speech. Together they seek to maintain their exploitation rights in Scotland. Brown is a shameful and shameless individual. I am sure that Scots will ignore him and reject his parties at the GE. The Scotch, on the other hand, may see no irony in his bizarre behaviour.

  16. Paul says:

    sparkyggb, A decent fellow wouldn’t have went round lying to the Scottish people all Brown deserves is our contempt not only for his role in the referendum but for his secret deal with Blair to bypass the electorate and become PM. A charlatan if ever there was one.

  17. The lack of knowledge of SNP and Scottish input to policies and money respectively down south deliberately suppressed by main news media cannot be underestimated.The Berkshire garden tenders are blinkered about anything north of Watford.

  18. Cameron’s leadership must be challenged as well.

  19. Is the SNP proposing a feisty candidate for Edinburgh South, my constituency? It’s as marginal as can be, and it would be sad to see it go to the Conservatives in the likely anti-Labour backlash.

    1. Jim_McIntyre says:

      Nae chance.

  20. Legerwood says:

    If history repeats itself for the second time as farce what is it when it repeats itself for a third time…the Labour party? Truly they are beyond parody.

  21. Jim_McIntyre says:

    God that picture of the leaders of the major parties at what looks like a local church charity fundraiser replete with Winston Churchill’s grandson. Christ almighty, why are we still part of the United Kingdom. Parody Britain sounds about right.

  22. John says:

    I think SLabour have peaked about 3 months too early. Now it is all downhill. Their only hope now is Jackie, Eleanor and the rest of BBC Scotland SLAB supporters.

  23. Marconatrix says:

    We just missed the Salmond leap, but now there’s a Sturgeon surge on!

    The polls have in fact been fairly steady since just after the referendum, ‘Labour’ c22%-26%, SNP 42%-52%, so that should be the baseline from which the campaign starts. Onwards and upwards, we should aim to win every last Scottish seat. Think of the effect, on us and on them 🙂

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.