An English Labourman Replies.

braggLast week Dave Cohen wrote An English Labourman Speaks. He wants to continue the dialogue and here responds to the comments it provoked.

When I wrote a blog for Bella Caledonia last week I didn’t know what to expect. In fact, I wasn’t that sure what I thought even after I’d finished writing it. I appreciate that so many of you went to the trouble to read my piece, and comment on it.

Your answers to my questions were illuminating and helpful. I’d say the main thrust of your responses was this: The political engagement of the nation last summer was bigger than any single party (“an idea that goes beyond party politics” said kininvie), intense and largely brilliant. As J Gedd said, “I would think that most people in Scotland experienced, as I did, the surge of political engagement as something wonderfully unexpected. Suddenly it seemed that flourishing around us was a movement which jaded old souls like myself had thought impossible.”

What many said was that the SNP were catalysts, but “the political parties didn’t do it. The political parties cannot do it, in England any more than they can in Scotland,” to quote Simon Brooke, and said in similar fashion by yesguy, golfnut and Kevin Lynch.

This obviously presents something of a challenge to me in England. If the SNP, who are currently enjoying a wave of popularity, are not doing this on their own, then how can a party like Labour that’s struggling in the polls hope to achieve anything approaching this?

They can’t, was the reply of many. Several responses gave an analysis of what’s wrong with Scottish Labour. A number, notably Drew Campbell, goldenayr, Jim Bennett and several others (see * at end of this article) wrote about why Scottish Labour – indeed, all Labour – is so unpopular.

The fact so many of you felt it necessary to tell me why Labour is no good means I obviously didn’t state my position clearly enough. At no point did I suggest Labour is ready to become the party so many of us in England still believe it can be: the nearest I came to saying that was that so far Ed’s leadership has offered glimpses of what Labour can become. It took real courage to attack Murdoch (to the horror of the old guard), even more Dacre, and to break with 50 years of slavish acceptance of American foreign policy. But I’m aware those moves alone are not enough.

So what is the way forward for the progressive left in the rest of the UK? I liked the idea first raised by paulmilnepoetry, then Alastair H, of a ‘Yes’ for England campaign. And of course it doesn’t need to be Ukip, Anton and Alex, in fact it’s the opposite. Reclaiming the flag for the left has long been an ambition of mine, but it’s hard to convince people you’re not on some jingoistic crusade. Also, I’m not sure England as an entity or many of its regions are united by that same sense of antipathy and legitimate grievance as the Scots. There are pockets of non-Ukip self-determination in the north and south-west of England, some genuine feelings of injustice, but our regions have never had anything forced on them to match, for example, Highland Clearances or the poll tax.

This historical antipathy (as explored by mikeyboy and MBC) also helps explain why in England we have so far been unable to translate the enormous sense of outrage against the coalition’s austerity policies into something coherent. In addition, the ability of the coalition to help direct people’s anger onto alternative scapegoats, notably immigrants and the EU, has siphoned off much anger.

Thanks to ‘Kinnock’ for articulating it, I guess what I’m looking for is a nationalish, social democratic movement. It’s a shame many of Kinnock’s valid criticisms sat next to a number of unnecessary insults (I was aware of some flag waving during the campaign, for example, but wasn’t picking up on social media that this was the main thrust ), because it makes the criticisms so easy to dismiss. I get that many of you are not yet ready to accept that at the moment in England, Labour and the Greens (and possibly Lib Dem members) are the only people who can deliver this.

A few of you imagined that I speak for the English Labour Party. I don’t, I’m just a bloke who sometimes votes for them, and happens to live in an area of London where a totally moribund party was brought back to life two or three years ago by a bunch of interesting dynamic young people. My support for Labour at this point is an accident of geography. If I’d been living in Scotland I’d probably have joined the SNP, or in Brighton, the Greens.

These people, my Labour neighbours, have all reached the same conclusions you have – the current system in Westminster is broken, it needs a complete overhaul, let’s start with massive decentralisation of taxation powers (as dickybeau suggests), then quickly follow that with abolition of FPTP (which Miliband wants), and the House of Lords. They also believe in limiting economic growth and implementing big environmental changes.

And there are thousands of them up and down the country. One respondent here described Labour as a hollowed out husk, which is probably true in Scotland, and describes the Tories and LDs in England perfectly. But across the UK thousands of people are knocking on doors on behalf of Labour.

You may be right that they are deluded, they’d be better off joining the Greens, Labour is finished for good. But many, like you, have been galvanised by green politics, Occupy, and indeed your own socially progressive movements.

Many of you repeated your own reasons for despising Scottish Labour, and for hating UK Labour for attaching themselves to the Better Together campaign. Nothing I said contradicted your view, what I’m trying to do is acknowledge it happened, and find a way forward.
That’s another reason why I’m finding this so painful to write: I see the very point at which a truly large, UK-wide, cross-party movement towards social change might be possible, happening just when those we can learn most from – you – are too busy organising your own revolution. Of course the prospect of independence is exciting for Scotland, imagine what that same spark, hope and energy could create across the UK.

You don’t need to explain to me why you dislike/despise/disown the Labour Party. I know that.

I would ask you to look beyond your opinions, valid as they are, and read what Jon Cruddas has to say (see here). I don’t expect you to agree with everything, or to believe that Labour can deliver, all I can tell you is this is where Labour thinking – as in the leadership, as well as the members – is now.

You may – and do – say that Ed’s failure to break entirely with Labour’s old ways, his inability to break every link with old Labour/new Labour and to totally embrace devolution, is a weakness of leadership, and you may be right.

But thanks again, I hope we keep talking because that really is the only way forward, and I’ll leave with my favourite response, thanks for this from Headstaethefire: “Good luck pal.”

*Doug Daniel, lawrenceab, Pam McMahon, Corporatist Hell, ecruden, Valerie rooney, bjsalba, MBC, Dan Huil, CJK, Kenny, FrankM, Annette, Alastair H, Th, John, Hilary Finch, thomaspotter2014, Donald Urquhart, Arthur Thomson, Dale, Bill Andersen, IAB.

Comments (76)

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  1. Mealer says:

    Hi Dave,
    Looking at your photo above,I can’t help but think you look awful familiar.Did you used to be in the New Seekers?
    Anyway,it was good to hear your thoughts on the comments.I find your thoughts interesting but,with the utmost of respect, not really relevant to where I am now culturally,socially and politically.”British” is a concept which will have to be jettisoned so England can move forward.

    1. Frederick Robinson says:

      Are you being funny, Mealer, or did you really not realise that was Billy Bragg in the photo?

  2. dougiestrang says:

    Thanks for good, thoughtful response Dave. I admire your faith in the possibility of Labour’s rehabilitation but as long as they remain a centralist party, and the centre continues to shift to the right, there doesn’t seem much hope. I guess the question is, which party in England has policies that represent a genuine alternative? And surely that’s who you should be voting for.

  3. Devereux says:


  4. Elaine Black says:

    Dave, I am afraid I agree with Mealer.

    Federalism is the key.

    English Labour should seize the campaign for Independence from the right wing and make it their own. They should support the SNP and Plaid Cymru to argue for an islands convention to sort things out.

    Present the case for 4 independent countries with an islands alliance of good neighbours that includes Eire and respects different cultures and political landscapes.

    They should argue a case that will, as in Scotland, attract Labour, Liberal and Socialist Voters keen to modernise and improve democracy.

    The Scandinavian model works. You should pick it up and run with it. The Euro elections would be a good kick off, setting you apart from the neoliberal conservative right.

    I am amazed the Labour party has never thought of it, tbh. They should have the courage, like the SNP, to stand up and fight conservative orthodoxy, rather than trying to appease it.

    They are being held back by the tribalism of Scottish Labour, I am afraid.

    1. Elaine Black says:

      Doh ! *Euro referendum.

  5. lucydol says:

    Thanks for your perspective from London. It’s very interesting and echoes what I have been saying all the way through the indyref campaign: England needs its own revolution too. I’m not on the ground there so I cannot say how, but my feeling is that it will not happen through the Labour party as it is. Its brand is just not strong, and people would not unite behind it. It maybe looks as if we are all uniting behind SNP (a party), but in reality a lot of the support, while genuine, is for independence or further ‘say’ for Scotland, and many of us are not SNP members or voters at all. I think it’s easy to look at the ‘surge’ and think it’s a sudden surge but actually if you tap into the psychology of what is happening in Scotland (me as an example) the feelings of being marginalised and a junior partner in a supposedly equal union run really deep. So, in England, you don’t really have that same angle. So I don’t know what would best give you guys traction and build momentum. I suspect it would have to be something new. The Yes movement, while its roots were not new, was new and appealling, and lots of people came into it because it was inclusive, friendly and full of hope. And because it provided SPACE for everyone, even marginalised people, to speak and to debate, away from the normal central-belt middle-class cosy intellectualised scene (bugbear of mine). So we had events in rural halls and all sorts of venues, under the brolly of being a Yes thing, but really a lot of it was talking about everyday issues. It was as if we now had permission to do so. To my mind, that’s what you need in England. How to achieve that????? To keep me optimistic I ‘liked’ Billy Bragg on facebook and lap up what he says. I really wish you all the best. Any help you need, keep looking to Scotland!

    1. Dervon says:

      labour having a strong brand wouldnt make any difference, it isnt about that, in fact, I’d argue it’s this tinpot mentality that is at the root of the problem. labour was never a brand, good or bad. Labour was a grassroots belief workers once shared to improve conditions. I fear your belief of Scotland as a marginalized partner in a dysfuctional relationship doesnt do justivice to the swarthes of house owners, nevoue rich Scots, who prefer home ownership, vacationing in the Balearics and not caring to much about the next bill in parliament. I dont see it as a Scotish English thing here. I cant agree. England has been a champion of mobilising values for civil rights, lets put aside the usual Post Colonial arguments momenterily, and value the role England had globally since the Magna Carta.. As a Scot, I value this.

  6. Sylvestra says:

    You are entitled to your opinions but I, and many more like me, have no interest in ‘rekindling the UK’.

    The UK and Westminster is broken beyond repair and we want to do things ourselves for ourselves.

    We are NOT, and will NOT accept being treated as, ‘second class citizens’. We have been cheated and asset stripped for too long,

    This is OUR country and WE will govern it.

    1. Andrew Brown says:

      Well said. I couldn’t agree more. Someone on Wings recently quoted Michael Collins as saying when asked what he wanted from England ‘Leave us be’. That’s all I want too, high time we went our separate ways.

    2. Dervon says:

      who is we? this is the type of rhetoric I want to get away from, and not that different from the language at Ibrox. Come on!

  7. Les Wilson says:

    I am sorry, one has to really realise just how Slab has treated Scotland for a very long time. They are proving every day just how nasty they are. Constant promises, constant lies, they are of course nothing new to us, but now there is one big difference now, and that is that they can no longer expect the support of us Scots, they have been laid bear and it is not a pretty sight.

    They know, that policies suggested for Scotland would never pass UK head office, for their target is now middle England, what their Northern Branch offers Scots is not real, and they know it. Watch them any week at FMQ’s, they are a nasty, bitter bunch. They have been in government many times and have always been predominant here, our goodwill has now ran out, we can now see what they really are. Morally corrupt, and perhaps in many other ways too. They are no longer fit for purpose in Scotland, if indeed, they ever were.

    If Independent, Scotland can go it’s own way, we can make our own rules, and the wishes of the people will be paramount. They hope is that by doing things different, we can show example to England and that they may take heed. England can speak for itself, it can choose the way it decides to go, Scotland has to, for once look after our own, our needs, our priorities. England if they see what we do, and like the ideas could follow should it wish.

    One thing is for sure Labour has treat Scotland as if no matter what they do, they still deserve the Scottish vote, that is no longer the case, I cannot see how they can wash away all their wrongs while pandering to the middle England votes they crave. No they are done and dusted up here, and deservedly so.

    Looking at them now, I often ponder just why I voted for them before, maybe it was just following my father, but he is dead now, something like labour in Scotland, I would NEVER vote for them again.
    Good luck with your hope of something fundamentally different from Labour, but truth is, it now belongs in a different age.
    Something more radical is required to gain back it’s English voters, I fail to see how they could or would change, they are addicted to so many bad habits that they are unlikely to be able to change, they way you would wish them too. So I will say again, good luck with that, I do wish you well in your honest efforts.

  8. emilytom67 says:

    Dave New Labour had 13yrs of power to achieve what an unmitigated in Iraq/Afghanistan for the poor people of these contries,the courted and got into bed with the bankers/financial sharks for what?1.4trillion of debt,they have/are been horrendous in government,yet up they pop again to make ludicrous promises.People in these isles have not wakened up to the fact that we have the longest running “establishment” in the world,they are not so because they are idiots,they offer the baubbles/bangles/beads to the “peasants” in the shape of “honours” and they fall over themselves in the rush to accept by then they are ensnared,it is the “venus flytrap” all over,they fall into the cesspit of corruption/perversion and sell their souls,e.g. Michael Martin trade unionist MP for Springburn Glagow one of the poorest areas of the UK they elect him as speaker of the house then continue to make a clown of him even calling him “Gorbals Mick” a misnomer if ever there was one,mind you they didn,t have to try hard as he made a complete fool of himself and all those that supported him,flouncing about in gown and a pair of womens knickers on his head,representing Springburn ffs.

    1. Frederick Robinson says:

      And the years 1979-97, emilytom67…?

  9. Orlando Quarmby says:

    Best advice I can give you, Dave Cohen, is that when you’re in a hole it’s best to stop digging.

    No disrespect, but nobody’s interested in Scotland. We’ve got the momentum to put us on a trajectory out of the British State and everything rotten associated with that – Westminster, the Lords, the Monarchy, the British media, in fact the whole British Establishment.

    We have become Scottish in our own minds and will not be put back into the box of being a region of a British State run for the benefit of a corporate elite by a Tory/New Labour duopoly from London. I wish you well in efforts to create something in England which resembles what the Labour Party once stood for. I suspect that will only come when England learns to stand on its own two feet in the world without the need to “rule” other nations of these isles as a substitute for the loss of Empire nearly three quarters of a century ago. Or without squandering billions on nuclear systems which have never been “independent” at the same time as foodbank use grows, just so “British” Prime Minister’s and Whitehall ‘mandarins’ can strut the world stage under the delusion that post-imperial Britain is a world power and still rules the waves.

    Hopefully Scotland will help by showing England what’s possible. But we will emphatically not help by staying in a union with your British State. The Union is dead. Scottish independence is inevitable. The corollary to that being that English independence is too. Start thinking about what kind of political representation you would like to run it.

    1. “We have become Scottish in our own minds”

      This. Independence is firstly and foremostly, psychological. What if I told you…that there is no box.

      I am Derick Tulloch fae the big broun Island of Yell and I am a free citizen of the independent Republic of Scotland. Just waiting for the institutions to catch up.

      Let’s just go and write that Constitution, and adopt it unilaterally. Ultra Vires? pffft.

    2. Dervon says:

      this is a bit cliched, Orlando. I’ve personally never observed class difference in Scotland nor the clientele who discern the lobster and oyster cafes and the beans and toast. Scots, themselves, not spoiling in the glory of empire, can only wonder???

  10. Johnny come lately says:

    Dave Cohen

    I don’t know if it’s just me or there are indeed others who feel the same way, but I really don’t care what happens to The Labour party and I really mean that. I really have no desire to offer any input to help this party or the creatures which inhabit it.
    Labour like the Tories are part of the problem and are not part of the solution. The party both North and South of the border drove out most of its free thinker’s decades ago and are now bankrupt of funds, talent, activists, ideas, hope and vision.
    If a new left leaning political force is to arise out of the ashes of the UK, then it will not be The Labour Party (too far gone I’m afraid to say), therefore I would not waste my time, energy or resources attempting to use this hollowed out shell as a vehicle for political reform. Hell, they can’t even sort themselves out, how can anybody expect them to begin to address the issues facing the UK.

    Jon Crudas
    “I believe that Labour together with the wider social and progressive movements will define the political settlement of the next decade”

    Yes Jon and I believe in fairies. Labour has no more chance of halting its party’s own decline anymore than the Crow could halt their own decline The labour party like the Crow will survive, but in the end will be be reduced to serfs amongst the other parties. Just like the Libdems.

    PS. Sorry I’ve nothing positive to contribute.

  11. stilbury says:

    “I see the very point at which a truly large, UK-wide, cross-party movement towards social change might be possible, happening just when those we can learn most from – you – are too busy organising your own revolution. Of course the prospect of independence is exciting for Scotland, imagine what that same spark, hope and energy could create across the UK.”

    So let’s see some of it then. It seems to be that the Scots are doing all the hard work here. We would welcome with open arms our friends south of the border joining with us in a fundamental rejection of the status quo. But I don’t see that happening any time soon, do you? And until it does, then I’m afraid we have to get on and do it ourselves.

  12. Drew Campbell says:

    Thanks, Dave, for fulfilling your promise to respond constructively. Most welcome.

    I acknowledge I was particularly excoriating in my analysis of Labour. The complacency of a decades-long (almost) one-party state, manifested in a still operating patchwork of rotten burghs, has put Labour far beyond redemption up here, but I hope and believe that pockets of honest folk remain amongst their membership both here and south of the border. Indeed I have friends as far away as Aberdeen and London of whom I know this to be true. Whether your party has the capacity for reform and reinvention required to again become a vehicle for genuine social progress I seriously doubt but I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

    For what it’s worth, the only advice I would give is this: Beware party loyalty. When the good of the party takes priority over the good of the people – and the two are never indivisible – then you’re sunk. It becomes very difficult to sustain that principle but it is, in my opinion, essential.

    Something good will emerge in England, and very soon. Hope you’re part of it.

  13. Robert Graham says:

    yep nailed it “Orlando” it can’t or won’t be fixed check out Chris Hedges on u/tube he says the same thing about corporate america and the political system over there and concludes trying to do a deal with the establishment is just wasting your time just do it no warning no giving them a second chance they have all the power media etc Alex Salmond fired the first shot by letting england know they aint getting the tories so live with in and move on going to be an interesting few weeks until the election by that time anyone north of the border will be a plague carrier or worse the love bombing is over get used to it

  14. ELAINE FRASER says:

    David Cohen thank you for this and I agree its important to continue a dialogue . I think we could have done with more views like yours being expressed openly and loudly in the MSM during the referendum campaign but unfortunately the impression given ( by MSM) was that most of England was either unaware, indifferent or hostile to the Yes campaign and its aims. Yet we always knew many shared our hopes for social justice and an end to austerity sadly however the present Labour Party does not offer the vision needed. I think a grassroots movement is the way forward and social media can play a huge role.

  15. Mabel says:

    i agree with Mealer and others above, many of us up here have increasingly begun to feel the same over the years. We have moved far beyond your position.

    Labour’s turn to the right to become electable to southern English voters was, granted, a big part of the problem for Scots, but as an Englishman you seem still, despite acknowledging how far short Labour falls from what you wish, to have the hope it will relatively quickly be able to metamorphose into the beautiful butterfly of your imagining. I believe you’re dreaming, and even if Labour can change it will take so long to do so, and still being tied to Home Counties tory voting constituencies, I feel it might never be elected again no matter how beautiful it emerges.

    For me, and many Scots, should labour turn back to the left it will leave many of us indifferent since we’ve now become all too aware of the many other problems the union brings and has always brought to our country. From Darien on, past the Clearances, Poll tax, etc., right up to the way English politicians and media are portraying Scots and their democratic participation in the coming election today, we Scots and our country have always been at a disservice when it comes to having differing opinion or when trying to act for our benefit when our interests differs from England’s, theirs always takes precedence. So we’ve always had to work within their systems and rules to succeed at all. Since the English population outnumber us so greatly, that that should be so is perhaps only natural, but it doesn’t make it right.

    They used Darien back then as an example of our uselessness at succeeding on our own, just as they’re now using the oil figures in the white paper. 300 years and the argument for being part of the union is the same! And countering the ‘well Scots benefitted greatly from empire’ thing, well yes, maybe we ran the empire abroad which created jobs in coal mines, steel plants and jute mills here, but it was run from London and mostly to the benefit of London. There’s greater truth is the saying ‘scotland’s greatest export is its people’ and the reason they left in such huge numbers, whether forced out as emigrants or going voluntarily to empire, the reason they did so was because there was so little in Scotland to keep them. Our people leaving in droves to go to England and other countries does not show how very beneficial to Scotland’s economy or society at large the empire was, nor indeed how beneficial union is.

    I read a Cruddas speech once about the state of America in the year 1968 when Robert Kennedy gave a speech about hope and aspiration and a change of political culture which he was obviously hoping to emulate within the labour party now. Well things have gone so very well for America since 1968 haven’t they? I also despaired of all the wooly talk of William Morris as well, however well intentioned. I really hope English labour, through Cruddas or whoever, can change and if it changes, can be elected in England. But Scotland needs to go its own way and have politicians and the decisions they make closer to home. And yes, to Kinnock types, we will have problems and difficulties and make mistakes, but we will do it on our own terms, for our own people, within our own country and hopefully have a majority of our nearest neighbours wishing us well. I certainly wish you well for your country.

  16. John Mooney says:

    Sorry David, Labour has spewed Murphy and Mcternan unto the Scottish body politic knowing that this pair are despised by the majority of Slab members(the few that are left) so please spare me the faux example of Milaband as a social healer and is really “Old”Labour at heart,he is as much part of Labours problem as the rest of the unreconstructed Blairites that have destroyed your party,I wish you well in your quest in England but we in Scotland are on different journey and I hope our respective countries part on friendly terms in the future.

    1. Lochside says:

      Scotland rebelled against Charles in 1638 and the imposition of the Anglican prayer book. Inadvertently setting off the so-called English ‘ civil war.

      Well history is about to repeat itself: England is on the cusp of facing up to its inherent contradictions of deep class and regional inequities.

      Again due to the Scots experiencing a political enlightenment not seen in these islands in three hundred years.

      The ‘Bishops’ war was not simply religious in nature but also about Presbyterian thinking regarding sovereignty residing within the people not the monarch.

      This movement inspired levellers and others in England to engineer the destruction,albeit temporarily,of the monarchy.

      A new political movement needs to and will appear soon in England after Scotland leaves the Union. The dispossessed and cowed voices of the ‘New’ England will demand it.

  17. MBC says:

    Thanks for explaining the reason that the left in England can get going is that England is too diverse, or dare I say, divided?

    1. MBC says:

      I mean’t ‘can’t get going’. Typo, sorry.

  18. ian says:

    As a student in Glasgow in the mid 70’s i saw the poverty and the many run down areas and do you know what these same areas are as bad as ever now,nothing has changed.Labour has run Glasgow since the beginning of time and Scotland has been dominated by its labour mps they are all no longer fit for purpose.
    You will have to have your own revolution South of the border if thats possible, we will be getting on with our own.

  19. Rory McIntosh says:

    Dave, you continue to miss the point. I don’t think you have any comprehension what was unleashed on Scots and people living here to vote no. The message was you vote to leave and we will economically ruin you, leave you with out capacity to defend yourselves and ensure you can not join international organisations.

    the labour party was central to delivering this message to the people of Scotland and thus securing a yes vote.

    Do as much analysis as you want, peoples eyes have been opened and there is no way back for labour in Scotland!

    Rory McIntosh

    P.S. Ed is completely unelectable, you, your party, the electorate and Ed himself, know it!

  20. Kenny says:

    To be honest, I find this constant clining to a politicial party, especially one as discredited in every possible matter (wars, corruption, expenses claims) as the Labour Party, to be naive and childlike.

    Why do you expect ANYTHING GOOD from a party, which George Orwell described even back in the 1940s as being “fatally in thrall to a reactionary establishment”?? I am afraid Labour’s love of ermine will always triumph any naive hopes that the party will ever encourage anything even as mild and tame as federalism.

    Why this need for a Labour Party? The Labour Party is disappearing for ever in Scotland and are we any the poorer for it? NO! We are immensely richer! We have the Common Weal project, RIC, the SSP, Tommy Sheridan, Greens, good left-wing members of the SNP like Sandra White.

    Common Weal or the RIC did not appear by magic overnight. They were put together by hard work and now they are a very visible and progressive influence in Scotland and Scottish politics. I feel sure they will be great assets when indy comes.

    So why not look at what Scotland is doing and just replicate it south of the border? Create a Common Weal project or Radical [England] Campaign? Why this need to cling to an establishment political party, especially one as fundamentally right-wing and corrupt as Labour?!?

    1. MBC says:

      Thanks for the Orwell quote from the 1940s. That reminds me of the social historian the late Raphael Samuel. I remember a lecture he once gave based on his research into social attitudes in the 1920s, about what he called, ‘the culture of control’. This was about how the establishment was afraid that they were losing control of the populace, being infected by heady ideas of socialism, and that women and housewives were also chafing for a change in their lot. The establishment were worried we were getting too emotional, losing the British sang froid, and becoming harder to control, so they were employing a variety of advertising and propaganda tactics in the press. Women were encouraged to drink Horlicks if life was getting too tough. Horlicks ads appeared in papers advising this as an antidote.

      He mentioned the behaviour and tactics of the Labour Party during the General Strike; their advice to striking men not to get too stirred up, not to meet in more than twos or threes, to find something useful to do around the house, like fix that wobbly shelf, keep busy, take your mind off things, don’t let boredom and frustration lead you astray. It even recommended cold baths. This was all in and advice leaflet produced by the Labour Party to be distributed amongst striking men.

  21. What a good piece. Unfortunately the main problem with English Politics has been missed completely! The two main parties of Westminster don’t want us engaged! It suits better if we walk about blaming other socioeconomic groups for our own poverty, joblessness, homelessness etc! They can then be left to do what suits the elite and big business and in this Labour are no different. I can only presume it stems from career politicians educated at Oxbridge and the likes who carry on with the same groups of friends and allow “real”life to bypass them. It will take a generation but we need to start now. Have only members of our community serving us in Westminster and local councils. Youth group leaders, teachers, doctors and care workers. People who live and breath the issues in their every day life are best placed to seek the solutions without being self serving. No more safe seats being used for party heads. Have the parties truly made up of people from all walks of life not the social and political elite as it is now! Peers will engage the youth of today to be our future leaders. But it has to be from community peer groups not a group of unelected lords and ladies who’s interests are being served at the demise of the country and of our fellow countrymen and women. Scotland has changed because people from our communities have been awoken politically and are leading our country into a new and exciting future. The only people stopping the rest of the UK doing the same are the politicians and their big business buddies who stand to lose their hold over all of our lives!

  22. hektorsmum says:

    I have to say Dave that those who say that many in Scotland have moved on, much further than Labour who even running have no chance of catching up. We are blessed, well maybe cursed with a Party with whom truth is something else, they lie continually and they think that people still believe them.
    The former Labour Party members are the ones most angry, I have never been anything other than someone who has either supported the SNP or actually a member so I cannot say I am. Funnily enough I though we had a good chance of winning the Referendum but for the lying and cheating which went on manipulated by the Establishment at the end.
    If you think that Ed Miliband will bring Labour back from the brink of extinction it will be a miracle, Labour had it’s soul taken away by the Establishment years ago, hence all the Lords and Dames. England needs a new left wing party, where it appears from I have no idea, perhaps the Greens, who knows.
    I wish you all the luck in the world time for England to make her debut again, as an independent nation, then you can enjoy your country without those troublesome Scots and Welsh and Irish. So many of us are fed up being seen as second class citizens.

  23. emilytom67 says:

    When Czechoslovakia came to the parting of the ways Vaclav Havel of the Czechs sat down with his Slovak counterpart,they agreed to a 27point plan for separation,it was a very civilised/amicable agreement compare with ours.

  24. Labour fell victim to cronyism and vested interest decades ago. To this day they are not a democratic party; we only have to look at the shambles of the leadership elections where some people had up to 9 votes depending on their positions within the Party/Unions etc. Ed can pretend to be as Red as he likes but he was central to the Blair/Brown disaster – a policy wonk as far as I remember. Labour became all about Labour and time has run out. During the IndyRef the English Left completely missed the point and wittered on about solidarity (with some notable exceptions e.g. Billy Bragg). It seems now some are wakening up to what’s going on in Scotland. It’s not all about the SNP or even about the Parties. Common Weal have some great ideas and RIC were central to the Yes Campaign. England could learn much from their experience.

  25. FrankM says:

    It was a pleasure to read your original article Dave and also to read this follow-up. Thank you for your engagement with us and for your clearly presented thoughts. They were most welcome and I wish you well.

    However, I think you will see from the latest comments that we have no taste for Labour. They do not have the integrity and compassion that we are looking for.
    Many Labour members have already left to join the SNP, Greens or perhaps no party at all.. So some ‘Old Labour’ people still exist up here, but have no truck with the Labour Party. The Scottish branch office of Labour is an absolute joke.

    I agree absolutely with Drew Campbell’s thoughts that:

    “The complacency of a decades-long (almost) one-party state, manifested in a still operating patchwork of rotten burghs, has put Labour far beyond redemption up here, but I hope and believe that pockets of honest folk remain amongst their membership both here and south of the border.”

    Drew’s comments about party loyalty are also most pertinent. I find his comments invariably sensible and good to read.

    Orlando Quarmby also strikes nice chords when he says:

    “We have become Scottish in our own minds and will not be put back into the box of being a region of a British State run for the benefit of a corporate elite by a Tory/New Labour duopoly from London.”

    This change in Scottish minds is a most powerful change and has helped to provide the impetus for the engagement we are seeing here north of the border. I concur with Orlando, who goes on to say:

    “Hopefully Scotland will help by showing England what’s possible. But we will emphatically not help by staying in a union with your British State. The Union is dead. Scottish independence is inevitable. The corollary to that being that English independence is too.”

    One we in Scotland have Independence, or complete control of our own affairs (not just those selected for us by Westminster, who care not a jot for us and have proved it in the Southern rags), then perhaps we will be in a better position to support our southern friends in their struggles. At least it can inspire others as to what can be achieved. There are many good people both North and South of our border. However, evil survives because good people do nothing about it, do not make themselves aware of it or are simply full of apathy and comfortable with their own lot.

    However, we must attend to our own struggle first. This struggle is against the British State, which is absolutely corrupt to the core.

    There are many views up here in the YES movement as to what an Independent Scotland should look like and these views are all important in a Democracy. Democracy is what we are after and should we eventually gain our Independence then, in a smaller country, I should think that one of the benefits gained will be that we will be closer to our Government and can thus hold them more easily to account.

    Many thanks once again and I do hope to remain part of our conversation.

    1. Drew Campbell says:

      Thanks, Frank – you’re not so bad yourself!

  26. FrankM says:

    Sorry – the last part should read “Many thanks once again and I do hope that you remain part of our conversation”.

  27. lawrenceab says:

    David, this was a response we would have liked to receive, but did not!, from many down south. It showed you really read and thought about the comments received to your first piece. There will be several detailed responses to this. I just would like to record my appreciation for your open-mindedness and courtesy and wish you the best… as someone said, England is at least two years behind the energized and politically vibrant electorate of Scotland,and it won’t be easy. I am personally sympathetic to Cruddas but I just don’t believe UK Labour can shed its skin and baggage and re-invent itself in time to ‘catch the wave’. More likely, a civic movement will channel the nascent energy you say you have identified… what is there in the English ecosystem that is similar to CommonWeal ? And it would have to start in the North and West Countries and work toward the centre.

  28. Steve Asaneilean says:

    Dave – thank you for having the courage to come back for a second attempt.

    I understand what you are looking for I think – I just don’t believe it can be achieved under the current constitutional arrangements of these islands. Goodness knows we have had the Labour party for 100 years and if anything the last Labour government in Westminster actually took us backwards by a generation or two.

    But for me that’s not where the rot set in (though to this day “Blairism” appals me).

    For me I stopped voting Labour after the Monklands Scandal. When the immoral and unethical behaviour of that Labour local council was dismissed by the local MP and party leader, John Smith, as a local issue and he refused to take any action or responsibility then I knew for me the game was up and voting Labour was not going to be an option again despite never having voted any other way up to that point.

    How can Labour in England overcome a neo-liberal concensus among almost all the mainstream printed press, broadcast media and, frankly, many of the ordinary people.

    That’s not to say we don’t have the same issues here but we are a small community of only 5 million where most of us feel like we kinda know each other and where it’s much easier to call things out and actually be heard.

    I hope England changes the way that you and I both hope because goodness knows so many people there need things to change if they are to have any hope of a better life.

    But it’s up to them to change and to want to change and I see precious little evidence of either. If Scotland can lead by example that’s all well and good – but it’s also as much as we can do. The rest is down to you guys if you really want it.


  29. Sorry David, that we seem to hostile. The fact is that Labour are the Establishment party in Scotland, in a way that is probably unimaginable in London, and so has attracted the worst of the careerists into their midst.

    However, now I understand that you don’t just want to save the Labour Party, and you’re looking outwards, let’s go.

    It isn’t possible to do anything before 7 May, regardless of the result. You need to build a mass movement. Oddly, I think London might be a good place to do it, because London needs to be reclaimed for ordinary people in much the way that rural Scotland does.

    So, work with Occupy, TUSC, the Greens, non-aligned trade unionists, CND, CAAT. Don’t set out to convert anyone to party politics. At this moment, to be honest, “Labour” are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    However, just as much of the old guard of the Labour Party, and idealistic young activists, joined the Yes Movement, you will naturally find folk who are pissed off by party machinations, but want to DO stuff. I’m thinking here of Sweets Way in Barnet, and the other folk who are under threat.

    Why not think of it as a “London For People” movement, and fight for green spaces, working class housing. It was the activities that drew people out, not the dreary meetings in the back room of pubs (believe me, I’ve done that in my time. I guess most of us have)

    Because, the independence referendum gave us a specific point to rally round, I would imagine that saving London from Boris and his billionaire chums has a bit of a time limit on it as well. £2800 per month is an affordable rent? As if! When are the London Assembly elections? How easy is it for independents to stand?

    There is no one-size fits all. Some of our new activists did join SNP (I didn’t). Others are working on Land Reform, the unexpected hot topic of the referendum campaign; many women are involved in Women For Indy, and now in prison reform; we are trying to educate ourselves as well: read up on Common Weal. I’m sure you’ll find a lot to agree with, and perhaps a few suggested ways to move forward.

    The whole of the UK needs to be democratised. It has never been a democracy. When the universal vote came in, the working classes had to work around Westminster, not the other way round. That needs to change.

    There is no one-size fits all answer. What works in London won’t work in the South West of England, or the North East. That doesn’t mean we can’t all support each other and work together, but we ALL need to reclaim the cities, towns and land we live in from the political classes and their media allies.

    Good luck!

  30. Hello Dave, thanks a lot for sharing your views and response from London, I particularly liked this paragraph:

    “These people, my Labour neighbours, have all reached the same conclusions you have – the current system in Westminster is broken, it needs a complete overhaul, let’s start with massive decentralisation of taxation powers (as dickybeau suggests), then quickly follow that with abolition of FPTP (which Miliband wants), and the House of Lords. They also believe in limiting economic growth and implementing big environmental changes.”

    I’ve been staying in London for the past few months and talking to many people here and I think you are completely spot on. The way Scotland is doing things is different from that in England because of the very historical reasons you state, but that doesn’t mean that all the English have gotten all the cake-especailly in the North and other areas, and of course the Scottish political landscape varies due to that too. Now I’m not a Scottish Labour supporter, definitely not after indyref, and if I lived in England I wouldn’t support Labour, and you understand why, but i also understand why people such as you in London have no alternative like we do, an alternative, being the SNP, that we don’t necessarily exclusively support in all areas of policy, but provides a point for those of us in Scotland behind which we can rally to have our say, make our demands known by sending a clear message (that this system is outdated, unfair) in the form of votes to Westminster.

    I think this is great, instead of constantly getting mad or upset at the Other, it is so much better and more productive to talk to each other and try and truly understand and sympathise with each other’s narratives-and that is different from agreeing with each other, you can understand someone even if you don’t agree with their argument -communication is key to unity, and unity is key to any kind of change in the system. I will always want an independent Scotland but from reading your piece it hits home that it would be much better to have an indy Scotland sitting beside an amicable England due to the fact that those in rUK who are suffering injustices at the hands of a broken system there are also granted restitution.

  31. mike cassidy says:


    At 62 I’ve lived through a period of Scottish history where the Conservatives went from having a seat so safe they could drop a prime minister in to it – to one where they struggle for any representation at all.

    With hindsight we can see Labour in Scotland were doomed to a slow decline as soon as Blair and Brown turned their party into a Tory tribute band.

    If what we are witnessing now is that process hitting critical mass, I can sympathise with progressive people like yourself worrying about being stuck in a country where there is little hope for your values having any say at the national level.

    But when we become independent, feel free to emigrate!

  32. CJK says:

    Hi Dave, thanks for your further thoughts and acknowledgement of our various contributions. I think I would just reiterate my previous point. The seemingly inevitable journey to Scottish independence cannot accommodate others at this time. However, the achievement of that outcome, as stuttering and difficult a process as it may be, will provide the necessary moment/momentum for progressive politics elsewhere in the uk because it will show that the nature and character of Westminster politics is no longer tenable. Our transformation will also be the uk’s transformation. Please cheers us on, it will serve everyone on these islands well.

  33. ScottishLass says:

    Dave… I appreciate your efforts and commend your dialogue. However, Labour have presumed themselves to be more important than the people of Scotland, for decades; they have treated us with the utmost contempt and have kept our country poor to keep themselves in power. They are nothing more than smiling assassins and the level of their treachery has been unforgivable. So what happens to the party now is no real concern of ours. It really is as simple as this:- “Nemo me impune lacessit” or in other words…”No harm to me goes unpunished”…a true and prophetic Scot’s proverb.

  34. JGedd says:

    I am sorry to say, Dave, that to achieve what you wish is going to be a hard and gruelling road. As I commented before, if I were you, I wouldn’t have started from here. I don’t know enough about England itself to make any helpful comments and what you tell us about promising signs of resurgence among ordinary people in London is interesting and heartening, but don’t you think that there should have been greater stirrings before?

    Myself and many other people in Labour left that party about two decades ago. What was manifestly wrong with the Labour party then, is what caused the general disgust with what it has become now, but the momentum for the changed direction of Labour, came from the London party and London politics. There is something deeply wrong with the UK body politic much of it emanating from the Metropolis and its grotesquely overblown power. Perhaps at least a substantial part of the English population benefited for too long from the hopelessly imbalanced economy which gave them a superior infrastructure and a greater slice of government spending (despite the myths being promulgated in England). That imbalance was reflected in the gradual disparity in voting patterns. More people in England seem content with the general collapse of empathy which now exists. ( We have them, too, but we also seem to have a greater proportion wanting to change that.)

    I must point out I am not really a nationalist and many people I know who wish an independent Scotland, are not either. I would say rather that we were pragmatists who realised sadly that we had to change our objective because there was no sign that such a change was going to happen in the UK. That there already was a party, the SNP, which could act as a vehicle for at least the first goal for a new future, that of independence, was an advantage. We can use that as a launch platform.

    By the way the SNP are astute enough to understand the nature of the surge in their support and are probably aware of the conditionality of that support. We do have people posting comments here and elsewhere to lecture us about the supposed dangers of voting for the SNP, These are often people from England with their own agenda – which is fair enough. As long as they join the discourse in a respectful and rational way, they are welcome.(But, Dave, really – Kinnock? That was a rant.) However, I get a bit tired of people who have not been observing the political scene in Scotland for as long as many of us have and lecture us as if we are gullible peasants who have followed the SNP for naive and unsophisticated reasons. I would say to them, don’t tell your granny how to suck eggs. We know exactly what we are doing and how to use our vote in a canny way – and when to change it.

    I hope that all goes well for you and others who want a better future for yourselves in England and we would want to give encouragement and support to you in England, but we will do that better from an independent Scotland, leading by example. But keep the conversation going, I would be very interested in what you do next, Dave.

  35. Alastair H says:

    Dave, It’s great that you’ve continued this dialogue and I really do hope that progressive forces can succeed in English politics. However, I think there is a great deal of work to do if that’s to be achieved.

    I read Jon Cruddas’ speech with interest and there is much in it with which any social democrat (in the widest sense) would concur. But there is something missing. He seems to conceive of UK politics as a unitary phenomenon, which I think is simply untenable in 2015. Scottish politics is very different, in lots of ways, from politics in England and you could certainly argue that the same is true of Wales. Northern Ireland has always played by different rules.

    In that context, I’ve often wondered how one might set about writing a UK-wide party manifesto these days and I rather sympathise with anyone charged with such a task. The divergence in political aspirations and basic values simply seems too great. As far as Labour is concerned, the problem set in with a vengeance under Blair, who set an essentially free-market course in which it was OK to introduce further privatisation, fail to reverse the worst of Tory reforms and celebrate the excesses of the City. The dominance of individualism and selfishness that had become established under Thatcher went pretty much unchallenged.

    The two Eds could and should have tried to turn the ship in a different direction, but they have failed to do so. They have changed their tune quite remarkably on austerity, voted for more of it and now join in criticism of Nicola Sturgeon when she advocates a fractional relaxation of debt repayment in favour of infrastructure investment. Yet that was Ed Balls’ policy just two years ago. And Labour has completely failed to refute the Tory narrative about debt, allowing them to get away with blaming Labour rather than bankers. It is hard to overstate just how badly all of this has gone down in Scotland, where I think it’s fair to say that the kind of values that Thatcher and Blair espoused are, for most people, anathema.

    Surprising though it may seem – and I am no Tory – I actually think that the Scottish Conservatives have been more successful in distinguishing themselves from their English counterparts than Labour from theirs. Ruth Davidson offers leadership that is more socially liberal, far less class-based and noticeably lacking in the downright nastiness that is the stock in trade of Westminster conservatism. She’s got away with it because the Tory presence in Scotland is so much less prominent and comes under so little scrutiny. Labour, on the other hand, has behaved exactly like a northern branch office, completely failing to get with the mood, and exhibiting a tiresome negativity.

    But to return to England…Jon Cruddas may well have his heart in the right place, but he needs, I think, to address the divergence in values and aspirations across the UK. I don’t think it’s possible, now, to say plot a course without acknowledging these. As I said in my original comments, I think the lack of an English legislature is no longer tenable and if you want to build a movement for change, I think it needs to have, as one of its goals, the creation of an English Parliament that will allow English voters to translate their aspirations into legislation. Alongside that, England needs to have a debate about what sort of country it wants to be and what sort of values it wants to live by. And would England want to stand alone, or be part of a federal or confederal Britain?

    One of the more unpleasant strands in current debate is the notion that Scotland has no right to influence the direction of UK government, despite Scots having been told incessantly up until last September that they were an essential and valued part of the UK. If that thread continues, and becomes aligned with the ‘I want my country back’ rhetoric from the English far right, the atmosphere could become quite unpleasant. As someone who regards himself as an Anglophile, I really don’t want that to happen.

    That’s another reason why I think you are spot on in posing the questions you have, and I think they are becoming urgent. I think a broad, grassroots campaign for English self-determination is probably the place to start, and I think that to connect it to a party would be a tactical mistake. In fact, such a campaign ought to be able to embrace progressive people from a large part of the political spectrum and one of the keys to success, as it was with the Scottish Constitutional Convention, is to be inclusive and trust people. We shall all be happy go offer more tips on how the fire might be kindled, and the very best of luck!

    Apologies for repeating some earlier thoughts, but it helps (I hope!) if I show my working!

  36. bowanarrow says:

    Sorry off topic…..Its Billy Brag.isn`t it?

  37. Dave Cohen says:

    Thanks again everyone. Once again I have found this all very illuminating. I shall depart with Drew Campbell’s

    “Something good will emerge in England, and very soon. Hope you’re part of it.”

    ringing in my ears…

    …but I will be back.

  38. David Agnew says:

    Miliband is milquetoast. He has allowed Cameron into bullying him to reject any offer of a coalition with the SNP. You have a Scottish branch working feverishly to try and convince labour voters in key marginals to vote Tory if that can keep the SNP out, all the while saying a vote for labour keeps out the Tories. Westminster and the MSM are having childish temper tantrums at the prospect that Scotland, may very well return MPs that are not members of the Scottish branch of any Westminster party. Miliband went along with it, fearful of alienating those right wing votes, he craves so much.

    I have looked beyond my opinions and I see a party with no clear direction. trying to look and sound Tory. offering nobody anything beyond bland uninspiring sound bites. I look at him and I see man who does not have the stomach for the fight, who is unsure of himself and talks like a man who already knows he’s lost.

    Labour didn’t just fail in Scotland it failed in England.

  39. Dean Richardson says:

    In this article, like the previous one, there’s a reference to ‘English Labour’. There’s no such thing. (Try accessing, and all you’ll get is ‘page not found – error 404’ on your screen.) All we have in England is British Labour or, more simply, just Labour. As you must know, Mr Cohen, the Labour party is virulently Anglophobic, as are most of its MPs, not least those charmless scrotes, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown. Sadly, the party’s leader inherited his father’s hatred of England and the English, although that Anglophobia wasn’t strong enough to encourage Ralphie to go live in some other country (he might have had to work for a living, poor bloke). Step forward and take a bow, Frank Field MP, for being an honourable exception to this rule. And it isn’t a recent thing, either. George Orwell wrote about it in 1941, and it was probably old hat even then. So, considering Labour’s hatred for my nation (and it is a nation, not a bunch of ersatz regions that are hated by nearly all outside the political class), how am I expected to vote Labour in May?

  40. G. P. Walrus says:

    “I would ask you to look beyond your opinions, valid as they are, and read what Jon Cruddas has to say ”

    I respect your general direction of travel and wish you well, but the above quote underlines the problem with your view of this. You are essentially asking us to look up from our petty parochial concerns and address ourselves to the much more important problem of London / England / Britain.

    Actually London / England / Britain is not particularly important to me or indeed to most people on the planet and the continued assumption by London-based commentators of their central importance, the true parochialism, is one of the most tedious aspects of the ongoing debate about power relationships in the UK.

  41. Clootie says:

    The YES movement was a tipping point. We are not finished yet – we have more in common than divides us.

  42. preacherman says:

    “These people, my Labour neighbours, have all reached the same conclusions you have – the current system in Westminster is broken, it needs a complete overhaul, let’s start with massive decentralisation of taxation powers (as dickybeau suggests), then quickly follow that with abolition of FPTP (which Miliband wants), and the House of Lords. They also believe in limiting economic growth and implementing big environmental changes.”

    This paragraph in particular but generally the whole article highlighted something to me which i’ve kind of being noticing on msm & social media sites which are in large responsible for the message we are putting across, we appear to be getting caught up in the game they want! all of this talk of biggest parties and speculation etc. what happened to the conversations of the referendum? about the status quo & inequality, the FPTP voting system, the house of lords, how power is distributed etc etc. they all appear to have faded into the background!

    I’m aware on a UK level (in my opinion) the question being asked from Scotland as a nation to the rest of the UK but mostly England as the nation which really decides the outcome is this, If we vote SNP and offer to prop up a labour government as your only viable option would you do that?

    Or recently I had the thought on a more emotional level because of the sentiment that appeared to be coming from the rest of the UK during the referendum that they were upset at not being able to have a say on if Scotland should stay or go that this was now us asking the rest of the UK the question and the answer we’d like to hear from you is Labour (as much as we in Scotland don’t want to vote for them it goes back to the workings of FPTP and we understand that).

    In Scotland we need to get back to the message of powers, constitutional reform across the UK (FPTP, House of Lords etc.) essentially what voting SNP actually means for Scotland not for the UK! I’ve noticed over the last week or so on the daily yougov polls it’s starting to be consistently single digits between the SNP and Labour but absolutely no mention anywhere in the media it’s still all very SNP are going to win 50 seats etc etc. which worries me as it appears they are now setting the agenda and we are falling for it!

    In the rest of the UK (whatever party of the left you need to vote for) you need to be doing essentially the same thing but for labour in England the message should be to end the speculation over what if this is the outcome (which I don’t think they will do if it helps them in Scotland such is their short sightedness) and start asking the questions over constitutional reform and what exactly the SNP and Labour (with probably the greens and Plaid etc.) would actually be able to do and get the message across what this election is actually about!

    just my tuppence worth

  43. Corporatist Hell says:

    “I would ask you to look beyond your opinions, valid as they are, and read what Jon Cruddas has to say (see here).”

    (In contrast to many of the posters above) I have actually read this.

    “all I can tell you is this is where Labour thinking – as in the leadership, as well as the members – is now”

    Really? Even if I’m prepared to accept for a moment that’s the case, that is not the impression I get, certainly not from Ed Milibean (sorry), Ed Balls, or any of the rest of them. It’s certainly not being articulated by them.

    From them all I get is rubbish like ‘cost of living crisis’ ‘price fixing’, ‘rent controls’ ‘oooh look at the price of that, that’s a bit expensive’, a thousand and one snippets and soundbites with no coherence.

    There are some good and practical ideas in there, one of which I’m living in (city region devolution to Greater Manchester) – but Osborne’s gone and stolen your thunder on that one. You should have done that when you had the chance years ago. But you couldn’t / wouldn’t because (as I said before) in the end the Labour Party cannot ignore its urge to centralise and control … in fact it lives in fear of letting go.

    But the wishy-washy and downright impenetrable stuff outnumbers the good bits twenty to one.

    “To dispute this right in others is to fail to live within its own terms”.

    “In the vanguards of the new economy there is a new productive force which is the ‘life of the

    What does that mean? Maybe I’m a bit dim. Maybe I’m condescending to other people in imagining it might not mean much to other people either. Either way, I’m still prepared to bet that you will connect with a miniscule proportion of the population with stuff like this.

    Notwithstanding anything else, i can see the SNP have become very effective in being able to communicate with people, through people that the public are able to relate to. (Well, Salmond, despite the personality cult around him is clearly marmite and in my opinion a not insignificant factor in not winning the referendum. but Sturgeon, she’s like a folk hero. Look at her twitter feed. People actually like her.

    I’m not a socialist, or a collectivist. I’m an individualist and a liberal, and I neither look to nor need the state to solve my problems for me. At the same time I’m committed to the provision of services free at the point of delivery paid for out of the collective pot that no individual or small group of individuals could be expected to arrange or procure themselves (health, education, etc.). I pay my taxes and I expect these things to be provided, at the same time recognising that we live in a world of scarce resources but not a world that is a zero sum game. and a world of competing priorities where somebody somewhere has to decide what gets paid for out of the communal pot, and what gets left to individuals to sort out.

    Overall, there wasn’t a great deal that chimed with me in that speech.

    One glimmer of hope was the recognition of people’s agency and initiative. In light of Milibean’s regular proclamations of long lists of things he’s going to ‘tackle’ ‘for us’ I’m just not convinced.

    Unfortunately, before I’d even got half way through reading that speech, it made me think of this:

    by George W. Bush

    I think we all agree, the past is over.
    This is still a dangerous world.
    It’s a world of madmen and uncertainty
    and potential mental losses.

    Rarely is the question asked
    Is our children learning?
    Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
    How many hands have I shaked?

    They misunderestimate me.
    I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
    I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
    Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

    Put food on your family!
    Knock down the tollbooth!
    Vulcanize society!
    Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

  44. Jim Bennett says:

    Dave Cohen is to be congratulated on his honest engagement with our politics. Hopefully, we’ll work together with him in the future in the same spirit of solidarity as we work with SYRIZA and PODEMOS.

  45. Jim O'Rourke says:

    Hi Dave. I recognise much of what you write about what some, maybe many people are saying thinking and feeling about the stale and dysfunctional status quo . I’ve heard much the same expressed in conversations with people all across England. Many of those I’ve spoken with expressed a deep sense of dissatisfaction with something that isn’t working for them and often seems quite unreal. This often comes with a sense of helplessness in the face of what feels to them a task that’s beyond them. Admittedly most of the people I know are to the left if not actually of the left, but I believe many on the right feel somewhat the same.
    Something has to give and I think in somewhere as diverse as England the focus needs to be one one main area to create the catalyst for rolling change. It has to be the voting system. The previous attempt by Clegg and co to get a switch to AV was as big a joke as AV itself is. It was clearly just window dressing. Real PR will break the system and allow real meaningful change to flourish because FPTP is all that maintains the false game of duopoly. I really wish you well in your quest for a better way. All the best.

  46. macart763m says:

    There is a way forward Dave and if the SNP do go down in numbers post May 7, they may just provide the impetus Labour progressives need. A UK Labour with an SNP conscience as it were. Right now the UK media and the establishment are on a socially self destructive cycle. The Scottophobia running rampant throughout the metro centric press is calculated and deliberate. The conservatives are trying to demonise not just the SNP but the very thought of ‘Scottish’ leftism making an unwelcome appearance in Westminster. (clearly they don’t consider Scottish Labour leftist).


    By any measure the SNP have formed competent government in Scotland. By any measure they are a popular party political unit and thanks to the YES campaign both the Greens and SSP have enjoyed a massive surge in popularity themselves. Why should that be considered threatening? Isn’t that a good thing for democracy? Isn’t the inclusiveness and spread of progressive voices the very heart of democracy?

    There is of course, only one answer. The Conservatives have written a right wing and insular narrative for years. There’s is the politics of the scapegoat, the danger in the foreigner and of fear. They have set this narrative and manipulated the electorate of a specific demographic and geography. The same demographic and geography that Labour requires to win any majority in future parliaments. Hence the rightward spiral of UK Labour in their attempt to win this vote. Labour’s problem was and is twofold. They bought into the establishment to win power, which then became their reason for being and they gave over the heart of their ideology in order to do this. In effect they ceased to be Labour and became Tory lite, or I can’t believe its not Tory.

    So what happens if the unthinkable occurs and the SNP do go down team handed? What happens if, with the increased exposure of being the third biggest party in Westminster, people in the UK like what they have to say? Approve of their conduct in parliament? Appreciate their input? The evil alien furriner at the door turns out to come in peace?

    An awful lot of politicians and editorial staff who have manipulated the public perception of Scots and Scottish politics through a particular narrative will possibly be in an awfully awkward position.

    Make no mistake, independence has become inevitable through the actions of the current parties and their system of government and they’ve made it inevitable all by themselves. The way forward thereafter as dictated by people, not an establishment is confederation IMO.

  47. Mike Annis says:

    I’m sorry I missed the original article but that was an interesting read. I’m glad to see so many still campaigning for labour down south and you still have some respect for Ed but sadly so believe it is wasted. There are too many powerful voices with vested interests in charge of New Labour and I valet see that changing, the well off have taken over the party of the workers and the poor. Also as an ex labour voting socialist I can’t see how anyone who was a socialist, even in it’s broadest terms, could campaign for a party that still insists on spending billions on weapons that can’t be used while supporting the policies of austerity; of supporting and in fact aiding when in power, a financial system that rewards greed and corruption and gambling whilst blaming the poor and foreign guests. To use a phrase, Not in my name.

  48. Grace Ferguson says:

    Hi Dave
    Great that there is this conversation with someone from England and the opportunity to explain why so many wanted Independence. I and the others around me simply wanted to escape from the self-serving, deceitful, greedy, right-wing politicians we have now and to get a better, fairer, socially- just country for my children and grandchildren. That was the way to do it. I cannot tell you how devastated I was when the “No” vote came in and I realised we would have the same old, same old… (worse of course because we had the audacity to try and escape). I hate racism of all kinds and don’t want England as my enemy but as my neighbour. I have joined the SNP, however, and it is so important to me that people realise that the vast majority of us are not anti-England but just want to live in a better country where Food Banks are not needed. I am now 63yrs old and cannot believe that people have to use food banks in the 21st century. I also desperately want to get rid of Trident. Having voted Labour all my life, I will never do so again after they sat with the Tories and scared people into voting “No” . Many older people voted “No” because they were told their pensions would be at risk. That is a fact.
    I also think it is naïve to think that the vote was not interfered with, when you consider how much was at stake. I continue to hope for Independence within my lifetime.

    1. Corporatist Hell says:

      “I just want to live in a better country where Food Banks are not needed … “I cannot believe that people have to use food banks in the 21st century”.

      Food banks exist at scale in all European states including the evil Germany, the neoliberal hell of Denmark, and the other ‘nordic utopias’.

      That’s capitalism for you. Food banks are an unfortunate consequence of the imperfections of the forms of state regulated capitalism operated by all advanced western liberal democracies.

      This notion that Scotland will somehow ‘succeed’ in ‘eradicating’ or ‘not needing’ foodbanks where all other countries have ‘failed’, including the nordic utopias, is ridiculous. Now that they have been invented, they will not be uninvented. For many and complex reasons, there will always be foodbanks.

      And state regulated capitalism remains the best system we have, compared to the other system – socialism – which wherever its been tried, at best fails to provide the standard of life afforded to most citizens through state regulated capitalism, and at worst is a complete disaster and kills millions.

      I am forming an increasing impression that not just on this site, but there are significant numbers of people who were expecting a new socialist republic to arise from independence. Given that there is no appetite for tax rises amongst any social or economic group in Scotland, they would have been bitterly disappointed.

      “I also think it is naïve to think that the vote was not interfered with, when you consider how much was at stake”

      No-one involved in the oversight of the referendum has made a complaint about how it was conducted. Not one. This really is a conspiracy theory, and is not helpful in any way,.

      “I continue to hope for Independence within my lifetime”.

      Sure. Indyref 2 now.

  49. almannysbunnet says:

    Should Scotland be an independent country? This was the referendum question. The answer was YES and YES became the slogan that brought people together with support from every imaginable sector of Scottish society. Every time I read the question I still cannot believe that anyone voted no but that’s a whole nuther story as they say in Texas. This is probably pretty simplistic but for you to bring England together and get people enthused and talking you need something similar. Easily said but not so easy to achieve. What about something along the lines of “Should England reclaim it’s democracy?”. You have your question and your YES campaign can start rolling.

  50. tolle1 says:

    Thanks Dave for taking the time to write the two articles for Bella, and also for being so honest in admitting that you would vote SNP rather than Labour if you could, which begs the questions ‘why not vote for one of the following parties’ if they have a candidate standing; Greens, Left Unity, National Health Association (NHA), or an Independent?

    New Labour can try and sound like the Labour Party which has not existed since 1997, and any policies John Crudda’s (used to be a thorn in New Labours side) develops will never see the light of day unless they are based on New Labour Thatcherite ideology (Ed Miliband has already stated if he became PM he would be like Thatcher).

    What I cannot understand is why anybody would vote for New Labour when it now shares the same ideology as the Conservative Party with the only difference being the colour of their rossettes.

    To back up the above comment I provide the following two examples.

    Ed Balls has stated he will not revise any of the recent Tory budget, and he will impose the full 60% of remaining ‘Tory Austerity Measures’, which will destroy the lives of the most vulnerable members of society, while making the wealthy even more obscenely so.

    Best wishes David,


  51. lindabates says:

    Dave, thanks for your considered thoughts on what needs to happen for Labour to become a UK force again.

    The point for many of us here in Scotland, however, is that we’ve waken from our decades-long (possibly centuries-long) torpor and are finally believing that we can stand on our own two feet again – and we no longer *care* what Labour thinks/says/promises at a UK level.

    We can’t unlearn what we learned during the course of the indyref (e.g. that of the last 18 General Elections, the way that Scotland – as an entire country – has voted has made *no* difference to the outcome on 16 occasions), nor will we now disengage from a process which demands that we have greater levels of self-determination.

    Put simply, many of us in Scotland no longer wish to remain yoked to an unequal (and sometimes bullying) partner in political – and often cultural – terms, whether that’s under Tory OR Labour rule.

    We’re like somebody whose partner has consistently neglected them, but when we’re getting our coat down from the peg to leave, the partner says that they’ll change. We simply don’t believe in their lies, or this relationship any longer.

    It’s been nice knowing you, but it’s time for us to go our separate ways. Good luck with changing England.

  52. Stewpot says:

    Hello, Dave

    See what I mean now about Yes being far more about nationalism than social justice – after two years of trying to be reasonable offering other solutions, the only recourse is exasperation. (It was not simply nationalish as you phrased it but utterly dogmatic, a cultural cul de sac – and not nearly as independent of the SNP/ Nationalists as assumed (it’s gradually coming to light all the supposed ‘grassroots’ were orchestrated – women for Indy (leader SNP links) National Collective (editors all SNP drones)…even Bella has sufficient links to the SNP government apparatus to question full and true autonomy – sorry Bella. I actually don’t mind honest Yessers, who are open about this, it’s the nationalists who don’t want to be seen as nationalists I have no time for.

    At which juncture I’d like to point out that no one managed to name a single SNP redistributive policy (after 8 years in government.)……

    Just a few questions (as I, like many, are with you fully on the change in the Labour party – although I’m non party partisan – and the greater efficacy of social justice being within the framework of the UK – reformed and multilevel – rather than atomised overly centralised mutually antagonistic countries.) And a quick lesson on the hidden aspects of Scottish politics, that those south of the border often struggle with. Bizarrely I find myself agreeing with some of the other posters on here who point out ignorance and London centric/ liberal guardianista assumptions (even though I am one of the latter). I think you’re seeing only what you want to see.

    1) Why do you assume it is/ was the Yessers who were the social democrats/ progressives? The Yes movement was pretty broad and included out and out full on austerity max ‘business’ people who saw an opportunity to create a Singapore ish type neo-lib haven of low corp tax and low regulation, predicated on petrol dollars? This was Salmond’s favored model, put forward in the White paper?

    2) Why not engage with the left in Scotland who opposed Yes on these principles? where you will get a hearing? Why not engage with the majority in Scotland? Those millions who live in the 28 council areas that voted No rather than the minority in the 4 council areas that voted Yes? The more pragmatic people who understand the complexity and interdependence of the modern globalized world, and who actually offer or look for workable solutions rather than endless empty slogans predicated on moral luck and never having had to prove anything (yet)? – name me a similar sized country as Scotland that doesn’t have a right of center govt? Certainly not Norway or Denmark! Many on the left also saw how the right wingers in Yes were using ‘social justice’ and justified anti-labour/ conservative antipathy to smuggle this new state in… the winners would be the entrenched Scottish establishment and not as touted the poor and vulnerable.

    3) Many ‘progressives’ remained silent (especially in public sector, including education, universities, businesses with govt contracts, the third sector out of fear of being frozen out by the SNP) This is why ‘Yes’ was allowed to dominate the debate and leave the No angle at the mercy of the morons from the London Westminster establishment, with their silly hyperbole and threats and inability to articulate a positive notion of the Union (on this score I don’t blame the Yes voters!). But the wider No converstation was shut down completely.

    4) ‘Also, I’m not sure England as an entity or many of its regions are united by that same sense of antipathy and legitimate grievance as the Scots…’

    Why are you conflating Yes with Scots or Scotland? Please note Scotland is rather large country with regional disparities in culture, economics and outlook – we are not all from Glasgow/ West central belt which is often assumed. Some of us, especially in the other regions (that are of greater or equal importance economically, culturally and socially) have equal if not more antipathy to the West/ central belt obsessed Scottish govt/ media as the London obsessed UK govt/ media, and voted No on this basis…. Take a look at the voting patterns. Aberdeen/ and shire – my neck of the woods voted No because we are no more trusting of Holyrood than Westminster and no less culturally alienated by the very specific post industrial, west of Scotland culture (poverty in the Highlands is very different to the urban areas). Independence would have been a disaster for our autonomy as devolution has been under the SNP centralizing government – ditto Orkney, Borders, Perthshire etc. Yes people are not Scotland, despite the arrogance of so many posters on here who assume to talk for the whole country, any more than UKIP/ Torries are England! The better option is to de centralise on the basis of local units such as the city or the region. Effective fiscal autonomy for Aberdeen and Glasgow and Edinburgh and Highlands respectively is a much better solution to problems than a one size fits all ‘Scottish’ solution.

    5) Hidden issues – Linked to the above, one of the reasons other regions voted no was because we are weary of conflating the whole of Scotland with the divisions or the West/ central belt (given demographics) – It’s wasn’t a coincidence that the council areas with the largest Catholic communities in them voted Yes and take a look at who turned up in George Square triumphally waving union flags. I noticed your second name is Cohen and hazard from this you are Jewish. A more unpleasant aspect of ‘politics based on identity’ in amongst the Yes carnival! has been the conflation of other divisions with politics that never existed before, such as Yes = Palestine/ No = Isreal – there is no justification for this conflation, but this but is a side effect of identity being central to politics. Others in Scotland appreciate the buffer/ diffusion of the wider UK and do not want to live in polity that is dominated by such concerns. But credit to some Yessers this is not as it could be thanks to some sensible thinking! But in No this was not an issue.

    6) Finally, there is a fundamental difference between Yes and No. Yes is only interested in independence (fair enough) where as many who voted No were more interested in ‘social democracy’ but would happily be persuaded to vote for independence if the argument had been won. (this includes myself.) But it wasn’t! It’s an important distinction.

    7) Learn you’re own history ( I fully agree with the other posters here).

    ‘There are pockets of non-Ukip self-determination in the north and south-west of England, some genuine feelings of injustice, but our regions have never had anything forced on them to match, for example, Highland Clearances or the poll tax..’

    Really? No Poll Tax? Try saying that in Newcastle or Liverpool or Cardiff etc. And no Clearances in England or the Lowlands….? I’ll leave you with John Clare (1793-1864) and snippets from two of his poems on the Enclosures Acts and the theft of common land leading to millions being forced to move to the industrial cities or to the colonies….

    He gazed upon them with wild fancy’s eye
    As fallen landscapes from an evening sky
    These paths are stopt – the rude philistine’s thrall
    Is laid upon them and destroyed them all
    Each little tyrant with his little sign
    Shows where man claims earth glows no more divine
    But paths to freedom and to childhood dear
    A board sticks up to notice ‘no road here’
    And on the tree with ivy overhung
    The hated sign by vulgar taste is hung
    As tho’ the very birds should learn to know
    When they go there they must no further go
    Thus, with the poor, scared freedom bade goodbye
    And much they feel it in the smothered sigh
    And birds and trees and flowers without a name
    All sighed when lawless law’s enclosure came
    And dreams of plunder in such rebel schemes
    Have found too truly that they were but dreams.


    It grows the cant terms of enslaving tools
    To wrong another by the name of right
    It grows a liscence with oer bearing fools
    To cheat plain honesty by force of might
    Thus came enclosure- ruin was her guide
    But freedoms clapping hands enjoyed the sight
    Tho comforts cottage soon was thrust aside
    And workhouse prisons raised upon the scite
    Een natures dwelling far away from men
    The common heath became the spoilers prey
    The rabbit had not where to make his den
    And labours only cow was drove away
    No matter- wrong was right and right was wrong
    And freedoms brawl was sanction to the song

    Such was thy ruin music making Elm
    The rights of freedom was to injure thine
    As thou wert served so would they overwhelm
    In freedoms name the little so would they over whelm
    And these are knaves that brawl for better laws
    And cant of tyranny in stronger powers
    Who glut their vile unsatiated maws
    And freedoms birthright from the weak devours.

    One thing I do agree with Yes is that England needs to discover it’s radical history again (but in cooperation with all the people’s of Britain.)

    1. Calum McDonald says:


      I take exception to your point ‘5’. The labour Party have played the religious card without shame for decades. Currently spud is courting re-introduction of booze at football, you well know the channel he has chosen to do this. BTW how does this policy stack up against reducing numbers at A&E? As for Middle East politics, the british (i.e. labour & tories) have their hands covered in blood from clonial days up to today. Are you still in denial over Iraq or are you willing to apologise? Does it prick your consciousness that Yes supporters have the decency to show solidarity with Palestinians, the same people labour have deserted?

      Other points:

      Trident – no renewal, spend opportunity cost on social / public policies for disadvantaged Scots.

      Illegal wars – don’t embark on them in the first place, spend opportunity cost on social / public policies for disadvantaged Scots.are we nearing an apology from labour yet?

      Education – reduce class sizes and keep university education free. labour of corse fought these policies tooth and nail – why – because they are SNP policies. In Aesops fable the Fox and the Scorpion, labour are the Scorpion, anything the SNP no matter how much it benefits Scots, labour will seek to destroy, because it in their nature!

      Health – ensure labour’s privatisation policy (started under burnham and brown), does not extend to Scotland.

      Police – additional police on the beat, reduction in homicide rate of circa 50% under SNP.

      Electoral reform – give the vote to our fellow citizens aged 16 & 17

      Confidence – Tell the Scottish people they are not too poor, too wee or too stupid to run their own affairs and that they are the equal of any world citizen. Raise Scots ambitions and expectations to further the nations wellbeing. Contrasted with labour whose electoral success is built on keeping people poor, uneducated and maintaining a divided society of haves and have nots.

      I could go on, but suffice to say in May I look forward to seeing shock on davidson’s (iain), curran’s and murphy’s faces and the happiness on English labour mps (many despise Scottish labour mps with a passion) and most of all the Scottish people, finally having the dead hand of labour removed from their throats! Perhaps then you can compose yourself, reflect deeply, sit down with quill in hand and draft us a wee poem “Stewpot’s Late Lament” ;0)

      Calum McDonald

    2. Jim Bennett says:

      Stewpot’s long post could be summarised succinctly:
      Half truths and lies, sprinkled liberally with utter bollocks,

    3. Mhari McLeod says:

      I believe Stewpot is genuine in his wish to redistribute wealth, he wishes to redistribute Scotland’s wealth, be it natural resources, people and taxes to London.

      In return, Stewpot is happy to receive a fixed budget that does not meet our needs or can be cut without redress, all done in a manner with grudging contempt coupled with the message that we are scroungers and should be grateful!

      If we elect labour in Scotland who put westminster first, this serf and master situation where the resources leave our country perpetuates to the determent of the nation.

      If we elect the SNP who put Scotland first always and say no to westminster aligned to the needs of the Scottish people, we can break the cycle of dependency culture so beloved by labour and hold our heads high.

      M McL

      1. JGedd says:

        Yes, Stewpot is just Kinnock’s alter ego without the shouting block capitals. He recycles Labour’s usual bilious hatred together with some sly calumnies of his own – read his attempt to work some insinuations of anti-semitism into the frothing mix in the hope of finding common cause with David Cohen. He doesn’t appear to recognize,that David Cohen has a greater knowledge of the Scottish political scene and is probably able to make his own shrewd judgements. That kind of nasty smear is worthy of John McTernan. This was the kind of scattergun attack we had to endure throughout the referendum campaign.

        He doesn’t appear to like Scotland very much either,does Stewpot/Kinnock. Division and enmity would appear to be what Stewpot enjoys. I wouldn’t think his antagonistic and aggressive attitude would be beneficial to any movement that aims to be inclusive.. Perhaps he is angry at the surge in SNP support? He certainly appears to have a whole lot of furious hornets buzzing around in his bonnet.

  53. Fran says:

    Dave! Get together with the likes of the E15 Mothers and go from there.

  54. Iain Hill says:

    There is one defining issue: caring about other people’s poverty. Labour does not (supported by the media). A new redistributive social democratic redistributive party is needed. Could Labour become that party? I think not, unless the stables are totally cleared out.

    Seek advice from the RIC in Scotland about how it galvanised people.

  55. Alastair H says:

    Apologies to anyone who has already suggested this, Dave, but one of the strikingly successful components in Scotland has been the flourishing of online magazines like Bella Caledonia and the wealth of personal blogs. England would surely benefit from similar outlets and it’s not too hard to get one off the ground.

  56. Dale says:

    “My support for Labour at this point is an accident of geography. If I’d been living in Scotland I’d probably have joined the SNP, or in Brighton, the Greens.”
    So you’re arguing that your reason for campaigning for austerity is geography? Please explain exactly how that doesn’t make you the problem with Labour? You don’t have to campaign for austerity, nor join a bidding war for the party with Tony Blair in a vain attempt to make it anti-austerity.
    Make no mistake, those £30 billion cuts, if enacted, will bring a further level of hardship on the electorate. If you, as a supposedly left wing actor, do not pick up the anti-austerity vote winner, you’ll have earned the England you get when the BNP/UKIP do.
    Ed hasn’t picked it up because he’s to busy fighting with Tony. Why do you think he sent Jim Murphy back here to die?

  57. John says:

    Dave, I don’t see the point in your second article other than to show you read the comments to your first one. I think if you are trying to tell us we are better together or that Ed is really a decent bloke you have come to the wrong place, and I would have thought that was obvious from the many comments. Scotland needs to remove itself from the union as it just isn’t working. Our relationship is becoming more acrimonious with each poll that shows SNP gaining more support and might be able to exert more influence at WM. So the sooner Scotland becomes independent the better our chance of us being able to work together as good neighbours. Westminster is not our problem anymore as we obviously don’t merit the democratic right to influence decisions made. That has been made very clear to us over the last few months. It’s now up to England to sort out it’s own problems as it doesn’t seem to be listening to our advice.

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