Labours Lost Leader

Labour is simultaneously coming together and falling apart. On the one hand Owen Jones writes: “A key theme coming out of Labour conference is: Socialism in 2018 means extending democracy to very part of society” – on the other Richard Leonard announces that Labour will oppose a second referendum on Scottish independence. This goes beyond party politics and may have profound constitutional consequences.

As Labour gathers in Liverpool the carefully choreographed attempt to construct a momentum to oppose the Conservatives wildly chaotic Brexit mayhem seems to have fallen apart. Despite Paul Mason’s recent efforts to rekindle a dialogue between the independence movement and the Labour movement, and despite Jeremy Corbyn’s recents comments (only four days ago) – Richard Leonard’s announcement that Scottish Labour would oppose a second Scottish referendum leave the party mired in ridicule.  Labour have now joined the Conservative Party to take us hurtling backwards.

Labour’s position is now to ignore in advance the democratic will of the Scottish electorate. This is treating democracy – and Scotland – with contempt. It is tearing up the Claim of Right and ignoring Labour’s own history. The Claim of Right (1989), which was drawn up by the Scottish Constitutional Convention – sought to acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine their government. It was a wide-ranging group of people from across society and was backed by the Labour and Lib Dem MPs of the day, apart from the the anti-devolutionist Labour MP, Tam Dalyell.

In an extraordinary car-crash interview with Bill Whiteford on BBC RadioScotland’s Good Morning Scotland, Richard Leonard was unable even to confirm that he has cleared his line on with Jeremy Corbyn, instead saying he ‘talked regularly” with the Labour leader.

Elsewhere, Andy Kerr exposed the sectarianism that is still rife in parts of west coast Labour.


Kerr’s comments are today being brushed off as a joke. If he were not so senior he would be forced to resign. It’s inconceivable to imagine statements from the conference chair being made about any other group, race or religion and it being ignored by the ‘national’ press.

But Labour’s problems aren’t just cultural, they have practical implications as the recent Falkirk debacle proves. 

Nor are the constitutional and the sectarian questions unrelated. They are not some random out-takes from the Thick of It. The Lodge and the Orange Order are the buckle that join the Conservative Party and the Labour Party in Unionism.

The combination of constitutional ineptitude and anti-Catholic bigotry makes Labour look like an amalgam of new-style incoherence and old-school ideology, all wrapped up in an internal civil war. This is an unhappy marriage of ideological purity and complete opportunism, swaying in the wind towards whatever is electorally beneficial whilst still being incapable of having a coherent line on what should be basic ‘socialist’ lines: abolishing the House of Lords; abolishing Trident and supporting the right to self-determination.

Whilst Ukania rages in self-serving tribal opportunism about each parties anti-semitism and  Islamophobia the rampant anti-catholicism is likely to remain quietly ignored, because it doesn’t really resonate at a British level. This is a live-test of Scottish political journalism. It will fail.

It looks like Labour will have to defeat the Conservatives without Scotland.

Comments (40)

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  1. Elaine Fraser says:

    Owen Jones is currently hugely out of favour with many women , including Trade Unionists and Labour party members , with regard to his comments around the proposed Gender Recognition Act . Seems he is not too keen to ‘extending democracy ‘ to women who want to be consulted on this major change to legislation in England and Scotland.

    1. Thanks Elaine – I wasn’t aware of that

  2. Malcolm Kerr says:

    There is a legitimate distinction to be made between putting ‘no referendum’ in your manifesto, and responding to a planned referendum if your manifesto turns out not to appeal to voters. Corbyn and Leonard were talking about different situations. Agreed overall it lacks coherence though and goes some way to explaining why Labour isn’t making a comeback any time soon.

  3. Justin Kenrick says:

    “Labour’s position is now to ignore in advance the democratic will of the Scottish electorate”

    If this approach prevails then this is taking Labour into anti-democratic territory that Cameron’s Tories didn’t even contemplate.

    So many of us, for so long, have hoped that Labour would regain its democratic ethos. Why would a Corbyn-led UK government fear having a second IndyRef? Either it would win for No by demonstrating that Labour in charge can mean a recovered social democratic UK, or it would lose and have a social democratic country as its near and supportive neighbour. Whether democracy or social justice is the measure, accepting the right of people in Scotland to hold a second IndyRef is sane. This position, however, is mad – and particularly for those Labour members (the vast majority) who want a second referendum on Brexit but are now being told we can’t have one on Independence from this mad process.

  4. Jamsie says:

    Oh dear Mr Ed.
    A political party ignoring the democratic will of the Scottish electorate?
    Well I never!
    And in advance too?
    So let me get this right -if the polls and other guages of the Scottish electorate’s will show that another referendum is not favoured by a majority would that mean the SNP are guilty of the same charge?
    Does the fact that wee Nicola has lied continuously that she has a mandate to call another referendum when clearly she does not count along the same lines?
    The plot is being well and truly lost eh?

    1. Kenny says:

      No mandate? Really? It was in the SNP manifesto and then the Scottish Government won a vote in Holyrood on the matter. It was unnecessary, but the SNP also tacked on the “triple lock” idea, whereby winning a majority of Scottish seats at Westminster in the 2017 election would confirm that already-won mandate. They did win a majority of seats which, in days gone by, would have meant beginning independence negotiations right away. If you honestly believe that no mandate exists then you are either very, very ignorant or you fundamentally oppose democracy for the colonies. Which is it?

      1. Jamsie says:

        Democracy means everyone has the right to vote and the case of a referendum the majority carries!
        Except in Scotland of course!!
        Fortunately wee Nicola has no mandate so a referendum is unlikely to happen in the near future if ever.
        Mainly because she knows she could not win.

    2. Josef Ó Luain says:

      You never fail to raise a laugh, Jamsie, for all the wrong reasons, I should add.

    3. Malcolm Kerr says:

      Desperate stuff, J! When did The FM lie about having a mandate??

      1. Jamsie says:

        She has been constantly lying.
        She has no legal or political mandate whereby she could call one yet she persists in portraying she has both.
        Scotland does not have a sovereign parliament in this regard especially given the 2014 vote.
        The false claims towards any mandate as a result of being dragged out of the EU against our will have been exposed for all to see.
        We are going out and even yet she cannot and will not call another indyref which will have any legal binding or political credibility.
        The people have spoken and continue to speak.
        Scotland’s default position is as part of the U.K.
        And thank God for that.

        1. Kenny Smith says:

          Foam fart fart foam

        2. Ed says:

          Scotland’s mandate comes from the illegal union of 1707

          1. Jamsie says:

            So no legal or political mandate then?
            If there was she would have called a referendum by now.
            Unless of course what is holding her back is that she knows she would lose and kill the subject off forever.
            At the moment it is all wee Eck’s fault, she can posture all she likes but the moment of truth is fast arriving.
            She will never take the gamble.
            And shortly she will pay at the ballot box for her incompetence and mendacity.

          2. Me Bungo Pony says:

            Another ironic use of the word “mendacity” from J*msie.

          3. Charles L. Gallagher says:


            Surely we are all looking for critical and constructive comments but I probably speak for many that are fed-up with the inane rantings of ‘Jamsie’ and feel that it’s time to bring the curtain down on him/her or even it and block him for all time?

            Alba gu Braith

            Charlie G

          4. Possibly true. Pet Trolls are fun for a while.

          5. Charles L. Gallagher says:

            Not when they become pests and should be treated as any other vermin!!!

          6. Me Bungo Pony says:

            The trouble is, there is nothing to stop him/her just thinking up a new name and commenting from a different e-mail address. However, I think his posts are nutty enough that he does his cause more harm than good. As the saying goes, “never interrupt your foe while they are making a mistake”.

    4. Col says:

      Did David Cameron have a mandate for the Brexit vote?

  5. tartanfever says:

    Am I right in thinking Labour will not offer a ‘remain’ option if there were to be some kind of people’s vote on Brexit ?

    The options on the ballot would be whatever deal Theresa May has come up with and ‘No Deal’.

    And now Labour would refuse any kind of Section 30 order from Westminster for another Indyref.

    So, if you want the Tories to determine our exit from the EU and for Scotland to be dragged out without any kind of say or alternative path, then vote Labour.

    1. Jo says:

      Bear in mind that it’s Leonard making this statement on Scotland, not Corbyn.

      1. Col says:

        Yes they are just covering all the bases. Who’d have thunk it.

  6. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    You are right about Mr Leonard’s interview on GMS: it was a ‘car crash’. Bill Whiteford could barely conceal his incredulity at Mr Leonard’s verbal contortions. The impression I was left with is that Mr Leonard made up the ‘manifesto commitment’ on the hoof, and was waffling that he was a good mate of Mr Corbyn’s so it will possibly, maybe, perhaps, be in the manifesto. He refused to answer Mr Whiteford’s question that if the SNP has the greatest number of seats in the next GE ‘would that not be a mandate to seek another referendum’. Mr Whiteford did not even point out that the Scottish Parliament has already authorised the SG to seek a referendum.

    Mr Leonard then went on to do a trailer for his speech to conference, which is to be about federalism and he talked about the ‘power grab’. He might well be going to speak about federalism, but, on the various Labour of Labour supporting websites I see very little about federalism and even less about the very important issue of the ‘power grab’. Labour at Westminster is as keen on the ‘power grab’ as Mrs May, because it is essentially dirigiste and anglocentric.

    1. Col says:

      I’m sure we will see federalism in the manifesto beside the “we’re wi Ruth an Treesa no to a referendum” commitment.

  7. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Hi Ed,

    I sent the following letter to The National Conversation but maybe too late for print deadline:-

    “Looking for some light entertainment while having a cuppa on Sunday afternoon I came across the Labour Party Conference and I was disgusted to hear the Session Chairman say to a lady who had just been called to speak, “Was that you ‘crossing’ yourself, maybe I should not have called you?” It seems that the Labour Party not only has a problem with anti-Antisemitism and Islamophobia but we can now add Roman Catholics and High Church of England, both of whom use the Sign of the Cross. I do not know who the character was but he did have a West Central Scotland accent.

    It is long overdue for Corbyn to get a grip of such behaviour and rid his Party of these people and all their sectarian bile. I do know that if Derek Mackay made such a comment at SNP Conference then he would face instant removal from the Conference and the Party.”

    I now know it was Kerr and he should be out on his ear, NOW.

  8. SleepingDog says:

    Does the hoary old political party system deliver democracy, or are their better alternatives like mandatable, recallable delegates? Could these alternatives be used within the current electoral system (perhaps by organizing constituency manifestos using collective decision-making), or should electoral system be a main priority?

  9. Jo says:

    Leonard is possibly the worst yet even with the competition he has for the title.

    No sooner has Corbyn taken one approach than Leonard is over-ruling him.

    Watching Leonard bouncing up and down when he speaks during FMQs is not a pretty sight. It always reminds me of those old TV shows where you could see the strings attached to the puppets.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when a person with Leonard’s very limited communication skills can end up leading at any level.

    On Andy Kerr, it was good to see Reporting Scotland featuring his remarks at Conference on the lunchtime news. Hopefully he isn’t out of the woods yet. His comments were disgraceful. I’m trying to imagine the reaction had Kerr observed that the woman about to speak was wearing a Star of David and snubbed her. Would that have been written off as a joke? Darn tootin’ it wouldn’t! He’d have resigned within the hour after being buried beneath howls of protest about anti-Semitism.

  10. bringiton says:

    Good luck with them trying to sell socialism to a country ( England) which is essentially Tory.
    Leonard should learn from history that a country (Scotland) which has voted for socialist policies over many decades,is consistently overruled by voters in England.
    The English press will ensure that voters are suitably outraged by the ideas of liberty,egality and fraternity and continue to doff caps to the feudalistic British establishment,
    Who needs democracy when you have the British labour party.

    1. Iain McIntosh says:

      The goal of socialsim that Leonard seeks is impossible due to the union and company that Leonard keeps!

  11. florian albert says:

    You refer to ‘anti-Catholic bigotry’ yet it is interesting that the no prominent Catholic seems to have taken offence.
    Also, you mention ‘west coast Labour’ sectarianism while the person who best personified this tendency was Sam Campbell, a Midlothian councillor.

    1. Jo says:

      “no prominent Catholic appears to have taken offence”

      So it’s all right then? No harm done?

      Firstly, we should all be offended by Kerr’s conduct. It was disgraceful. He is Chair of Labour’s NEC. He is a former minister in the Scottish Parliament so hardly naïve in what is and isn’t acceptable. Sectarian behaviour is not acceptable.

      Would you take the same approach had he publicly ridiculed a Jewish person? But, no, he wouldn’t, would he? There are laws against anti-Semitism aren’t there? Rightly so. But why aren’t other religions afforded the same courtesy?

      Secondly, Kerr was MSP for East Kilbride, a west of Scotland town. So let’s leave Midlothian out of it. Kerr knew what he was doing and saying. He should not get away with it.

      1. Jo says:

        I have the wrong Andy Kerr. The Labour NEC Chair is not the former MSP/Minister at Holyrood. Apologies.

    2. Many many people have taken offence. You know this.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘Many many people have taken offence.’

        I would not dispute that for a second. The problem – and it goes far beyond Scottish politics – is that so many people take offence at so much. It has become, due to social media more than anything else, devalued currency.
        I had never of this particular Andy Kerr. For me, Andy Kerr has always been Kilmarnock’s centre forward.

        1. Jo says:

          @Florian Albert

          Just so we’re clear, can you confirm whether or not you consider Mr Gray’s conduct appropriate?

          It is, incidentally, irrelevant whether you’ve heard of him or not. The fact is he is Chair of the Labour Party’s NEC.

          1. Jo says:

            Another senior moment. I meant Mr Kerr, not Mr Gray.

          2. florian albert says:

            I consider that this is a case of making a mountain out of a molehill. I would view Andy Kerr’s remarks as silly and ill advised.
            Also, I think that the reaction – e g Nicola Sturgeon saying that his comments were ‘appalling’ – is worse.
            I would expect the First Minister to have more important things to occupy her time.
            It is not as though the police service and our schools, to pick two obvious candidates, are beacons of excellence under her stewardship.

          3. Malcolm Kerr says:

            Condemning casual bigotry isn’t time-consuming but it is important. Your line, FA, seems to be that ‘you can’t condemn sectarianism if you have an occupation’. Very obvious nonsense, and I’m sure you know it. Kerr’s ‘banter’, serving to normalise insidious ‘othering’ was entirely unacceptable from the chair of a mainstream political party with progressive aspirations. Fortunately, NS speaks for the decent majority on this point.

  12. florian albert says:

    Malcolm Kerr

    I do not think that being employed is a disqualification from making comments. I do think that somebody with such heavy responsibilities as the First Minister should prioritize how she uses her time.

    To repeat what I said at the start, I think the comments originally made were not that significant. Scottish Catholics have – on the whole – more of a sense of proportion on these issues.

    You may see yourself – and Nicola Sturgeon – as taking a stand for decency, others might not be quite so convinced of this.

    1. Iain McIntosh says:

      Your 30 years behind the times albert, days of insulting our fellow citizens who are catholic, is unacceptable and ignorant.

      If bigotry goes unchallenged by respected people of high office, bigotry remains and festers.

      Look at labour there is a disease at the heart of that party of anti islam, anti semitic and anti catholic, not forgetting anti democratic when it comes to Scotland.

      All good reasons why labour will fester in a toxic brew of its own making!

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