The Westminster establishment, to which all the three main political parties are seen to sign up, is the most toxic brew in modern British politics. It has led to UKIP which robbed the Tories of Clacton and likely Rochester as well as almost certainly several Tory seats at the next election, and which came within an ace of robbing Labour of Heywood and Middleton. It has now led to the SNP where the some polls suggest that, of the 59 constituencies in Scotland where Labour currently holds 41 and the Tories 1, it will capture between 47-54 of these seats and leave Labour with only 5-10 seats. Less dramatic polls indicate the SNP might take 23-26 seats, but that could still have severe reverberations for Labour. Next May’s election could well hang on whether UKIP does more damage to the Tories than the SNP does to Labour in Scotland. However the 6 months still to go is a long time in politics, and for both the two main parties the counter-argument will be spread relentlessly: for the Tories, vote Miliband and wake up with Farage, and for Labour, vote SNP and you deliver yet another London-based Tory government at Westminster. Those arguments may yet get some considerable play.
To prevent wipe-out in Scotland Labour must now be under intense pressure to do what it has needed to do for some considerable time, and that is to deliver a decisive and commanding narrative about its vision for the future of our country which differentiates it sharply from other political parties. That must include at a minimum the abandonment of austerity in favour of public investment, expansion of the economy, sustainable growth, increased employment with genuine jobs, rising household incomes, and thus also paying down the deficit far faster than austerity ever will – as shown this year when despite the widespread impoverishment caused the deficit is still £100bn and actually rising this year. It must also include significantly increased powers for the Scottish Parliament (effectively Home Rule for Scotland) as well as a major devolution of power to the English metropolitan city regions. There must also be a huge housebuilding programme to remedy the biggest repository of misery in Britain today, the return of the health service and education to full public control, a reversal of privatisation of energy, water and rail, a restoration of collective bargaining and trade union rights, and a relentless crackdown on tax avoidance and inequality.
The person who should be elected as the next leader of the Scottish Labour party is the person who can articulate this vision and promote it with passion and vigour as the agenda for Labour for the next election. That person is not Jim Murphy who with a record as an uber- Blairite would never embrace an agenda like this, nor deliver a narrative that differentiated Labour from the Tories when Blair is so regularly quoted by the Tories like Gove as the inspiration for all the changes they’ve made. But there is one person who could articulate and promote this agenda brilliantly. Step forward Neil Findlay.