When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party in 2015, he spoke about straight talking politics and a new kind of politics that would see grassroots party members empowered and decide party policy and direction.
Since then the Scottish Labour Party has suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election which resulted in the Scottish Labour Party being replaced by the Scottish Conservatives as the official opposition, a new leader who has failed to breakthrough to the Scottish electorate and who is simply out of touch with the people of Scotland and oversaw a devastating result in the European Parliament election.
In politics clarity of message is everything as people need to know where you stand on the issue of the day and what you intend to do about it, but Labour’s message over Brexit was at best confusing with many people on the door step unsure of what the party’s policy on Brexit was, and lets not forget that Labour party members agreed the party’s position on Brexit at the party’s conference last year, which included the option of pursuing a peoples vote with remain being on the ballot if the party couldn’t secure a general election, and yet party members up and down the country continued to debate the interpretation of the party’s adopted stance on Brexit with both sides claiming victory.
It beggar’s belief that a political party that once dominated Scottish politics could get its messaging catastrophically wrong on what can only be described as the most important political issue of the day, but that’s what happens when party leaders and senior advisers are more interested in winning internal battles than winning the country, the focus becomes inward rather than outward looking and the real losers in this scenario are the people in this country that need a strong Labour voice.
The lack of clarity in labour’s message has created a vacuum that only works to the benefit of other party’s and in Scotland the clear winners of the European Parliament election were the SNP and the Scottish Liberal Democrats who had a consistent pro EU message that resonated well with the Scottish electorate.
It’s worrying that the party that gave Scotland devolution and in turn the Scottish parliament couldn’t convince many of its own members to vote for them with many members voting for a remain party. The question that’s on everyone’s mind, is were does Scottish Labour go from here and what does it have to do to ensure that it doesn’t face electorate irrelevance?
The starting point is for the Labour Party to acknowledge that the electorate has changed, the days of blind party loyalty are over, the electorate is more fluid, some may say it’s nothing more than consumer politics and if that’s the case nobody is buying what Labour has to offer. If the Labour Party was a commercial entity it would take serious action in the face of poor sales by changing tactic, changing strategy and changing leader, and its no different for the Labour party.
For the Labour Party in Scotland to flourish and become a force in Scottish politics again it needs to go back to basics; starting with its vision, what type of Scotland does it want to lead whilst simultaneously making the case for the union and offer radical policies that will set the Labour Party apart from its counter parties.