Clutching defeat from the jaws of victory

It’s not often that I agree with Jack McConnell but his view that the Scottish Labour party is in a quagmire of its own doing and heading to implosion, if not annihilation, had an air of candour that the Arran baron is not renowned for. Several commentators have taken a similar position. The ‘winners’ of the referendum are increasingly acting like losers and, vice versa, the ‘losers’ are going from strength to strength.
Of course, it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. The referendum campaign lasting over two years, imposed a strict discipline on most parties, but especially the Labour party. The private grumblings about Johanna Lamont’s leadership bubbled under and occasionally surfaced but rarely in an open criticism. Likewise, the watering down of their devolution commitments from the interim report to the pale imitation that the final report was, belied the truth that MPs and Westminster leadership were limiting whatever ‘devo max/lite/plus’ would look like.

Now the co-chairs of their devolution commission – Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack – are to battle it out to lead the renaissance of the People’s Party in Scotland. Sadly, the socialist tribune that is known as Neil Findlay is unlikely to win. From third place in the Almond Valley selection battle in 2012 to party leader two years later was going to be a meteoric rise too far. Or maybe the sun is going to melt his wings, either way Findlay is more Ithacus than Spartacus at this stage.

I’m not sure if it was Macwhirter or Bell or some other esteemed commentator who remarked that the best leader of the Scottish Labour party is in fact Nicola Sturgeon. It is in this observation that reality bites for Scottish Labour. It’s not just the natural leader of Labour who will now lead the nation in another party, but so are the thousands of rank and file members.

The SNP has taken on the mantle (over a number of years it has to be said), as the natural political party of the Scottish mindset. Something which I learned as I grew up was the birthright of Keir Hardie followers. So not only is the Labour party trying to come to terms with being out of government, but the magnetic pull of political leadership means anyone entering politics will see the SNP as the go-to party of choice. Ideology has been turned on its head. Or rather ideology was an imperfect prism to view political choices and we now have a more values-driven, ‘sense-checking’ approach to politics.

So by Christmas the musical chairs of party leadership will see two new faces. I can’t wait to see what the long term effect is on Scottish politics. For a woman at the helm of government. For a Labour leadership desperate to find a way to re-connect with Scottish voters at Holyrood (and possible Westminster if current polls are to be believed). Time will tell.