Some time ago I wrote a blog about The English Labour Party which explained the anglocentric nature of the British Labour Party at Westminster.
The Scottish Labour MPs are seen as largely out of touch with matters in Scotland. It looks like all they want to protect is their little Westminster clique and their large salaries.
Yet the Scottish Labour MSPs are here in Scotland all the time. They see the rise of the SNP at first hand.
The fact that Gordon Brown is a hindrance to them cannot be overstated. His popularity as Prime Minister was recently polled at Labour’s lowest ever poll for a leader, lower even than Michael Foot – the previous lowest – who led Labour in the disastrous election campaign of 1983.
So even though Wendy Alexander’s U-turn on holding a Scottish Independence referendum was unexpected; it was an entirely sensible attempt to put some distance between an unpopular Prime Minister and his “Scottish mafia” of Westminster MPs and the Scottish Labour MSPs.
For a while Gordon Brown’s denial then Wendy Alexander’s reinsistance of the referendum policy, it looked like the Scottish Labour MSPs had finally had the courage to stand up to Westminster.
Stories were circulated that the previous Labour First Minister, Jack McConnell, had wished that he had picked fights with Westminster. Maybe if he had then we wouldn’t have had the spectacle of Patricia Hewitt, then the UK Health Secretary, brought up to Scotland to help in the Scottish Parliament elections of 2007, forgetting poor Jack’s name twice and having to be told by journalists of his name.
And that’s the problem with Westminster. Its run like it still owns the British Empire. It has no idea that the political world has changed elsewhere.
A Scottish Parliament. A Welsh Assembly. A Northern Ireland Assembly. “We’ll cede Johnny Foreigner that but we’ll still control the diamond mines and spices” is pretty much their attitude. Except in Scotland’s case for diamond mines read oil.
Thats why at a Scottish Parliamentary election, Westminster MPs are flown in to Scotland in order to fight the nationalist threat. They still think that they’re the big shots and give blessing on their local equivalents.
Hence a UK Health Secretary not knowing the Scottish First Minister’s name. “Oh yes. I agree with – whats our chap’s name again?”. How very Empire!
Its a pity that when the dust settled on Scottish Labour’s referendum policy – well I still not sure what that is, I don’t think they are either, but it should mean they’ll abstain when the vote comes to Parliament – it seems that they are back towing the party line of Westminster.
Forget the facts that the whole episode was badly handled, a PR nightmare, and because of several U-turns a political suicide note for the Labour Party; it could have been so much more.
What a wonderful opportunity missed to distance themselves from a failing UK Government. It could have given the Scottish Labour Party a real boost in the public’s mind as not doing everything Westminster want. For once they might have looked like they stood up for Scotland.
They might have just challenged the SNP’s authority as a party that always fights Scotland’s cause.
Now they just look like lapdogs.