Ungagged: Scottish Labour


I’m not only back to blogging, I got my arse into gear and contributed to the latest Ungagged podcast Empire of skulls.

I did a recap of recent events in the latest Scottish Labour leadership election, what’s scary is it’s got worse over the last few days.

I still can’t listen to myself but the other contributors are excellent. Here’s my bit:

When I moved to Glasgow, I was expecting to find a radical Labour party, Red Clydeside etc.

How wrong could I be? The party in Scotland is stuffed with Blairites. The only principle they seem to have is the Bain one; that they will disagree with the SNP no matter what, preferring to see the Tories in government than join forces against them.

But on the plus side there’s no need to watch soaps when you have a front row seat to Scottish Labour. Like River City it’s not something you regularly hear about in England, but it has its heroes and villains, unbelievable plot lines and acts of sheer bravado and terror.

There is no Corbynite surge in Scotland, in fact it sometimes feels those most friendly to Corbyn are in the SNP – we have a lot in common, he’s borrowed from our manifesto for starters – whereas the Scottish branch (and Kezia) supported Owen Smith in the last UK leadership election.

Scottish Labour isn’t a major production like UK Labour, it’s more of a spin-off series, think Joey & Friends, with the occasional big name appearing, infrequent new faces but mainly it’s tired, second rate players, those having one last hurrah before they disappear into retirement or the House of Lords bar as it’s more commonly called.

Like many soaps you can drop back in after a few years absence and find they are re-hashing the old story-lines because no matter how much they hate the SNP they fraction against one another even more.

Which is why one of their recurring story lines is the biannual Scottish leadership election.

Since devolution (17 1/2 years) Labour in Scotland has had 8 leaders and numerous acting leaders or leaders covering for actual leaders who are MPs rather than MSPs.

  • Donald Dewar (7 May 1999 – 11 October 2000)
  • Henry McLeish (Acting 11 October 2000 – 27 October 2000) (27 October 2000 – 8 November 2001) 
    • Cathy Jamieson (8 November 2001 – 22 November 2001) (Acting)
  • Jack McConnell (22 November 2001 – 15 August 2007)
    • Cathy Jamieson (15 August 2007 – 14 September 2007) (Acting)
  • Wendy Alexander (14 September 2007 – 28 June 2008)
    • Cathy Jamieson (28 June 2008 – 13 September 2008) (Acting)
  • Iain Gray (13 September 2008 – 17 December 2011)
  • Johann Lamont (17 December 2011 – 24 October 2014)
    • Anas Sarwar MP (Acting leader : 24 October 2014 – 13 December 2014)
    • Jackie Baillie (24 October 2014 – 13 December 2014) (Acting leader in Holyrood)
  • Jim Murphy (13 December 2014 – 13 June 2015)
    • Iain Gray (13 June 2015 – 15 August 2015) (Acting)
    • Kezia Dugdale (13 December 2014 – 13 June 2015 (Deputy Party Leader, acting leader in Holyrood)
  • Kezia Dugdale (15 August 2015 – 29 August 2017)
    • Alex Rowley (29 August 2017– present) (Acting, as Deputy Party Leader)

Ever since they lost their majority of seats – please note Holyrood is elected by PR, no party is supposed to have an absolute majority – we have seen the same lines repeated over and over by whomever is in the running.

    • The electorate has spoken, we will listen to them to find out what they want
      • They aren’t so keen when the answer comes back, anti-new Labour, anti-nuclear, anti-austerity, and now anti-brexit
      • At which point many of the electorate who changed parties are  also quoting Jimmy Reid at them “‘It wasn’t so much that I left Labour. I felt that they left me”
  • Since JoLa left there’s Scottish Labour will not be a branch office under my leadership,
    • We keep being told it’s autonomous, how can something become more autonomous?
  • Then there’s always “we will not work with the SNP”
    • Heeeeello – Tories? Remember them?
  • Sometimes we get “socialist”or working class photo shoots.
    • Those reading the blog version of this are now looking at some very limp fist raising and Jim Murphy running in a Scotland top – for which I must apologise.




    • And the very best line is of all is “We know who the SNP fear because that’s who they are taking the piss out of”
      • No we’re taking the piss because you keep electing muppets, and I refer you back to Jim Murphy as a prime example.

    The current contest, brought about after Kezia Dugdale abruptly quit, is more spiteful than usual.

    In the blue corner there’s privately educated Anas Sarwar, who family firm pays minimum (not living wage) with no trade union in situ. Who after a series of errors/omissions/lies ended up transferring his shares to his children, instantly making them millionaires. This is the candidate that has the support of the majority of elected members – so Jackie Baillie tells us and more on her in a bit.

    And then in the other blue corner is “the other one” privately educated Richard Leonard. He’s the union’s man, in particular the pro-fracking GMB. He was thought to be a long shot until all the stories broke about Sarwar. Which in turn leads us to pishgate.

    For those not in the know, Jackie Baillie, who has flung her political weight firmly behind Sarwar, accused Leonard of conspiring to oust Kezia, possibly with the aid of Alex Rowley, the current acting leader. Who despite being neutral had been caught on tape at conference telling a student how wonderful Leonard would be as leader.

    (Seriously, I feel like I’m reading an intro for SOAP. If you are too young to know what I’m on about google it. )

    This is unfair as we know that’s usually her and Margaret Curran’s job. In response to this Leonard’s  press team issued a statement, the subject title being “coment on latest jackie baillie pish”. I think “latest” is what really rubs it in.



And please note that incident was going on while Jeremy Corbyn was making his speech at conference talking about party unity and taking Scotland back. As a side note, Scotland isn’t yours Jeremy and you aren’t Edward Longshanks.

So as you can imagine, things aren’t running smoothly during hustings. STV had an outstanding piece on the hustings in Dumfries the other night.

Sarwar accuses Leonard of breaking party line by voting for Article 50 in Holyrood, saying how can he ask for loyalty from his party “you can only credibly ask for that loyalty if you’ve shown loyalty yourself”

To which, and this is a zinger, Leonard points out that Sarwar was one of the MPs who signed a letter calling for Corbyn’s resignation. He then continues saying Sarwar had changed his mind in the week before that Article 50 vote.

Sarwar doesn’t deny this, but says Leonard should think carefully before disclosing private conversations as they had also talked about Jeremy Corbyn. This is the self-proclaimed unity candidate.

There is a split in the Scottish Labour party. Sarwar is backed by the majority of elected members whereas Leonard is backed by the unions. I don’t believe either of these two men have the ability to heal it.

I’m not sure if anyone has the ability to heal it.

So while I’m enjoying this year’s popcorn I’m going to make sure I have plenty left for next year’s election too.

See you then.

Image by the great man Chris Cairns whose talent is unrivalled and whose books are available at cairnstoon.com




2 thoughts on “Ungagged: Scottish Labour

  1. Pingback: The song remains the same – Mewsing Out Loud

  2. Pingback: Same old same old – Mewsing Out Loud

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