Friday, 8 May 2015

Bright sun, and a bitter wind

Scotland wakes to a morning of bright sun, and sharp, cold wind. To a morning of elation and of shock. We've won an historic victory: but every great victory hides within it a great tragedy. For many - and not just here in Scotland - much has been lost, and many things which were treasured are put at risk.

We must not overwheen. We must keep the heid. This victory - enormous and overwhelming as it is - is a product of an electoral system we all know is deeply flawed: First Past the Post. In fact, only 51.5% of votes cast in Scotland were for pro-independence parties; under a fair electoral system we would still have won - might, in fact, have won a slightly bigger share of the vote - but we would have won only thirty of Scotland's fifty-nine seats.

The seeds of this victory and this tragedy were planted in 1979, when Labour, urged on by old Etonian Tam Dalyell, stole from Scotland the referendum that we had fairly won. They were nurtured in Sedgefield in 1983, when Fettes and Oxford educated Tony Blair was appointed Labour candidate to represent Durham miners. Blair calculated that, given first past the post, the left had nowhere to go and must stay loyal as he moved his party to the right; and so, he destroyed it. Because the left in Scotland did have somewhere else to go, and we went.

In every victory is a defeat, and this defeat is Labour's. They earned it. For Labour to recover it needs to introspect, to own its own errors. It needs to understand  that although the SNP won in part because they outflanked it on the left, the SNP are vulnerable not from the right but from further left. The true opposition in the next Scottish Parliament will not be Labour: it will be the Greens, the Left Project, and even, possibly, a revived Socialist Party. The essential struggle is still a class struggle, not an ethnic struggle; Scotland is slowly turning to independence because we have lost faith in the possibility of socialism across Britain. If we are to build socialism in one country, that country can only be Scotland.

In England as in Scotland, I believe, there is still a left whose voice has been silenced by Labour's journey rightwards. The things which Labour held up as its crown jewels are lost in England. The English NHS is on life support, and Osborne is fiddling with the off-switch. The English welfare state is in tatters. The Tories, like Blair before them, are redistributing wealth from the poorest to succour the rich.

It's a good thing Balls has gone. Without him, Labour - in England at least - can begin to rebuild; but first it must find some cojones.
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