Tuesday, 17 May 2011

After a short break from the coalface I'm beginning to think that the Scottish Labour party should be left alone to pick over the bones of its staggering defeat in the Scottish election.

Before leaving the subject I'd point anyone interested to the submission by Tom Harris MP, which he has published on his own site.

All I'd add, once again, is that Labour's problems are not uniquely Caledonian. The party faces the same task of reforming itself at a UK level too.

Peter Hain has started that process on the Love Labour, Change Labour website today.

Here's how the suggestions Tom Harris makes were sent to The Daily Record:

The next leader of the Scottish Labour party should be elected by ordinary members, with MSPs and MPs taking a back seat.

The "one member, one vote" idea has been proposed by Glasgow South MP Tom Harris who is urging fellow Westminster MPs not to use their disproportionate influence when choosing a new Scottish leader.

Harris is the first Westminster MP to back a call by former First Minister Jack McConnell for Scottish Labour MPs to voluntarily give up their vote in the contest.
The move is an attempt to stop the nationalist jibe that the Scottish leader is chosen by "London Labour" and ease the tension between Labour’s Westminster MPs and Holyrood MSPs.

In his submission to the party review of its devastating defeat by the SNP Harris also recommends that the new leader be in charge of the whole party in Scotland, and not just the Labour MSPs at Holyrood.

This would make Scottish Labour stand alone from the UK party - an idea that echoes a call made yesterday by party elder statesman Henry McLeish, who preceded McConnell as First Minister.

McLeish said Scottish Labour had to have its own brand and identity and should be taking on the SNP by developing policies that are "embracing pride and patriotism and wrapping them in the Saltire".

Harris recommends that to keep the link with the UK’s "team Labour" that the Scottish deputy leader be a Westminster MP rather than an MSP.

The Scottish leader is currently chosen from votes in three "electoral colleges" - one for ordinary members, a second for trade unions, and a third made up of MPs and MSPs.

As there more Scottish Labour MPS (40) than MSPs (37) the Westminster contingent wield more power.

Harris argues that the electoral college be abolished and replaced by a simple one member, one vote election.

Harris said: "This would bring Labour into line with every other mainstream party and would give ordinary members influence beyond what they have had until now. MPs and MSPs would have a vote of the same value as every other member, as would any trade union member who is a member of the Labour Party."

A root and branch review of the Scottish Labour party is to be carried out by Jim Murphy MP and Sarah Boyack MSP over the summer.

Harris said that the review has to focus on voters and on Labour’s own vision for a devolved Scotland.

He said: "We need to stop seeing devolution in terms of its effects on politics and the political parties, and instead embrace it as mechanism for benefiting the people of Scotland.

"We need to stop defining ourselves against the SNP and start defining ourselves, once more, as the people’s party."

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