Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Labour review to dismantle Hadrian's wall

Labour has decided to go for a hasty post-mortem of the party’s disastrous Scottish election performance.

A review panel, jointly led by former Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy MP and Edinburgh MSP Sarah Boyack, will produce an interim report on the way ahead for the party by June.

This runs counter to earlier BBC reports that three MPs - Murphy, shadow Scottish Secretary Anne McKechin and Stirling MP Anne McGuire would review the aftermath of the biggest defeat in Labour's history.

The prospect of Westminster politicians raking the ashes immediately put noses out of joint in Scotland. Ex-MSP Pauline McNeill was quick out of the blocks with a defensive statement, demanding that London leaving the Scottish party alone.

McNeill, who was defeated by the SNP in Glasgow Kelvin, said: "There is a perception, not always the reality, that Scottish Labour always looks to London and I think that Ed Miliband appointing three MPs really should be left to the Scottish Labour Party."

To do what precisely? Scottish Labour lost and no one thinks the rump of MSPs left in Holyrood will have the answer as to why that happened.

But Pauline's reaction to the early speculation on the review is telling in itself. The very gulf between Scotland's Westminster MPs and Holyrood MSPs is part of the reason the party lies beaten and bruised, and Scottish Labour MSPs have to accept that.

No one accuses the London wing of the SNP of running Scotland when Angus Robertson comes from Westminster to take charge of the Scottish parliament election campaign.

No one bats an eyelid when Angus, and the other Angus (MacNeil) are seen in Edinburgh on a Thursday afternoon, liaising with their colleagues in the Scottish parliament, getting a feel for the issues, the constituencies and their opponents' weaknesses long before an election gun is fired.

Yet some Scottish Labour MPs are proud to proclaim that they've never darkened the door of the Holyrood parliament. Others among them report that no welcome mat would be put out by their Scottish colleagues in any case, that they are not wanted, despite their election-winning experience.

The complacency is not universal, of course. You can't accuse Murphy or Boyack of being political parochialists.

But it is ironic that one of their first tasks in saving the party (and the UK) is dismantling the Hadrian's Wall that Scottish Labour politicians have built to divide each other.

Speaking of complacency, can it be true that a Scottish Labour MP did a "Gordon Jackson" and took a holiday in the middle of the Holyrood election campaign?

Jackson, the eminent QC and former MSP for Glasgow Govan, was posted missing during one of the Scottish election campaigns. (He increased his majority, and Labour will look back on these days with nostalgia)

A final report on the reform of the party structure and how the Westminster and Holyrood Labour politicians work together in future will be finished in August.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, and the next leader of Scottish Labour, will consider the final recommendations.

Here, I predict, is the first sentence of the Scottish Labour review that will catch Miliband's eye. "If Labour does not find a message to reconnect with the Scottish electorate, then the UK party's prospects in the next general election look very grim indeed."

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