Monday, 4 July 2011

Anyone seen Labour's bridge back to Scotland?

After the Inverclyde by-election confirmed the Scottish Labour Party still has a pulse, the first stage of moving the patient out of intensive care is underway.

Later today as Shadow Defence Sectretary Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack MSP discuss their ideas to reform the Scottish party with MPs in Westminster.

The pair have already had talks with the MSPs in Scotland but persuading the Westminster party to swallow some of the Irn Bru reforms I outlined in today's Daily Record may not be easy.

Senior party figures insist they have an open mind about changes but it's pretty clear they want to beef up the Scottish identity of Labour - and not just with Barr's "made in Scotland 'fae girders" branding.

Structurally the party will have to become organised around the 73 Scottish parliament constituencies, most of which do not overlap the 59 Westminster seats.

Harder to sell to MPs is the idea that the leader of the Scottish Labour Party should be the overall team general. There's resistance to that but it will strike anyone who doesn't follow politics closely as odd that Iain Gray, always described as the Scottish leader, in in reality only leader of the Labour MSPs at Holyrood.

That, in turn, will lead to a looser relationship with the UK Labour party, a positive thing for the Westminster leader if it turns voters back to Scottish Labour and prevents the break-up of the UK.

But the most symbolic reform - structural and psychological - is enabling, and persuading, Scottish Labour MPs to make the return journey to Holyrood.

To paraphrase Angus MacNeil, Labour has to address the problem of why it fields its A team for Westminster and its B team for Holyrood.

Asking Scottish Labour MPs to find the political highway to Holyrood, to stand in seats that were once fiefdoms and are now enemy territory, to relinquish parliamentary ambitions and take leave of the national political stage, is not going to be easy. That's not to mention the tartan toes of MSPs and candidates that would have to be trampled on to facilitate a transition.

The bridge back to Scotland might be hard to find, but until some of Scottish Labour's big Westminster beasts set out on that journey the party will always be challenged on whether it is has learned the lessons of 2007 and 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment