During the Labour leadership contest I had the opportunity to share a few minutes and a couple of thoughts with Andrew Little. One thing I asked him, nay urged him to do, was to pay attention to the situation of the SNP and the Labour Party in Scotland. I admit he looked at me a bit askance…Scotland, and therefore any lessons that might be learned from the situation there, just didn’t seem to be on his radar. Now okay, I think it’s reasonable to assume that UK Labour and England are on the NZ Labour radar. But the thing is, there is nothing to learn from UK Labour in England just as there’s nothing to be gained from UK Labour’s woeful lack of understanding around the party’s demise in Scotland.
Since I don’t want to repeat myself, but in light of all the guff coming in the shape of this ‘Labour Progress’ think-tank, here’s a wee bit of a heads up, straight from the horse’s mouth as it were, on the strategy the SNP adopted in the recent UK election that sunk Labour in Scotland. (The full interview)
John Stewart: -David Cameron is the head of the Conservative Party. You have brought…first of all, demolished Labour. Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, are they angry at the SNP or are they more disappointed in Miliband? Did you outflank them? How did that happen?
Nicola Sturgeon:- Well, they’re disappointed in Miliband but they’re expressing that by being angry at the SNP. So, it’s easier for them to blame the SNP for the fact they got demolished in the election that actually face up to the reasons why they got demolished. What did the SNP do to beat Labour so comprehensively? We started acting more like people expect a Labour Party to act like, so we stood up against austerity. We said, ‘You know what? We don’t want to spend a hundred billion pounds on new trident nuclear missiles. We’d rather do something really radical and invest that in health care and education – in giving kids the best start in life’. You have to back ten or twenty years, these are the things Labour politicians used to say in the UK, but not any more. They’ve just tried to ‘out right-wing’ the Conservatives and… it hasn’t worked for them.
See, it seems pretty clear to me that if Labour want to enjoy levels of support way in excess of what National have, then they have to look at what worked in Scotland insofar as what didn’t work in Scotland also didn’t work in the rest of the UK. NZ Labour then simply need to draw the parallels and learn the lessons. It isn’t rocket science…
Meanwhile, looking at the crop of hopefuls in UK Labour’s leadership contest, it seems the idea is to keep with same tried and tested formula for failure and hope that some obscure law of probability kicks in to change the outcome to one of success…a bit like ‘Progress’ then?
Firmly back to NZ Labour just so I can reiterate a question I’ve already posed directly to two leadership candidates during the contest that Andrew Little won. When is Labour going to unreservedly apologise for 1984 and signal an unequivocal break from that legacy? It isn’t, as you like to tell yourselves, ‘irrelevant’. 1984 and the fourth Labour Government isn’t ‘forgotten’ by the electorate or merely some dimly remembered something-or-other from ancient history. Everyone knows it impacted on their family and on Helen Clark’s government and still courses like a toxin in the veins of the Labour political beast.
Again. Scotland. You think it odd that Mhaira Black – SNP mp in Westminster – rails against Thatcher and the social devastation of Thatcherism when she wasn’t even born during the time Thatcher was in power? It’s not odd. Some historical events don’t lend themselves to carpet sweeping. Thatcherism is one. Rogernomics is another.
In summary. Two simple and necessary steps to deliver success for NZ Labour and a huge level of relief for many of us living on these islands. Apologise for 1984. And then do as the SNP have done, and (re-)claim the mantle, values and voices of Labour’s recent past.