Reports of Labour tensions over Aberdeen decision
Paul Hutcheon of the Sunday Herald has reported tensions in the Scottish Labour Parliamentary Group over the decision to block a coalition with the Tories on Aberdeen council:
The majority of the MSP group voted for Anas Sarwar last year (not Richard Leonard) and many of these MSPs were furious about the SEC decision on Aberdeen. They want the councillors to be reinstated and are relaxed about a Lab-Tory coalition.— Paul Hutcheon (@paulhutcheon) June 21, 2018
There is now talk about Sarwar allies eyeing up both group Rep positions ahead of next week’s AGM. The key point: Leonard won the leadership contest comfortably last year, but he is in a minority within his own MSP group.— Paul Hutcheon (@paulhutcheon) June 21, 2018
This stance reported by Paul Hutcheon, if true, is baffling. There is not a single council in England and Wales where Labour and the Conservatives have entered into any sort of coalition or confidence agreement, which makes the issue a very odd hill to fight on. It also seems to ignore the fact that the Aberdeen group were suspended because they broke Labour Party rules.
However, It starts to make more sense if you understand the issue isn’t just the political make up of Aberdeen Council, but the whole political direction of the Scottish Labour Party. Should Scottish Labour attempt to sweep up all anti-independence voters under one big No-voting tent, or should they reach out to everyone who agrees with their economic and social vision, regardless of their constitutional preference?
The hard unionist strategy has been the mainstay of Scottish Labour, and it has seen the party suffer a series of catastrophic defeats. In 2015, Scottish Labour lost 40 out of 41 seats, and in 2016 it fell to third place. By 2017, Scottish Labour was polling at just 14 per cent of the vote.
Things started to change in the 2017 General Election as the focus shifted away from the constitutional questions, and towards Labour’s radical and transformative economic agenda. This saw the party regain six seats, and come within a whisker of winning back several seats across Scotland.
That was the end of the argument for most party members: the electorate had decided for them. And the Scottish Parliamentary Group is possibly the last place where a sizeable number would disagree with the move away from the constitutional strategy. These leaks show how much some members of the group still can’t accept that Richard won last year’s leadership election. But is it right to take that out on the party's electoral prospects by trying to return to the strategy that has doomed centre-left parties all over Europe?