The week the mask slipped - Lesley Laird

Lesley Laird, the Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, writes exclusively for the Red Robin. 

It’s safe to say that this week will from here-on-in be known as ‘the week the mask slipped’.

At Holyrood, new mum Ruth Davidson is off on maternity leave. It hasn’t taken long for her other 'children' to misbehave. With Tory MSPs promoting the two-child benefit policy and the rape clause as ‘fairness’ - summed up by Michelle Ballantyne’s grandiose performance in a Holyrood debate on inequality - you could have been left wondering what century we’re living in.

Many people were surprised by the comments, after all Ruth’s Scottish Tories are supposed to be the friendly face of the Tory party. But for those of us who challenge the Tories on their record on a daily basis, this was no surprise at all.

Just look at Westminster. Universal Credit - a welfare reform fundamentally failing the most vulnerable people in our society and forcing hundreds of thousands of people into poverty. This benefit is responsible for a 45% increase in those seeking advice on rent arrears and a 52% increase in food bank use in areas where it has been fully rolled out. Layered on top, we have one-in-four children living in poverty, six million people not on the Living Wage and 1.8 million on zero-hours contracts. 

Yet again this week when Jeremy Corbyn challenged Theresa May, the reaction of the Tories to this scandal is guffawing, heckling and barracking. No sign of empathy or even acknowledgement that their reforms are pushing people to breaking point. Add to this Michelle Ballantyne’s comments on Wednesday, this really shows the true face of the Tory party north and south.

However, the Tories were not alone this week when it came to letting the mask slip – the SNP had a pretty good bash at it too.

On Wednesday, over 8,000 women took to Glasgow’s streets to demand Glasgow City Council respect their right to equal pay. The vast majority of those who marched were workers represented by either GMB or Unison. These women are the frontline of public services – care workers, primary school teachers and nursery staff - and deserve our respect.

Glasgow City Council called the walkout ‘unnecessary’. A strange notion if you believe the SNP is a left-wing party which supports trade unions and collective bargaining. But come close of play on Wednesday, their true colours had been shown. A lawyer representing Glasgow City Council wrote to those undertaking official industrial action warning of repercussions if they did not return to work. And how would they enforce that? By threatening to implement the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992. That’s right, the SNP threatened to use Thatcherite anti-trade union legislation. Enough said.

Furthermore, consider the pay dispute with teachers where the SNP will now cut the unions out of any discussions by writing directly to teachers, despite this being contrary to the agreed and long-standing negotiating structures. So too on P1 testing, where John Swinney this week has simply ignored the will of the Scottish Parliament and is arrogantly ploughing ahead with his version of education reform. Consider this in the context of where the SNP accuse Westminster of not listening to the settled will of the Scottish Parliament. Rank hypocrisy.

Add that to the no shows of the SNP in standing up for the women of Northern Ireland and same-sex couples. Prepared to march on a gay pride march but not prepared to march through the lobby when it really counts. And don’t forget, this also applied to the majority of Ruth’s Scottish Tories.

Thankfully, we didn’t need their votes to do the right thing.

So as we approach Halloween, don’t let these guises fool you. There’s only one party which has always championed human rights, equal rights, workers’ rights, and it’s clear that there’s only one party that ever will. Labour.

 

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