Cat Boyd: Left needs to fightback against Blairite

Jim Murphy victory highlights gap between party leadership and  traditional activist base. Picture: Getty
Jim Murphy victory highlights gap between party leadership and traditional activist base. Picture: Getty
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AS A socialist in Scotland, I cannot but dread Jim Murphy’s tenure as new leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Over the weeks of the leadership contest, a clear battle emerged between Murphy, backed by the parliamentarians on one side, and Neil Findlay, backed by the trade unions on the other. This exposure of the deep tensions within the party in Scotland became a battle between those who desired a return to a progressive Labour Party and those who sought to secure it for the Blairites.

Murphy’s investiture as leader of Scottish Labour represents a victory for the latter and a colossal void between the Scottish leadership of the party and its traditional activist base.

The consequences are grave: Scottish Labour under Murphy’s leadership cannot deliver a left-wing agenda. As Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey put it, Murphy’s victory is a “political death sentence” for Labour in Scotland. For the Yes voters in the Labour heartlands who were motivated by the left-wing narrative of the referendum campaign, rather than by nationalism, there is a deepening crisis of political representation. Austerity and Westminster’s legacy of failure in particular areas of Scotland were huge driving factors for the traditional Labour base during the referendum. Those voters will not find their interests represented by Scottish Labour in its new form. Labour has failed to learn any lessons from the referendum.

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The possibilities that would have opened up in Scottish politics had Neil Findlay won would have represented fertile ground for left-wing ideas. The combination of Murphy in Scotland and Miliband at Westminster promising more austerity and a continuation of the Tory welfare cap means that Labour’s fate has been sealed. The party created to represent the collective interests of ordinary people in the political institutions can no longer be resurrected from within.

The Left must act now to ensure that ordinary people can have a left-wing voice in politics. We must ensure the future of Holyrood is not a Labour-versus-SNP battleground, with a gradual rightwards drift in the political narrative. That will leave ordinary people in Scotland without a voice, and no party to represent us.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Scotland’s political landscape is changing. Over the past two years, social movements powered by issues of class and democracy have shown there is a huge demand for change. These forces brought various left-wing groupings together and this democratic awakening for transformational change needs a political expression.

There has never been a greater need for political representation of the interests of ordinary people. We need a Left in Scotland that can stand up to the British establishment, the interests of big business and rebuild a strong labour movement. Working-class people in Scotland deserve a credible, coherent, genuine left-wing voice that represents their interests.

This process requires debate and discussion, and that is why I am a signatory to the Scottish Left Project. This is not a party, nor do those involved presume to have all the answers; but we want to begin the conversation with other socialists, community activists, trade unions, social justice campaigners and activists about the best way to take left-wing and socialist principles into 2016. The Left Project aims to present not just an effective socialist option on the ballot paper in 2016 but one that is broad, inclusive and accessible.

The demand for renewed political representation stems from the core of our beliefs: the desire for a radical redistribution of wealth and power in Scotland and the need for working-class people to have a strong voice in parliament. At one time, these were Labour’s core beliefs. Murphy’s win has hollowed out that core for good. It is now our responsibility to give left-wing ideas a vehicle which can represent our desires and make the case for transforming Scotland in the interests of the many, not the few. «

Cat Boyd is a trade union activist and a co-founder of the Radical Independence Campaign. She sits on the editorial board of the Scottish Left Review and is the co-author of Scottish Independence: A Feminist Response

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