Kenny Young: No rash changes for Scottish Labour

Leadership favourite Chuka Umunna and Labour veteran Lord Mandelson discuss the party's future. Picture: BBC
Leadership favourite Chuka Umunna and Labour veteran Lord Mandelson discuss the party's future. Picture: BBC
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I AM the only Labour candidate to ever lose Midlothian.

A couple of friends have asked gently if everything has sunk in, and actually, I think it has. With a result as brutal as this, it doesn’t take that long to absorb. After all, I knew I had lost by about 10:30pm on Thursday.

Of course, this did not just happen to me. All across Scotland, we have been absolutely hammered. Naturally, Scottish Labour is on the hunt for answers and – we all hope – solutions.

Here is the hardest part of that search, though: Labour’s offer was a socialist step to the left, and it was rejected in favour of Nationalism.

I am no Blairite and I put myself on the centre-left of Labour, so I was proud of our platform. We were going to tax the bankers, tax the mansions, tax the rich and redistribute wealth and opportunity to those sorely lacking it. But we were emphatically rejected.

Instead of voting for an end to food banks, a higher minimum wage and a job or training for every young person, people wanted to be “Stronger for Scotland”.

A vacuous slogan? I think so. Meaningless, when you consider that Scottish MPs were prime ministers and chancellors a few years ago? Absolutely. Effective? Stunningly so.

Some say the answer to this is to replace Jim Murphy. With the greatest of respect to those comrades, this is a pointless distraction. Jim is an able leader, head and shoulders above any alternatives. Nobody could have turned around Labour’s dreadful fortunes in a matter of months.

In fact, one of the many problems for Scottish Labour is that the position of leader had become a joke. We have had a rate of turnover that would make the Ibrox boardroom look stable, and we have put people into that job who – quite honestly – were never leaders. We should build Jim up, like the SNP built up their top team.

A change in personnel will not help to solve our fundamental problem in any case: Nationalism is on the rise.

The SNP have delivered almost nothing for social justice, yet they won. I met decent folk on the doorsteps who approved of what Labour was offering, but said they would vote SNP because they wanted people “down there” who would “stand up for us”, as if Scottish Labour MPs somehow would not.

In response, some say the solution is for Scottish Labour to break away from the UK Labour Party. I abhor Nationalism, with all its petty jealousies and false solidarity. Mimicking its trappings by adding tartan to our red rose feels false and undignified.

Over the past few months, Scottish Labour has spoken to tens of thousands of people who have willingly told us that they have switched from Labour to the SNP.

If we want to rebuild our party and regain their trust, let’s not speak to ourselves about rules, or leadership, or changing our constitution. Let’s save any rash changes until we have reached out to every one of those voters who abandoned us, and asked them: “Why?”

l Kenny Young is a former adviser to Gordon Brown and unsuccessful candidate for Midlothian