Scottish Labour still needs a Big Idea

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Does Scottish Labour have a credible narrative to win over voters before May’s ­general election?

Former adviser to some of its more prominent figures, Paul Sinclair, (Perspective, 21 February) drew attention cogently to the “instant-mix moral outrage messages” from the party on matters such as tax evasion, tax avoidance, and price increases from large energy utilities.

He could have added to the list some remarks about the state of the National Health Service, the question of ­teacher/pupil ratios in schools, the condition of the oil industry and Police Scotland. The ethos is one of reaction to events rather than one which might excite voters with a positive vision.

It is not helped by the contrast between Scottish leader Jim Murphy’s constant outpourings on nearly everything he can think of and Ed Miliband’s moribund ratings in the opinion polls.

What then is the big idea that might enthuse both its supporters and the electorate? The almost Pavlovian response to this from leading Labour spokesmen is “social justice”.

This is a message that is viewed as stale and hackneyed among large sections of voters. Indeed, arguably some of the other parties have stolen its clothes on this.

Somehow, Mr Miliband and Mr Murphy have to convey a new message. It has to be one of challenging abuse of power by large companies while encouraging ­enterprise at all levels. It has to be one of using the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament while arguing strongly for their extension. It has to be one of arguing for more efficiency and ­effectiveness in existing public services while arguing for their reform.

Above all, perhaps, there should be a strong message that a combination of public and private enterprise, including the voluntary sector, is the best way to attain social objectives. How to present this is a challenge for both leaders, but it is one they should accept if their party’s decline north of the Border is to be reversed.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court


I am in full agreement with Alexander McKay (Letters, 21 February) regarding tactical voting. The forthcoming general election in Scotland is as important in many ways as the referendum was. 

We can be assured that the nationalist/separatists, the Yes voters, will turn out in numbers to vote for the SNP.

With our current electoral system of first past the post, it is essential that those who voted No vote en masse for whichever candidate can mount the strongest challenge to the SNP candidate. Not to do so will mean that the No voters’ votes will be split between a number of parties, and while the SNP may not gain the majority of the votes they will emerge as the single party with the most votes and win largely by default.

Nowhere is this tactic more important than in Gordon, where Alex Salmond is seeking to take the seat from the Liberal Democrats.

In the unlikely event of the other parties – who have no chance of winning and who will only dissipate the anti-Salmond vote – standing aside and making it a two-horse race between Salmond and the Lib Dem candidate, Christine Jardine, I would urge the people of Gordon (who voted well over 60 per cent for No) to unite in numbers behind Jardine and deny Salmond the oxygen of publicity at Westminster as well as the opportunity to push for another referendum.

Donald Lewis

Beech Hill


East Lothian