Scottish Labour ‘tacitly helped Tories increase vote share’

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale meets the party's new MPs following the general election in June. Labour made several gains at the expense of the SNP. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale meets the party's new MPs following the general election in June. Labour made several gains at the expense of the SNP. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
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Scottish Labour’s campaign strategy ‘tacitly’ helped the Conservatives increase their vote in Scotland at the general election, a report by a left-wing pressure group has found.

A paper by the Campaign for Socialism (CFS) said Scottish Labour strategists were “stuck in a Better Together mindset” and did not effectively challenge the Conservatives’ record at Westminster ahead of the snap election on June 6.

The report by former MSP Lesley Brennan argued that by focusing attacks on the SNP, the Tories increased their vote by 5,500 on average across constituencies north of the border - enough for them to win 13 seats, their highest total since 1983.

“Scottish Labour’s strategists need to shift away from chasing Tory voters and fully harness Jeremy Corbyn’s transformational programme of government to win votes from people, who are experiencing hardships due to austerity and the unfair economy,” the paper said.

The CFS describes its aims as “promoting Labour as a party committed to socialism on the basis of common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”.

The report was seized on by the SNP, who said it was proof that Labour spends “all its time attacking the SNP while letting the Tories off the hook”.

SNP MSP James Dornan said: “This is a devastating report from inside Scottish Labour itself, which explicitly says that the party’s tactics helped the Tories win more seats north of the border.

“That is an extraordinary admission, but one which is borne out by the facts – and Kezia Dugdale should hang her head in shame at that verdict from her own colleagues.

“This report also lays bare the splits inside Labour and outlines what everyone in Scotland already knows – that Labour north of the border spends all its time attacking the SNP while letting the Tories off the hook.”

But a senior Labour source played down Mr Dornan’s comments. “Of course, it’s not just SNP MPs who are terrified of losing their seats to Labour,” they said. “We’re also aiming to seize Holyrood constituencies, and James Dornan’s desperate comments show just how worried he is.”

It was announced today that Jeremy Corbyn will travel north next month for a series of campaign rallies in Scotland, aimed at building on Labour’s gains at the election.

In a response to the CFS report, a Scottish Labour spokesman said: “The overwhelming majority of Scottish Labour members are united behind our vision for a Scotland that is part of a United Kingdom which works for the many, not the few.

“Scottish Labour ran a positive pro-UK anti-austerity campaign that highlighted how we would improve the lives of people across Scotland. That dual message directly led to six gains for the Labour Party.

“The voters sent a strong message to Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May, and Scottish Labour remains on an election footing as we aim to make significant further electoral gains.

“Scottish Labour will continue to lead the policy debate in Scotland, with radical progressive policies like increasing child benefit by £240, and using the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to end austerity in Scotland, as outlined in the 2016 Holyrood election campaign.”

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