In the continuing saga of the longest suicide note in history, Labour party members in Scotland have just selected Jim Murphy as their branch leader. Yes, that Jim Murphy, the Blairite, pro-war, pro-nuclear weapons Westminster politician with an expense account that would shame some Tories.
While many commentators have sought to explain the outcome of the referendum in September, I’ve bit my tongue and had to content myself by sitting back and waiting for hubris to catch-up with the lies. I was always told that if you can’t say something nice, keep your mouth shut and as much as I’ve tried writing a post that reflected on how the referendum appeared from abroad, I just can’t describe the result without using words like ‘cowards’ and ‘schills’.
I was in Hong Kong at the time the results were announced – and also when the so-called ‘Vow’ was printed on the front page of The Daily Record. To say that people in the former British colony were stunned by the majority of Scots voting against becoming a modern democracy would be an understatement of epic proportions. When asked ‘why’, I had no answers but trust me, by the 20th September, the Saltire had disappeared from pro-democracy banners in Admiralty.
Clearly, many Scots are happy with things the way they are or, they’re very scared of making any change at all. This was not about ‘Scotland vs England’ or about the petty and narrow interests of ‘nationalism’. Most of the people I speak to who did vote ‘yes’ did so with the hope for democracy or because they felt this vote marked a watershed in the continuing battle between social democracy and neo-liberalism. When I – and others – use the word ‘democracy’, I apply it in the way that people in other countries apply the word which is to say, a participatory, unicameral, directly-elected government with proportional representation.
Britain is not a democracy. It never has been. Even the use of the word ‘meritocracy’ is misplaced because with a close reading of the issues surrounding taxation, land reform and social justice, we understand that land ownership breeds a greater share of capital than any clever notions about investment in stock markets (and if you doubt me, you can easily verify that the same 482 families who owned 80% of Scotland in 1707, still own more than 60% today).
The Head of State (I refuse to recognise that anyone is my better, let alone my ruler – I am not just a republican but anti-monarchical) is not elected. The upper house of the bicameral government is not elected – and following Labour’s half-hearted attempts at reform of The House of Lords, members merely have to buy their seats unless they’re bishops, in which case they just have to share a medieval belief in women’s ‘rights’. Unelected agents may intervene in parliamentary debate at any time and not only prevent a vote on key issues of the day, regardless of voter’s demands but may even remove legislation after it has been applied to statute. In the instance that Ed Milliband actually remembered that he leads a party that is traditionally social democratic, if not socialist, and wins the next UK general election, he will make his merry way from Buckingham Palace (having been given permission by Lizzie Windsor to form a government) to the Houses of Parliament and deliver his policy proposals to The Office of The Remembrancer (which is easy to find, it’s right behind The Speaker’s chair as you see it on TV). Paul Double is the parliamentary agent appointed by The City of London Corporation who will decide which of Ed’s policy proposals will make it into The Queen’s Speech which traditionally opens parliament. Contrary to what you might read elsewhere, Wikipedia for example, it doesn’t matter if ‘Red Ed’ wins a mandate to reform the banking system and throw the lying bastards that head them into prison, The City of London Corporation can strike that out before parliament has even met in debate.
Jim Murphy, newly minted as the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, is a part of this system but as ‘leader’, he occupies a position that, according to his predecessor, is equivalent to being the deputy to the organ grinder’s monkey in London. If he can’t change this state of affairs and won’t be challenged on his assertions by a British Broadcasting Corporation, there must be a good reason why this former defence minister has effectively not only just taken a demotion but actively campaigned for this role. As divisive a figure as could have been penned for soap opera, Jim will drone about promises delivered, the parlous state of the economy, immigration and blah blah blah but he will never, ever appeal to those of us Scots who voted ‘yes’.
Scots like myself will continue to choose to get their news from other sources, pouring over the reported figures and hold them up to scrutiny. We will challenge every political figure – including those from the SNP and the tilting-at-the-moon Greens – and we will continue to look for arguments among friends and family. We will be metaphorically bashing heads long after we achieve independence – which we will, it’s just going to take longer than expected – so if it’s not too much to ask the media: why exactly has Jim Murphy risked getting egg on his face?
On speaking with free-thinking friends, our first impressions are that Jim is manoeuvring himself to a position where, having secured a respectable recovery for Labour in Scotland in May (thanks to the SNP getting complacent and letting the neoliberals set the news agenda), he will then challenge for Ed Milliband’s job after the Tories (or a Tory/UKIP coalition) are returned to power in Westminster. Jim will be championed as a man of passion and integrity by friends in the media, willing to get on a beer crate and meet the people but never having persuaded enough of the electorate here in Scotland, Labour will limp on and the SNP will limp on toward another referendum.
Some commentators have it that Jim Murphy will have to compete for a seat in Holyrood but the Scottish election isn’t until 2016. In the meantime, Kezia Dugdale MSP (bless her willingness to at least try and talk like she did more than just glance at her Spad’s notes) will struggle to challenge Nicola Sturgeon each week at First Minister’s questions and Labour Party supporters will eagerly anticipate the time that Jim Murphy will become an MSP, little guessing that he’s looked at the calendar and banked on replacing Ed Milliband before he has to try for a seat in Scotland’s parliament. When his ruse is discovered, Jim will campaign as the ‘unification’ candidate, the only front-bench Labour politician who can claim to speak for all of the UK and the best of it is he can point to the period when Alex Salmond lead the SNP when still at Westminster, leaving John Swinnie to hold the fort at Holyrood.
Jim Murphy is no more interested in becoming Scotland’s First Minister than he’s willing to give up the big fat Westminster expense account and open up his Holyrood salary to public scrutiny. Jim Murphy knows that voters in England may be able to put up with the Tories for another five years but won’t tolerate so-called austerity for longer than that. Jim Murphy appears to have learned a few tricks from Alex Salmond and may just be the most under-rated politician around. Why struggle to get into Scotland’s parliament then struggle some more to take Nicola Sturgeon’s job when, with a little patience and a little networking, he can manoeuvre himself to be in a position where he gets to lay down the law to Scotland’s First Minister?
Think I’m wrong? Name a member of Labour’s front bench at Westminster. Ed Balls? Majority of 600-odd, he’ll be in The House of Lords soon enough. Yvette Cooper? As tainted by the Gordon Brown years as her husband. Andy Burnham? As Health Secretary, he oversaw privatisation in the NHS in England and Wales. Tristan Hunt? Are Labour Party members really going to vote for a public schoolboy to run against the Eton Mob? Let’s just hope that when Jim Murphy gets the top job in The Labour Party of Great Britain, he brings the same cunning to dealing with the Tories.