LABOUR'S LOVE LOST

It's a dangerous business looking backwards politically, especially if viewing aids of  a pinkish hue are within reach. Nevertheless I think it's reasonable to assume that Scotland's first First Minister would be appalled at what has befallen his party in the years since his death. Many of you will be familiar with the graphic of homo sapiens gradually evolving from a crouching primate to an upright biped. Sometimes it seems that Scottish Labour has managed this trick in reverse.

The Labour leadership is not uniformly culpable for the haemorrhaging of support over recent years; it would be unfair to suppose, for instance, that Kezia Dugdale's record in modestly building on the debacle of 2015 was comparable to the hapless performance of Jim Murphy during the 2014 Referendum. Little wonder that more than his face attracted egg. But the fact remains that so many of Labour's reverses can be laid at the door of its own tribalism coupled with an addiction to factionalism. 

Sections of the press have suggested that the sacking of Anas Sarwar might indicate an unsavoury racism within the party. I don't buy that.  I think it's an unsavoury inability to concede that Corbyn worship should not be a prereqisite of shadow cabinet membership. Then there's the enforced departure of Jackie Baillie who happens to be my MSP.  There is much about which we profoundly disagree, most especially Trident and Independence.  But she serves her constituents well and, unlike many, is an assured performer in debate. 

Then there is the running sore of the party's autonomy in Scotland; or, more particularly, its lack of that.  Johann Lamont departed the scene bemoaning the fact that Scottish Labour was little more than a branch office; a puppet on a London string. It's difficult to argue that narrative has changed. For one recent thing, the decision not to fund Dugdale's court costs having commited to doing so, was made by the London leadership. The Scottish leader chose not to push back.

My view of Scottish Labour, Scottish Conservatism and the Scottish Liberal Democrats is that unless and until they are calling their own shots then they cannot claim adequately to be representing Scottish interests. Ruth Davidson's constant refusal to refute the PM's Brexit position - however untenable - is part of that syndrome. (Though in her case the need to head off the appalling Boris is a mitigating factor.)  

But what is not such a factor is to argue black is white in terms of her own beliefs on Europe, or to do serial policy somersaults in Holyrood for no better reason than loathing of the SNP.  It takes some chutzpah for the leader of a party with 13 seats at Westminster to pronounce that Scotland will not be "allowed" another independence vote before 2027. I must have been off the day Ms Davidson took over the world on both sides of the border.

On the matter of loathing the SNP, however, nobody does it better than Labour.  The tragedy of so many reverses in Scotland has been the inability of two left of centre parties to make any kind of common cause. Many of the combatants - on both sides to be fair - seem bound and determined to fight ancient tribal wars rather than take a clear sighted view of Scotland's present and future needs. 

Yet few can have so spectacularly misread the mood of the moment than Richard Leonard. It is not his fault that he is to charisma what I am to bungee jumping.  But it is his fault not to notice that shedloads of his erstwhile troops plighted their troth to the nationalists because they believe in Independence.  Not least thanks to the current Brexit bourach. Yet up he pops to tell the BBC that he will ensure that a commitment to no further independence referenda will be in the next Labour manifesto. This surely qualifies as death wish of the month.

It is an odd facet of Scottish politics that the two parties whose rallying cry is that the SNP  government should stop going on about indpendence are in fact the folks who seem serially obsessed by it.   (Instead of getting on with their day job!)  And it would be beyond irony if a party founded to gain independence suddenly  chucked their principle raison d'etre.

The SNP must be thrilled by Mr Leonard's recent activities.  They have a conference starting where they have to reconcile activists who want a second vote on indpendence yesterday, and those wanting to stall until Brexit in all its madness unfolds.  Where some want the First Minister to lead the charge for a People's Vote on Brexit, and others fear that re-running 2016 might encourage people to try the same with any future Yes vote.  

These are tough choices. But so much easier when your opponents take aim at their own feet.