2016 looks set to be remembered as the year we said goodbye to the Thin White Duke, the iron livered Lemmy and arguably the best bad guy Bruce Willis ever battered. But this week has made me question if Scotland risks losing a lot more than popular idols in 2016?
Maybe less well known is that this week is the anniversary of Jim Sillars, John Robertson and Alex Neil forming the short-lived Scottish Labour Party (SLP). Frustrated at the UK Government’s inability to secure a devolved Scottish Assembly, on January 18th 1976 Sillars and Co. broke from the UK Labour Party but by 1979 had lost their seats in the House of Commons and, in 1981, fraught with infighting, the party was disbanded.
40 years later, the Labour Party in Scotland has rebranded as “Scottish Labour” seeking to avoid a similar annihilation but this time in the devolved Parliament to which the previous rebels were so committed. Polls this week predicted the SNP could repeat its General Election success swooping almost all of the 72 constituency seats and leaving Labour rushing around relying on the regional list system and trying to stay ahead of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives.
Could this lead to Scotland losing an effective opposition?
It would seem Nicola Sturgeon is the only one not taking an SNP win for granted. In FMQ’s this week the First Minister thanked Kezia Dugdale for her assumption she would remain in office post-election.
Understandable as even the most optimistic of Labour voting optimists can’t deny a crippling General Election and a devastation series of polls. The SNP Government look set to hold another five years in powered, and as leader the opposition the only hope Kezia has is to put together the best Shadow Cabinet she can and chip away at the crack in SNP policy.
Last year the Scottish people undeniably turned away from Labour leaving Ian Murray in a lonely positon. Flooding the party with new blood may rejuvenate the party and get some new policies but will this actually happen? The regional list relies on the party membership deciding the order and likelihood of election but will those selected tend to be old faces?
Labour’s candidate list looks like a who’s who of failed politicians, a mix of return candidates from the 2011 Holyrood elections and MPs who lost their seats in the 2015 General Election. Can Anas Sarwar and Thomas Docherty, MPs voted out less than 12 months ago, really be the salvation Scottish Labour needs? Are they both hoping last year was merely ‘SNP mania’ and their experience can help lead the fightback?
It appears as though some existing Labour MSPs doubt this, with the politically experienced but still young Richard Baker retiring 10 weeks before the election for a job in the charitable sector. Does Richard know something the others don’t? However, others like Jackie Baillie, who was first elected in the maiden Scottish Parliament in 1999 remain. Maybe she is right and all is not lost, maybe there is a long term strategy at play here or it could be it is too late and there are simply some in party not willing to accept defeat and force through the radical change in personality and policies needed to start a turnaround in the party’s fortunes.