For the seasoned political analyst (and also for idiots like us), it can be hard to offer a rational explanation for why any thinking human being would ever believe a word the Labour Party says about anything any more.
It came to power 16 years ago promising to introduce electoral reform, then ditched it. (But still hilariously claims to be committed to the principle despite 100 years of failing to deliver it.) It also pledged not to introduce university tuition fees, then introduced them. It campaigned for re-election on a promise not to increase them, then increased them. It – well, we could go on all day, just about tuition fees alone.
But let’s cut to the chase and move up to the present day.
Yesterday we highlighted how for all Labour’s grandstanding in the press about the Bedroom Tax, the party actually implemented it first (for private tenants, in the form of Local Housing Allowance in 2008) and would not repeal it if elected in 2015. It rages against the coalition’s brutal welfare “reforms”, while more quietly admitting that Labour would continue the programme in power.
And this week delivered a strikingly clear illustration of how – entirely by conscious design – the party’s actions never match up to its words.
On Monday night, the SNP-controlled Dundee City Council passed a resolution committing the council to a policy of not evicting tenants for rent arrears caused by the bedroom tax. Labour have been agitating for some time for the Scottish Government to make such a policy law nationwide (ignoring the many practical problems such a move would create if imposed as a blanket rule).
Yet when the time came for the vote, the Labour delegation on Dundee Council rejected the policy their own party calls for, in favour of an amendment merely demanding that the Scottish Government take action instead. Given the choice between actually doing something to protect their own constituents or trying to score a party political point against the SNP, Labour did what wouldn’t surprise a single observer of Scottish politics – bashed the Nats.
Scottish Labour “leader” Johann Lamont called last autumn for more powers to be devolved away from central Scottish Government control to local councils. Yet when offered the chance to use the powers they already have for the benefit of the people they represent, by enacting a policy Labour themselves have loudly called for, Labour councillors elected instead to pass the buck to Holyrood. And here’s the kicker: they did so knowing that the Scottish Government had already rejected the plan.
So let’s recap. Dundee Labour’s choices were:
1. Vote for a plan which would actually ensure nobody in Dundee was evicted over bedroom-tax arrears (but which would involve co-operating with the SNP).
2. Vote for a different plan with no hope of success, knowing if that vote were to be carried people in Dundee might well be evicted over bedroom-tax arrears (but sod them, because they matter less than a chance to attack the SNP at Holyrood).
Which would they plump for? That’s a no-brainer if ever there was one. But of course, we’re being unfair. Labour knew they could have their Dundee cake and eat it, because the SNP majority would ensure that the poorest people of the city were protected, leaving Labour safe to snipe cheaply from opposition.
This site can only applaud the conduct of the SNP delegation in not having three of its councillors vote with Labour and sacrificing those vulnerable tenants, in the name of exposing Labour’s hypocrisy for party political gain.
But the problem is that Labour’s national strategy is no different to its local one. Whether in Scotland or the UK, it will strenously attack policies it has absolutely no intention of actually reversing in power. We wonder how long it’ll take its remaining members to realise it.