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2012: Socialist Unity Of The Year

Posted on December 27, 2012 by

In a year characterised by a marked increase in heat, as the Holyrood opposition focused its efforts almost exclusively on personal attacks against SNP ministers in an attempt to decapitate the Yes campaign, very few things could be said to have united a wide spectrum of the political sphere, from the radical arch-left to soft nationalists and Labour traditionalists alike. But a speech in September saw almost the entire Scottish media and blogosphere react with one astonished, horrified voice.

You don’t need us to tell you which one, do you?

(Owen Jones for the Independent)

“If Scottish Labour continues as it is – devoid of any coherent vision and unable to inspire those who have deserted it – then Salmond has little to fear. Scottish nationalism will not want for recruits. This will not be the Strange Death of Scottish Labour: it will be its Entirely Explainable Suicide.”

(Herald View in the Herald)

“Denied power at Holyrood for a second term, Labour appear so warped by their tribal hatred of the Nationalists that they would rather align with the Coalition than the SNP. Instead of recognising a fellow progressive force, they would rather collude in dismantling the welfare state. It is a pitiful sight.”

(Kevin McKenna for the Observer)

“Ms Lamont’s use of the phrase “something for nothing”, as well as coming straight from the grimoire of Margaret Thatcher is, at best, misleading, at worst, downright false… It’s difficult to assess which body of Labour supporters will be most insulted and alienated.”

(Iain Macwhirter for the Herald)

“As a presentational disaster this ranks alongside John Major’s back to basics speech which helped seal the fate of the UK Conservatives in the 1990s. There has been a whiff of decay around Scottish Labour for some years, but I’m beginning to think it has finally popped its clogs.”

(Joyce McMillan for The Scotsman)

“And it’s therefore profoundly sad to note, this week, the Scottish Labour leader’s monumentally ill-judged decision to join in this oppressive chorus of boss-class miserabilism, orchestrated by people who care nothing for the lives of ordinary citizens, in Scotland or elsewhere.”

(Willie Sullivan for Compass)

“It seems the principle of universality is to be discarded and therefore the hopes of a truly progressive tax system. Universal benefits are the fairest, most efficient, least stigmatised method of distributing any form of collective benefit. We can all have them and those that earn enough will pay it back in tax. I don’t really care if Rod Stewart gets a free bus pass as long as he’s more than paying for it in his tax. Give up on one side of those scales of social justice and you give up on both.”

(Robin McAlpine for the Jimmy Reid Foundation)

“And so I am simply dumbfounded. The snap reactions have all been that this is suicide because each of the things she attacked is popular. That is true – I fear for anyone having to sell that manifesto. But there is a greater existential issue about the relationship between Scotland and Labour. If you ask me, this is not only suicide, it is suicide-and-damnation all rolled up into one.”

(Suki Sangha for Communique)

“Why fund a Labour party which is hell bent on destroying the lives of millions of ordinary working people? How long will we make excuses for a Labour Party which has consistently come out and attacked workers? Why are we so desperate to hold onto a vision of the Labour party which is so distant to the reality of New Labour?”

(Richard Seymour for the Guardian)

“By any reasonable definition, Johann Lamont’s policy announcement on Tuesday was a train wreck. After Iain Gray’s lacklustre, gaffe-prone and election-losing leadership, pro-Labour pundits had persuaded themselves that Lamont was quite a heavyweight Scottish Labour leader. They should be face-palming. The policy implications of Lamont’s speech – ending universal benefits, raising tuition fees, cutting free prescriptions – were bad enough. The atrocious, reactionary soundbites, demanding an end to “something for nothing” culture, were worse. And it was all delivered in a colliding procession of clichés and non-sequiturs, with faltering speech, and without conviction.”

(Iain Macwhirter for the Herald)

“It looks as if the Scottish Labour leader has gone through the list of the most popular policies in Scotland and decided to dump the lot. All she needs to do now is abolish free personal care and bus passes and she wins the teddy bear. “

(George Eaton for the New Statesman)

“In challenging the concept of universal benefits, Lamont has underestimated the strong body of popular support that exists for them. “What is progressive about a banker on more than 100,000 a year benefitting more than a customer on average incomes from the council tax freeze?”, she declared. But universal public services, to which all contribute and from which all benefit, are the essence of social democracy. Once this principle is abandoned, greater cuts will inevitably follow as the rich, no longer receiving, have less incentive to give.”

(Philip Stott for Socialist Party Scotland)

“Labour’s leader has signalled her support for a vicious extension of the cuts agenda and the tearing up of those modest but important advances that still survive in Scotland. In doing so she could also sound the death of Labour in Scotland, particularly if these policies were to form the basis of Labour’s platform in the run up to the 2014 independence referendum.”

(Malcolm Burns for the Morning Star)

“On Wednesday no-one could still quite believe the political stupidity on display. Some of the popular policies Lamont had attacked were some of Labour’s best achievements in government since devolution. Labour spinners tried to convince the news media that actually she didn’t mean half of what she said. But Lamont ploughed doggedly and cheerlessly on, like the bastard love child of John Knox and Frau Farbissina, henchwoman of Dr Evil.”

(Ian Bell, for the Herald)

“Tuition fees, granny’s bus pass, personal care in old age: As of this week, these are all, it seems, mere luxuries. Ms Lamont seemed to say that these things had not been earned. She wanted to say that they could not be defended. Historians can check the dates. For now, I’ll give you this: Scottish Labour died yesterday. A white flag was seen. Johann Lamont’s whitened face, her anguish and frustrated fury, told the story.”

(Jonathon Shafi for International Socialist Group)

“‘The idea that Scotland is a land where everything is free is a lie’, says Lamont. How dishonest, how deplorable, that a Labour party forged by the trade unions of yesteryear should use point-scoring with Alex Salmond to advance an agenda so robustly right-wing that it would make George Osborne proud.”

(Penny Cole for A World To Win)

“If you want to know what a future Labour government at Westminster might look like, the leader of the party in Scotland, Johann Lamont, has given the game away. When Lamont finally explained what Scottish Labour stands for it turns out to be ending universal benefits, cutting apprenticeships, fewer university places, making older people pay for care and unfreezing council tax.”

(Robin McAlpine for the Jimmy Reid Foundation)

“I cannot make this clear enough – Ms Lamont is utterly wrong. We’ve had this debate; we’ve had it endlessly. Universalism won, selectivity lost. In Scotland (outside the commentariat) there is no desire to roll back the universal welfare state. The population has had plenty of opportunity to do so – at no point has it not been a democratic option in Scotland. But it didn’t choose it. The right wing has never really accepted the difference between having a debate and winning a debate.”

Still, they’re probably all wrong.

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    24 to “2012: Socialist Unity Of The Year”

    1. uilleam_beag says:

      Spot on, Stu. You could also add Iain MacWhirter’s scathing finale from his Herald column last week, just to show he hasn’t changed his mind in the cold light of day (or intervening weeks & months).

      (Iain MacWhirter for the Herald)

      “Mind you, it doesn’t require the second coming of Tony Blair to oppose progressive universalism. The Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, has provided the SNP with what it regards as another early Christmas gift by suggesting, in a speech this week, that restoring university tuition fees is her top priority after her year in office. She really is playing for high stakes, refusing to back down on her declaration of war against what she calls the ‘something for nothing’ society in Scotland. She wins nothing but praise from Conservative MSPs and commentators, including David Cameron who echoed her words at PMQs yesterday.

      “But her own party, and in particular former leaders such as Henry McLeish, have reacted with an icy silence. Perhaps she knows something we don’t. In this respect at least, the spirit of New Labour lives on in the Scottish party. Who needs Tony Blair?”

    2. kininvie says:

      Ah, I’ve found a dissenting voice. Neil O’Brien wrote: “.. a Scottish Labour leader trying to imply that there might be some difficult choices to make about public spending is seriously brave: the equivalent of the Pope confessing to some niggling doubts about Catholicism..”  Where?  You guessed. Telegraph.
      Not everyone agreed. One comment described the Labour Leader as an ‘animated blimp’. Which is fair, if a wee bit cruel.

    3. Davy says:

      To my mind we in Scotland should be looking at ways of increasing universal benefits for the benefit of the people in Scotland. Surely it is better to plan to improve the life of your people for the future, rather than look for ways to reduce the quality of their lifes. 

      Perhaps its now too hard for the Scottish labour leadership to see past their westminster masters requirements, perhaps they are too used to using Scotland as nothing more than a stepping stone for their own ambitions.

      Who knows maybe this next year the Scottish labour membership will grow a pair of balls and take their party back from their selfcentred,  westminster orientated leadership, and look at themselves as a party of Scotland, their country, not a region of the westminster’s UK. 

      Alba Gu snooker loopy!, in my heart & soul.

    4. Macart says:

      When Labour chose bombs over benefits, when they chose neo Liberalism over progressive social justice, when they chose power before people, they chose the path of their own demise in Scotland.

    5. scottish_skier says:

      Any links/further info on that poll Rev? You know how I like that sort of thing…

    6. JLT says:

      It’s Great…eh….

      I love Lamont. I thought McConnell, Wendy and Grey were class acts. By f***, has Johann not set the bar to a new low…
      I’m must admit, who will they roll out next ??? – someone from Carstairs….

    7. JLT says:

      Spot on, Stu. You could also add Iain MacWhirter’s scathing finale from his Herald column last week, just to show he hasn’t changed his mind in the cold light of day (or intervening weeks & months).
      (Iain MacWhirter for the Herald)


      The ‘Better Together’ campaign can rollout Blair if they want. Everyone I know, utterly condemns the man. They have no time for him. We could go through a list of what Blair has done to alienate everyone in the UK. 
      However …at the end of the day, the one thing that comes to mind when the name ‘Blair’ is said is …this man has blood on his hands….

      Enough said….

      To the Unionists ….roll him out. As far as I am concerned, the ‘Yes’ vote will rise from it…. 

    8. Marian says:

      Labour’s attack was really calculated to try and throw doubt on Scotland’s ability to continue with the present system of universal benefits if it becomes independent but it backfired spectacularly because Labour did not understand how important these are to people. Which just goes to show how out of touch Labour really are with the vast majority of the people of Scotland.

    9. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      Can we use the term “universal services” rather than “universal benefits”. The right wing media has stigmitised the word “benefits ” in this context to meaning something undeserved.
      I have felt for some time that the SNP is not beating Labour in Scotland but replacing it and Labour is now in beyond the point of defending itself. Other forces are holding it up and what is intersting is the media determination that Lamont is doing well. They maintained this fiction with Alexander and Gray until it was clear they were not then they abruptly abandoned them. How long has Johann got?
      Every time i see her I think of sausages.  I am sure this is not the image she is trying to convey

    10. Seasick Dave says:

      So why do people still say that they will vote Labour?

      I just don’t get it. 

    11. velofello says:

      Marian: Spot on, Labour’s attempt to create doubt and uncertainty over universal benefits. A rational reaction is to consider what changes, if any, are required to ensure such benefits continue.
      Westminster/the Tories/Labour have their pet prioroties and expenditures. We have ours. The missing facility for Scotland is our necessary empowerment to finance our priorities.

    12. JLT says:

      Seasick Dave says:
      So why do people still say that they will vote Labour?

      I sat with my Dad and Uncle during our Christmas meal, and the topic came up. They don’t want Scotland to break away…and it’s because of the usual 3 things – too wee, too poor and too stupid. They think it will be a 3 ring circus up here in the Parliament post-indy.
      I know my Dad will never change. He was born when there was still an empire, and he and my mum are waiting for the day when things will get better again as they once used to be, when they believed it was a more innocent time.
      Thing is, and I do feel sorry for them …for there is no way that the UK will ever go back to a more simple time. I want away from the Union as I see US style politics growing ever on the horizon…

    13. JLT says:

      Had to write that quickly ….off to the dentist (aaarghhhhh!)

    14. DougtheDug says:

      Labour in Scotland isn’t in the business of doing vision or strategy, that’s for the party leadership of Ed Miliband and Labour’s National Executive Council. Labour in Scotland are a region of a larger British Labour organisation which doesn’t really care what happens in the Scottish Parliament or bothers to give much direction to their regional figurehead in Scotland as long as they follow primary party policy.
      All the shock and outrage about Lamont’s utterances are based on the idea that the primary purpose of Labour is to protect the poor and to shield the weak within British society. Once you understand that the primary purpose of Labour is to protect both the British Establishment and Labour’s place in it then Labour’s hostility to the SNP in Scotland and its efforts to stop the breakup of the UK become quite understandable.
      Opposing the SNP by any means possible, whether or not that means opposing their universal benefit strategy, then makes perfect sense for Labour.

    15. Seasick Dave says:


      I know that there are many people with that mindset but surely they can look around and see that Scotland could be so much better than it is.

      To have the offer of Independence on the table and the set of possibilities that this opens up for us with our huge wealth of resources, is something that most countries would die for.

      The future is ours to shape and we can all be part of it.

      To those that stay wedded to the past I can only suggest that they think of how they could contribute to the new Scotland and what they would like to see happen for themselves and their family.

      If you have any problems with imagining how things could be, take a trip to Norway.

      Think positive, be positive.

      Vote YES. 

    16. Edulis says:

      it’s amazing what tribalism does. The Machivelian in me could almost imagine that (Scottish) Labour want Independence and they are prepared to play the daft laddie to get it, but on the other hand the more rational me can see what blind hatred, personnified in Alex Salmond, can do to destabilise otherwise politically saavy people.

      No matter, my gut tells me that a large number, maybe even a majority of of politically active Labourites will move to the Yes side in 2014. Observe Brian Wilson as we get nearer. He will go down with the sinking ship but he will position himself to pop up again on the other side.  

    17. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “Any links/further info on that poll Rev? You know how I like that sort of thing…”

      This is all I’ve got:

    18. scottish_skier says:

      Thanks very much Rev. Some interesting survey stuff on there.

    19. muttley79 says:

      It has been an interesting year all right.  We have seen the largest march for independence ever (I think?) in 2012 and also the launches of the campaigns.  We have viewed the continued reactions of the media and the unionist parties to the 2011 elections.  The one that got the most attention was of course Lamont’s “Something for nothing” speech.  As well as causing justifiable anger it was also amusing in its very own way.  The thought of Scottish Labour’s political wizards believing that to revive their party, they needed to ape and promote the ideas of the most right wing Conservatives elements in England, was unintentionally hilarious.  😀  This is particularly the case when you consider that it was in 1997, only 15 years ago, that the Tories in Scotland got wiped out for supporting the same kind of policies that the giants of Scottish Labour are now enthuiastically parroting.  The fact that the media in Scotland have not highlighted this salient fact shows the clear decline of both the press and the unionist parties since then.   

    20. Peter says:

      Big story on Sky news about the developing market for Whisky, I refuse to call it Scotch, what is it a third of the UK food and drink export, just imagine the potential sales as China increases demand. Then there were the announcements of increased investment in the North Sea, if only those doubters could open their minds to the potential for an independent Scotland.

    21. RevStu – you forgot to mention in the article that the Daily Recoed were very much in favour.  😉

      “SCOTLAND is on a political journey, of that there is no doubt, and yesterday Johann Lamont may have taken it to a fork in the road.
      The Scottish Labour leader has taken us off the constitutional roundabout and has got the political class talking for once about the real choices and issues that will affect life in Scotland in the next decade.
      She is mocked by opponents for saying that politicians have to go beyond populist, crowd-pleasing choices because the money is too tight to mention in the next decade.
      But she’s right to say it’s not going to be promises of more of everything for nothing (copyright Alex Salmond) because everyone knows that we are going to have to choose between a little of something or nothing at all.
      People are already questioning why they should get free prescriptions or free bus travel while their nephews and grandchildren can’t get training or jobs.
      Appealing to people’s better nature is not a proven vote winner – but it is the sign of a serious politician, and the beginning of a mature debate.
      It’s a long way to the 2016 election and there is a bump in the road called a
      referendum on the way that could throw everything off course.
      But for now, Lamont has grabbed the satnav off Salmond and broken the taboo that the constitution is the centre of the Scottish universe.
      With her policy review, Lamont has started mapping another future for
      Scotland – one where we set priorities according to principles, not opportunism.
      And the fact that politicians at Holyrood were yesterday debating the council tax freeze rather than emitting yet more hot air about independence is a sign that she has already notched up a victory.
      There’s a long way to go, but it’s round one to Lamont.”

      There must be something to this quantum theory parallel universe stuff after all.  

    22. muttley79 says:

      @Dave Beveridge

      The people or person who wrote that ‘editorial’ would probably have been the same one(s) who were understandably furious with the Tories in the 1980s and 1990s.  I take it the Daily Record will faithfully support the introduction of tuition fees, the ensuing Apartheid in higher education, the scrapping of free prescriptions, bus passes etc?  How are any of these things going to increase employment, and produce a more caring society?  They are not kidding many people anymore…

    23. If Johann said she was on a new diet where she eats the first-born of every Yes voter the Rectum would dutifully praise her for bringing new hope to overweight women everywhere as well as helping the overpopulation problem.

      There must’ve been a fair few Rectum readers who could barely believe their eyes when they saw that bilge in their Andrex substitute.  As someone with nothing but contempt for her and her champagne socialist buddies I still never believed they’d be capable of this.  Or that anyone would possibly think it’s anything other than deranged.

    24. joppa says:

      First comment here – I too have had some discussions over the Christmas break mostly with my in-laws.  My mother in law was involved in the labour party in Dundee for a number of years and was what most people would consider a staunch labourite supporting them even through the 80’s and 90’s.  My father in law is a retired factory worker who again was almost tribal in his labour support.  But they are aghast at Johann Lamont and her right wing something for nothing speech.  I’m still not sure about my mother in law but f.i.l. will definitely be voting yes in the referendum.
      For myself I still think that there is quite a hill to climb to get the majority for independence.  Talking to colleagues, friends family etc. I still find it hard to persuade them that we can afford independence – years of propaganda from the British establishment has taken its toll and made them fearful. 

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