26 May 2010

The end of "Scottish" Labour?

More of a question today, I think. Labour's lamp in shattered, its government in the dust lies dead.  Historic forth terms, consigned to  mere historical speculation. Nevermore Prime Minister, Gordon Brown shall be. Out traipses Alistair Darling too, repairing with Brown to Labour's back benches.  It is easy not to notice yet, with all the old familiars in their same old places.   All that will change soon. Chatting to pater peat worrier the other day, he pointed out that a  more general transformation in the Labour leadership seems imminent. Under Brown's dispensation, several Scots were in prominent positions in the Cabinet, himself not least. Under Blair, of course, there was Broon as his constant Scotch prop. What is the promise of tomorrow? What of the Miliband(s') administration(s), or the Balls mob? And frankly, does it matter? Form line! eyes front! Atten-shun! Here are the forty one Labour souls Scotland sent to Westminster this time round.  Specimens, fit to serve, do you think?
  • Douglas Alexander
  • Willie Bain
  • Gordon Banks
  • Anne Begg
  • Gordon Brown
  • Russell Brown
  • David Cairns
  • Katy Clark
  • Tom Clarke
  • Michael Connarty
  • Margaret Curran
  • Alistair Darling
  • Ian Davidson
  • Thomas Docherty
  • Brian Donohoe
  • Frank Doran
  • Gemma Doyle
  • Sheila Gilmore
  • Tom Greatrex
  • David Hamilton
  • Tom Harris
  • Jimmy Hood
  • Cathy Jamieson
  • Eric Joyce
  • Mark Lazarowicz
  • Michael McCann
  • Gregg McClymont
  • James McGovern
  • Anne McGuire
  • Ann McKechin
  • Graeme Morrice
  • Jim Murphy
  • Ian Murray
  • Pamela Nash
  • Fiona O'Donnell
  • Sandra Osborne
  • John Robertson
  • Frank Roy
  • Lindsay Roy
  • Anas Sarwar
  • James Sheridan
Hard to see any new leader picking any of these folk to be their Chancellor. Without chortling at the absurdity of the suggestion, that is. None of these souls are running as the Gordon Brown Memorial Candidate for Leader either, while very few of them have any Westminster ministerial experience at all, despite the "long service" of many of them. There is a scattering of Parliamentary Private Secretaries. Several of them have lurked about in the Scotland Office over the years, but without slighting new-boy Danny Alexander - hardly one of the Great Offices of State, is it?  And hardly a heart-popping shock to see a fellow Scot in the role, frankly. Pater peat worrier's point is that the probable Anglicisation of the Labour hierarchy following their ongoing leadership election represents an important shift. How interesting, of course, will depend on what consequences it might actually have in the future. 

To work this out, we'll have to make some judgement about just how tribal Scottish voters are. Or more precisely, to what extent were Labour's 2010 General Election fortunes a consequence of Gordon Brown or Alistair Darling being identifiably "one of us"? In that cloying phrase: "Scotland's men in the cabinet"? Comparisons with the Tory fortunes are probably undue. After all, Scottish Labour MPs haven't been wiped out - they've merely been reduced to a backstage burbling throng. Silent lobby fodder, occasionally permitted to rise to ask a glottal and inarticulate question in the House of Commons. Or to descend to College Green, all gripe and vacuity, to trot out the party line and generally insult the intelligence of their constituents. In this respect, however, not much has changed. The nub seems to be the disappearance of one or two prominent Scots MPs frontstage, welcomed back into the obscure, primordial company and Stygian clutter of fossils that slump on Labour's benches. 

A fate of overwhelming anonymity seems likely to await this forty-one. Will it make a difference? Will the Anglicisation of the Labour front bench affect their capacity to woo Scottish constituents?  Will the departure of familiar Scottish mainstays weaken the party's ramshackle structure? I'm not convinced either way, but it seems extremely likely that we are now observing a significant 'break' in terms of the prominence of Labour Scots in Westminster. Worth speculating on. I'm interested in any theorems you might have, one way or t'other.

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