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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Play Nicely!

In my post-Brexit blog I urged, in the words of my old Gran, everyone to 'cool your wellies'. Sadly, some, most notably the Westminster PLP, ignored that advice. Now we are going to have another leadership election, I will invoke another of my Gran's sayings, 'Play nicely!'.

So, another leadership election, probably not what the coup plotters wanted, but that's the problem with coup's, they don't always go to plan and they can have unforeseen consequences. I have to say that I despair at Westminster as an institution. Putting politicians in a bubble for the best part of a week, separated from the real world, with largely only their colleagues to talk to, is a recipe for disaster. At least at Holyrood, MSPs go home more often. If Brexit had been a little closer to the recess, this shambles might have been avoided.

I take the view that the NEC was absolutely correct in their interpretation of the rule that ensures the incumbent is on the ballot paper. I won't offer yet another legal opinion, but it was drummed into me at law school that you start with the plain English meaning of words. In this case the reference to 'challengers' is pretty clear. In addition, it would be politically unacceptable to the membership not to have Jeremy on the ballot paper, when they elected him only 9 months ago.

I voted for Jeremy last time, although he wasn't my immediate choice. I did so because he was the only candidate who offered a credible vision for Labour and the country. The other candidates said little and did even that badly. That doesn't make me a starry eyed Corbynista (I am probably too old and cynical to be starry eyed about anything!) and I am prepared to consider other candidates. 

I do believe Jeremy has offered a policy vision that challenges the conventional wisdom and offers hope to millions whose lives have been damaged by austerity. I also accept that to win elections competent political management is required and he and his team have on occasions fallen short on that. However, this is not the cause of Labour's long term problem. These have been in the making for many years, and their architects are some of the MPs behind the anti-Corbyn campaign in their Westminster bubble. And yes, in Scotland, some of those who lost their seats and appear to have no insight into the negative role they played in Scottish Labour's problems.

Angela Eagle, who I voted for as Deputy last year, will have to do a lot better than her launch speech. Even if I accepted her analysis of Jeremy's failings, just being the 'I am not Jeremy' candidate is not enough. It all sounded so technocratic, with no Plan B about what she would actually do. “I’m not a Blairite. I’m not a Brownite. I’m not a Corbynista. I am my own woman,” tells me what she isn't - not what she is for. Even more importantly, she hasn't explained how people left behind by austerity and abandoned by an inward-looking elite political class can have some ownership over their lives.

This is what the leadership election should be about, not vacuous cliches, or personal abuse. Scotland has been more restrained, excepting the abysmal outburst from George Foulkes in the Sunday Herald. I would urge comrades to keep it that way. Robust debate is fine, gratuitous abuse is not.

Back to my Gran. It would be fair to say that my brother and I didn't always follow her advice to 'play nicely'. However, on reflection she was right. It's easier to patch up an argument and move on when you do. Something those who really care about politics and our country's future would do well to remember.

P.S. Remember, if you are a levy paying member of an affiliated trade union you can register as an affiliated supporter at no cost and get a vote in this election. http://support.labour.org.uk

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