The Student
Opinion
Richard Leonard: should he stay or should he go?
by Adam Losekoot, 6/10/20

Your favourite forgettable leader of the Scotlandshire regional branch office of what passes for the Labour party in 2020 has survived his Julius Caesar moment. Proving once and for all that Labour can’t even beat itself. Jackie Baillie had measured up his coffin, but Ian Murray had forgotten to bring the knives with him, leaving them in his union fleg suit underneath his shrine to Tony Blair. What does this mean for the future of Scottish labour? Well not much to be honest.

They try to pass themselves off as the leading opposition to the Scottish National Party and they would be correct – assuming we ignore the polls, their number of MSPs, their number of MPs, and the fact that other parties exist.

Ok, we’ve established that they’re struggling but is there any hope of redemption for Ricky and his crew? Again, not really. Labour have become an irrelevance in Scottish politics. Sure, they have a few councillors, a handful of MSPs and one MP. They have the same number of MPs as the Greens. They have fewer MPs than Plaid Cymru, Sìnn Fein and the DUP.

Consistent polling for May’s Scottish parliament election has shown that Scottish Labour are going to be wiped off the electoral map. A Survation poll conducted from 2-7 September suggests Leonard’s party will gain only 18 per cent of the constituency vote, compared to the SNP on 53 per cent. They’re also expected to pick up another 18 per cent on the list vote, the same list vote which has arguably been their saving grace over the last few years, leaving them in a tight position. Whether Richard Leonard stays on after they lose next year’s election is unclear. In his time as leader, the party have lost two General elections and a European election. This would be four in a row for Leonard – assuming he survives his colleagues until May.

The problem Scottish labour (or the advantage depending on where you fall on the political spectrum) is that there is no one who can replace Leonard as a left-leaning leader. What we will be left with post-Leonard is a party which once more lurches to the right, likely under my own MSP Jackie Baillie (a truly chilling thought). Labour in Scotland have been replaced. The SNP as a centre-left party with strong social democratic policies (most of which appeared in Corbyn’s manifesto in 2019 despite already being in place here in Scotland) have filled the void they left as they lost focus on their roots and began chasing right-leaning Tory voters in England, leaving the working class in Scotland and now Northern England behind. 

We do not need Labour in this country, as all they can offer us is a slightly shittier version of some SNP policies as well as keeping mum on the greater issues which matter to the Scottish electorate. It is deplorable that Labour have not done more to argue for the removal of trident, their position on the constitutional question and the regular disconnect between them and their head office shows the party is splintering. Their insistence that there is no need nor desire for another referendum is not only anti-democratic but it is laughable in the face of consistent polling putting support for independence in the majority.

Labour are dead in Scotland. Not dying, dead. It would take a miracle for them to make a resurgence at this point and if indeed Leonard is removed before the election then Labour will become a carbon copy of the Tories rather than simply a lick of red paint over a Tory-lite party. Their refusal to budge on the constitutional question is shown up by the Welsh Labour First Minister who says that if there is a majority for a referendum in any part of the UK then there is no argument for standing in the way of one – this absurd obsession with the Union is insulting to the Scottish electorate and will result in the end of the Scottish Labour party. 

Image Credit: Kevin Walsh via Wikimedia Commons