Anas Sarwar, not Richard Leonard, should lead Labour north of the borderby John McTernan / November 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
There are two closely related myths that bedevil Scottish politics. The first is that Scotland is more left-wing than the rest of the UK. The second is that the Scottish National Party dominates politics north of the border because it is a left-wing party super-serving Scots with left-wing policies. These fallacies are being tested to destruction in the election for the leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
If it weren’t for the misconduct allegations swirling around Alex Rowley, who stepped down as interim leader this morning, the casual observer could be forgiven for ignoring this contest, the result of which will be announced on 18th November. Judging by its track record—five leaders in the last ten years—another leadership election will be along shortly. In fact the choice that Labour makes between Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard—the two contestants—will define whether there is an effective challenge to the SNP or not.
The choice is being played out in terms of whether the party should become more Corbynite in the wake of the impressive general election result in June, or steer its own course, and the emblem of this is Leonard’s proposal for a wealth tax. The fact that this is beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament is—oddly but characteristically for Scottish politics—considered irrelevant. (If Scotland wants a wealth tax then Scotland should get a wealth tax, is the attitude. And if Scotland doesn’t get what it wants then it always has a grievance—which, in many ways, is better.)
The central delusion of this wealth tax is not that it is practical or feasible but that it is both desirable and—more to the point—desired by Scottish voters. To double down on ultra-Corbynism would be a huge strategic error for Scottish Labour, not least because the notion of Scottish political exceptionalism should have been dealt a death blow by the general election result. Of course, the resurgence of the Scottish Conservatives owes much to the charismatic and witty leader Ruth Davidson. But the surge in the polls which netted them 12 gains and confirmed them as Scotland’s second party showed the true nature of Scottish politics—it is a battle for the centre ground, not a struggle on the left.
To be fair to her,…