Unions back Findlay and Clark

Submitted by AWL on 18 November, 2014 - 4:48 Author: Dale Street

In an article published on LabourList on 13 November, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey summed up the prospects for the Scottish Labour Party if Jim Murphy is elected leader. The ballot opened on 17 November and closes on 10 December.

“Jim Murphy is the candidate of the past and the candidate of division. His victory would be all the SNP’s Christmases come at once.

"He was a strong backer of the disastrous Iraq War. He backs extending privatisation in the public services. He is a pioneer of tuition fees for students. He supports austerity and 'economic credibility' with the City of London.

"At a time when Scottish Labour desperately needs to reconnect with its social democratic roots, he is the candidate of a reheated Blairism which in my view will be a sentence of political death for many Scottish Labour MPs, and for the prospect of a Labour victory next May.

"There is absolutely no future in a politics which aims to put Labour to the right of the SNP in Scotland.

"All the working people of Britain need a Labour government come next May. Ed Miliband offers that prospect. He will put social justice at the heart of governance, and Neil Findlay in Scotland would work with the grain of that agenda.

"That is why I am delighted that Unite Scotland has decided to back Neil Findlay. He has the commitment to social justice and a progressive agenda essential to reconnect Labour with what were its natural supporters among working-class communities across Scotland".

The assessment of what a gift a Murphy-led Scottish Labour would be to the SNP was 100% accurate.

When the Executive Committee of Scottish Labour Youth nominated Murphy last week, its Twitter account was immediately awash with tweets from supporters of the SNP and the 45:

"You hasten Scottish Labour's demise. Well done!"

In The Scotsman (14 Nov) Brian Wilson launched a broadside against McCluskey. Ironically – given that McCluskey is a current General Secretary whereas Wilson is a very ex-Labour-MP – the article was headed: "Blast from the Past Hits Labour Race".

Wilson attacked McCluskey for "treading on Scottish territory – apparently, he hasn’t heard of devolution". But the decision to back Findlay (and Katy Clark for deputy leader) had been taken by the union’s Scottish Region Political Committee.

"The noble cause of trade unionism is ill-served by bombast", Wilson bombastically continues, "and the sooner the Labour Party ceases to be in any way hostage to McCluskey’s general flakiness, the better".

Wilson nowhere responded to McCluskey’s arguments against a vote for Murphy. Without even quoting any of the examples of Murphy’s track record cited by McCluskey, Wilson declared that Murphy was being "singled out for disparagement on grounds that do not hold the slightest basis in reality".

With nominations for leader and deputy leader now closed, it is clear where the basis of Murphy’s support lies.

The only trade union nominations Murphy could muster were from USDAW (which depends on partnership with Tesco for survival) and Community (small, and right-wing). Findlay and Clark, on the other hand, are backed by ten unions, including Unite, GMB, Unison and the CWU.

Murphy is ahead amongst MPs, MSPs, Euro-MPs and local councillors. Murphy also has a two-to-one lead in Constituency Labour Party nominations. But attendance at such meetings has often been barely double figures – such is the state which Scottish Labour has been reduced to by Murphy’s New Labour policies – and is not necessarily a reflection of how the broader membership of the party will be voting.

The real bedrock of Murphy’s support is the media, which anointed him the "favourite" as soon as he announced that he was standing.

But if Murphy is elected Scottish Labour leader, the same media will turn on him at election time and shine a spotlight on his political record (and "creative" approach to parliamentary expenses).

Labour in Scotland, like in the rest of the country, needs to re-connect with its working-class base. The two candidates who can achieve this are Neil Findlay for leader and Katy Clark for deputy leader.

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