Labour has driven me to support the SNP

Zack Hassan
Zack Hassan  /  11 Comments

Scotland has made this election campaign surreal. Previously impossible events are clashing uncomfortably with once reasonable assumptions.

I would have been Labour by default. You voted Labour if you valued communities over individuals; to support workers, not bosses. You trusted public service and viewed Tories with suspicion. But Labour has lost its soul, and lost its way. They introduced tuition fees, NHS privatisation, and recently voted through £30bn of austerity cuts.

Balls and Osborne have far more in common with each other than ordinary people

Balls and Osborne have far more in common with each other than ordinary people

They still speak about social justice, of course. Get rid of the non-doms, bring in a 50p tax rate. But there’s no substance any more. How is it social justice to raise the minimum wage to still less than the Living Wage? How will your tax policies help people when economists say they’ll lose money? Labour’s social justice rhetoric is a poorly designed façade, giving the impression of radicalism with headline grabbing policies with austerity hiding between the lines.

Labour is now part of a generally reviled establishment which equates its prejudices with reasonability. The founding article of The Stepford Student acknowledges this. The establishment says if you oppose bankers’ bonuses, financial deregulation, Trident renewal, or lower spending then you are one of the loons.

No one mentions that outside of the South these policies are wildly popular. It goes unnoticed that economists agree austerity is holding back recovery by impeding growth, and that productivity is still falling. A global financial crash happened and we talk about immigration more often than banking reform. Labour is even inventing their own half-hearted immigration controls. Labour has changed so much that expecting a fair society from them is foolish.

Don’t let anyone question Miliband’s socialist credentials. They’re 100% not there.

Don’t let anyone question Miliband’s socialist credentials. They’re 100% not there.

If a party that truly believed in social justice stood beside Labour, the illusion would shatter. It’s happening in Scotland now. When the SNP propose abolishing tuition fees, arguing no politician should take away privileges they benefited from, it’s small wonder the Labour proposal to cut them to £6000 looks wafer thin. Every principle that Labour advertises is done better by kamikaze Nicola Sturgeon than plasticine-faced Ed Miliband. That simple statement should not excite any progressive voice. Meanwhile, Labour strategy in Scotland resembles shit hitting a fan hoping anything will stick. I will vote SNP, because Labour abandoned my ideals. And that hurts.

All very well for Scotland, you might say. Like malevolent Mary Berry impersonator Anna Soubry MP, you may think SNP influence “would be a betrayal, not just to the English, but to the whole of the United Kingdom.” Other fears centre on Alex Salmond, or the assumption that all nationalism is bad.

Mary Berry: Makes wicked cakes

Mary Berry: Makes wicked cakes

Anna Soubry: Makes wicked policies

Anna Soubry: Makes wicked policies

This is scaremongering. No one seriously expects Nicola Sturgeon will raid the UK Treasury for pocket money. Instead, her plan seems more cunning and long-term, trying to persuade the Labour Party to return to their collectivist roots. She doesn’t want England to be afraid of her; she wants it to welcome her.

It’s unlikely Saltires will be selling out in Gloucestershire any time soon though. Sturgeon has a difficult job to be seen as a reformer in England, when everyone paints her as a separatist. The London-based press are content to sow national resentment, partly because it makes good headlines and partly because an SNP contingent would threaten establishment assumptions. So the SNP rise is framed as a false choice: support Britain by embracing the disappointing status quo, or live in fear of the progressiveness of the vile Jocks. We are all going to have to be careful to reject that divisive rhetoric. Democracy is supposed to be for everyone, and if we make it impossible for progressive ideas to be realised, the Union really will be doomed.

Turning the SNP into England's bogeyman is a destructive tactic we must watch out for

Turning the SNP into England’s bogeyman is a destructive tactic we must watch out for

Instead, we should find room for constructive compromises. Labour could adopt the SNP’s anti-austerity spending plans and still meet their deficit targets, the IFS says. Sturgeon’s strict gender equality stance will improve Westminster. Their anti-Trident stance will prove more controversial. Whatever happens, Sturgeon will drag Labour leftwards. The reception to her TV performance showed us that much of England actually support her in taking on the Westminster club.

The jist is this: if the polls are correct, Britain will have to start taking the political aspirations of Scots more seriously. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. However, England’s left are going to have to consider what is more dear to them: their Englishness or their progressiveness. Make the wrong choice, and we continue on our current trajectory. Make the right one and a new progressive force may emerge from the political shadows, to banish the establishment fuckery we’ve all come to loathe.

  • Jugurtha

    “They still speak about social justice, of course. Get rid of the non-doms, bring in a 50p tax rate. But there’s no substance any more…”

    Any more? You look like you’re about 15 Zack, son. Why are you trying to make out you were around in the 50s? Please cite a period during which you were remotely politically aware when the was any substance to anything Labour said, thought or did. Seriously, why do people on here keep acting as though they’ve been betrayed by Labour?

    And why does nobody comment? Anyone would think nobody reads this blog.
    You’re welcome.

    • Zack Hassan

      Actually I’m only 12 years old, so I was forced to glue pubic hair to my face for the profile picture to legitimise my opinions for people like you. But in my defence, Owen Jones has managed to get away with a career of political commentary for many years and he’s still drinking formula milk. Aged people are foolish when they dismiss ideas because of the age of the person proposing them.

      As for citing a period when Labour had substance, I think Bevin and Beveridge has a pretty comprehensive theory about what the aims of government should be and the relationship between people and governments. I don’t need to have lived in the 50s to know what Labour stood for, and what I was taught about them growing up. Five Giant Evils - loved that stuff, Labour should use it more often.
      Thanks for your comment, abuse does make this place more interesting.
      Please respond.

      • Jugurtha

        Touche young Zack. Nice try.

        But when you say “there’s no substance any more” or “Labour is now part of a generally reviled establishment” there’s an implication that you personally remember a time when the opposite was the case. If this was not your intention then you’re effectively criticising Labour for failing to live up to ideals it abandoned decades ago…pure anachronism Zack. Yours is a comment on Labours current failings, not a history lesson.

        Mind you, you more or less acknowledge this in your response, viz “I think Bevin and Beveridge has a pretty comprehensive theory about what the aims of government should be and the relationship between people and governments.”

        Couple of issues with your “history lesson” though Zackster.
        1) Beveridge was a member of the Liberal party.
        2) I think you meant to type Bevan (as in Aneurin-with an ‘a’). Ernest Bevin is not cited as possessing such a theory…as admirable as he was.

        Perhaps you think differently. Please respond and let me know.

        Incidentally, why did you use pubic hair? Couldn’t you come up with a slightly more salubrious solution?

        • Zack Hassan

          Fair enough. I wasn’t claiming to remember, and you’re right to say Labour abandoned the idea of the welfare state that Beveridge’s report envisaged long ago. But I have a bit more awareness of the current situation than perhaps you give me credit for.
          My point is that Labour isn’t even holding up the ideals it currently claims to hold, let alone the values of 50s Labour. You’d have to have been living under a rock not to notice how disliked politicians are today, with the exception of Nicola Sturgeon. So my article is absolutely a comment on Labour’s current failings, but the history is illustrative of how Labour has stretched for the centre, taken its core vote for granted, and is now wondering why it can’t win them back with clichéd social justice rhetoric.
          My comment about Bevan and Beveridge was more to illustrate that Labour really lacks an ideological alternative to our current economic and social model. I’m not suggesting that we get back to a 50s welfare state, I think our needs our different today, but Labour would poll better if it had a cohesive alternative vision. The SNP are closer to offering that than Labour, and often argued in the independence referendum for a Scandinavian model of social services.
          Lastly and most importantly, on the topic of pubic hair. There was limited time to cobble together an image of a wise and experienced commentator. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

          • Jugurtha

            A magnanimous response Zack, although I’m not sure I share your enthusiasm for the SNP. They are in the wholly enviable position of never having to actually put their money where their mouths are. In fact, I think they secretly dread the prospect of anything as determinate as independence. It’ll be pretty hard to look good once the golden dawn arrives and they’re revealed as just another bunch of neo-liberal drones who’ve lost the evil villain who made them look virtuous.

            Nor do I understand the attitude of so many soi-distant socialists all over Twitter who queue up to cheer on petty nationalism as a progressive cause. Mind you, I suppose that’s the natural consequence of the politics of identity which you youngsters seem to go for these days…in the wholly deluded belief that it forms some natural succession from the ‘Left’ characterised by the Attlee government.

            Also Zack…please tell me you don’t consider Owen Jones a serious thinker, a ‘socialist’ in any objective sense or anything in fact, other than a desperate venal attention whore.

          • Zack Hassan

            It’s two popular criticisms of the SNP that you’ve just made, but they’re not nails in the coffin. As for having to put their money where their mouths are, you’re right that some of their promises have an element of speculation involved (but then so do the policies of every party) and they’ve not had to raise their own taxes or manage borrowing. But then look at what they have done: the SNP have been in government in Scotland for 8 years and are still wildly popular. I put it to you that such sustained popularity cannot be based on petty nationalism, but only by offering a far broader set of political ideals.
            As for the idea that identity politics is popular with the young, I think that’s a biased perspective. It’s probably fairer to say that mainstream politics is less popular than Ebola, so any alternative is popular by default. I think young people are happy to use whatever vehicle they can to get the change they want, whether it’s nationalism or otherwise. In that way they’re being far more politically mature, because they realise that they exert control over politics in nuanced ways, ie. voting against independence but for the SNP. What’s not been fully realised in England is that it’s Scottish voters who are keeping the SNP on a tight leash, not the other way around.
            I met Owen Jones this week. I get that he’s not very well liked by many people, even if they share his views. I don’t think what he argues for counts as true socialism. I do think he’s an honest person who genuinely cares about trying to make society better. I also think he’s probably not the right person to galvanise working-class support, but he’s very good at capturing the minds of left-leaning middle class people, and that’s surely better than having those minds captured by Tories or Lib Dems, isn’t it?

          • Jugurtha


            I think you’re right. Young people do indeed exploit any vehicle to try to influence policy. But, for me this is not really ‘political’; it’s pure individuated self interest. Now you might very well respond: “well…duh…that’s what politics is at it’s purest level”, and you’d be right but traditionally, political movements-especially of the left- looked for solidarity and commonality and tailored policies in accordance. Identity politics does the exact opposite; rather that look to commonality and universal rights, it rejects them and instead emphasises ever more atomised groupings, each with their own unique sets of needs and demands. It fractures unity, rejects solidarity and militates against coordinated political action.

            In this sense, identity politics is the ideal environment for corporate global capitalism. It offers no serious opposition and is, of course, the perfect political corollary to an ideology supposedly fuelled by a commitment to consumer choice…where we can all be ‘ourselves’ through our individual commodity purchases. Likewise, we can search the deep recesses of Tumblr to equip ourselves with increasingly granular identities. Can you imagine how totally thrilled corporate strategists must be to look at the popularity of the likes of bell hooks?

            The Labour Party is the most perfect expression of this phenomenon: a party committed fiercely to the market with a sideline in progressive posturing based around a commitment to identity. No wonder it’s got no time for the working class. The ‘working class’ isn’t nearly sub-divided enough. If the ‘working class’ got off its fat arse and took an interest, it could realign itself into at least 64 oppressed sub-groups without even breaking sweat.

            Still no time for the boy Jones. He’s the ultimate progressive opportunist and I suspect the reason he doesn’t actually seek election is that he’s doing very nicely as he is. He seems to insert himself everywhere and, at the risk of coming over all ‘Daily Mail’, I’ve gotta say the BBC’s relationship with Jones is a fuckin scandal.

            On the plus side Zack…you look to have broken the comments record for this pace…although I suppose that strictly speaking your own ones shouldn’t really count?

          • Jugurtha

            Oh yeah…one other point

            I am I imagine considerably older than you but you make the point that mainstream politics is about as popular as Ebola. It always was Zack. It’s never been inspiring; not in my time, and if you want to look back to say 1945 and ask people who were around then, it was the same. The great Labour reforms were seen as a tame and anodyne response to the demands of a generation who had just endured arguably the most destructive catastrophe of all time. The popular view of them we have today is misty eyed historical revisionism. Mainstream politics is always lame, it’s the price we pay for living in a stable democracy. Blaming young people’s political apathy on the nature of Westminster politics is like blaming gravity for the limited ownership of personal jet-packs.

          • Jimbo

            Thanks Zack and Jugurtha for one of the most well-reasoned and -meaning comment threads I’ve read in a while. I feel like I agree with both of you, and will probably be voting SNP (in Edinburgh South) whilst holding on to a fairly solid amount of scepticism with regards to both parties.

            Just a question for Jugurtha on the point of identity politics:
            I feel like the language of politics in Britain today is so wholly dominated by appeals to the individual/consumer that it’s no wonder that it’s the language young voters (myself being one) respond to. With this in mind (and feel free to combat that premise if you disagree with it), how do you suggest the left-leaning youth change back to a focus on solidarity and commonality, especially in the era of social media etc.? And where do you see the future of the left - is it doomed to lose its roots?

            If those questions are too amorphous and/or just plain daft (and I understand if they might be, I’m only beginning to think through this myself) then of course there’s no need to try and respond fully. Saying that, any response would be appreciated.

          • Jugurtha

            I’d suggest they focus on those things which they do have in common: being priced out of the housing market/ demanding social housing / the ending of buy-to-let / formation of credit unions; encouraging union memboership and with much needed union reform; an end to tuition fees; an end to zero hour contracts; and a realistic minimum wage. These and any issues should form a core around which they can achieve a degree of solidarity in order to deliver an effective block vote. The political parties then have to take you seriously. They can keep the intersectionality and posturing / grandstanding as a hobby. That can only bring division into the main objective.

            I really don’t know enough about social media-I’m getting on a bit-to know how this would be achieved in practice but I’m sure it could be done. There is always a danger in this sort of thing in letting in the vanguardists, entryists and opportunists, mind. Steer well clear of the swappies and anyone with an existing social media profile and outright reject any injection of identity. As I say, if that’s what gets you through the day, fair enough…but save it for your own time.

  • Guest

    The SNP are not any more anti-austerity than Labour, despite their rhetoric. Quoting the IFS:

    “The SNP’s fiscal numbers imply the same reduction in borrowing over the next parliament as Labour, although the reduction in borrowing under their plans would be slower. They would cut less to start with but the implication of the plans they have spelt out in their manifesto is that the period of austerity would be longer than under the other three parties we consider. Their tax takeaways appear to be offset by their tax giveaways, while they would increase the generosity of the social security system. As a result, while they would increase total spending in real terms each year, departmental spending would be broadly frozen between 2014 – 15 and 2019 – 20, and departmental spending outside of the NHS and aid could be facing a cut of 4.3%. Their stated plans do not necessarily match their anti-austerity rhetoric.”