by Ranjit Sidhu
It has been just over a month since the Scottish referendum, but it could have an eon ago. With the Heywood by-election now concentrating political minds of the Left, it would be a missed opportunity if Labour, in particular, did not learn from what was an astonishing 15% rise in a matter of months for the Yes campaign in the Scottish referendum.
From the good natured debate on every high street to children asking you to do a referendum based questionnaire on the train, it was the kind of invigorating and surprising political debate I thought had left the UK years ago.
And it’s resonance is still being felt. Last weekend, as was de-rigueur pre-referendum, on the local high street was a SNP table with a picture of Gordon Brown in a dunce cap and a queue preparing to sign up to them. So it was no surprise to me that the SNP has recruited 75,00 new members since the referendum. They may have lost the referendum, but they have picked themselves up and refocused in an instant.
Labour’s reaction has been somewhat the opposite: in denial would be the best phrase to use, but also something else, something that came across whilst the referendum was in full swing: a lethargy. As if the referendum was an unwanted insurrection that was put down, but whose soldiers, who had no real appetite for the fight, were happy to escape straight after back to familiar lands.
If lessons are not learnt the fear is not only will Labour be 20 Scottish MPs lighter come May, putting into prospective how Labour has got itself in such a tizzy about losing a possible 5 seats to Ukip, but have also missed the opportunity to learn some important lessons that could have reset Labour politics to a more positive paradigm.
So here are three interlinked, basic and positive lessons Labour can learn:
- The vision thing can still be a positive social agenda
The genius of the Yes campaign was how they were able to tie in the minds of the voters the independence of Scotland with that of a new vision of society for Scotland. When ask what were the two or three most important issues for voting yes many did , indeed, mention disaffection with Westminster politics, but also NHS, public welfare and spending and better jobs were also high up.