So, Owen “I’m just like Jezza, only I’m not” Smith is chuffed that Kezia Dugdale is backing his bid for the Labour Party leadership. And so he should be. Kezia after all, is Labour’s most senior female politician, a leader who has led her branch office to dizzying heights of political desolation. Ms Dugdale so inspired Scottish voters with her vast array of five stock answers (regardless of the question), that they abandoned Scottish Labour in their droves. Ms Dugdale’s stewardship has seen Scottish Labour cede their position as the second largest party at Holyrood to the Ruth Davidson Appreciation Society, losing 13 MSP’s along the way.
Apparently, Ms Dugdale doesn’t think that Jeremy Corbyn can unite the party, that may be so, but if he wins again, it will be for the mutineers to fall into line, lest the party implode altogether. Nor it seems, does Ms Dugdale believe that Mr Corbyn can lead Labour into government. She may be right, but having been elected by such an overwhelming majority of party members last year, surely he deserved the chance to try at the next general election. After all, Ms Dugdale failed (all the sign were that she would fail, and then some) to lead Scottish Labour into government in this year’s Scottish election, yet she remains in position.
It is utterly bizarre that Ms Dugdale, who has thus far proven inept, ineffectual and insubstantial as Labour’s standard bearer in Scotland, feels she is in a position to call Mr Corbyn’s leadership into question. Surely she would do better to focus her efforts in putting her own house in order. Perhaps she blames Mr Corbyn for Scottish Labour’s diminished status at Holyrood, just as her production line politician colleagues at Westminster hold him solely responsible for Brexit. Of course, Farage, Gove and Johnson- The Three Brexiteers, had nothing to do with it.
Kezia Dugdale has said that "We can’t pin our hopes on a leadership who speak only to the converted, rather than speaking to the country as a whole”, and she is right, but under her leadership, Scottish Labour isn’t even speaking to the converted, far less Scotland as a whole. Ms Dugdale also said that “Owen understands that to have a chance of implementing Labour values, we need to win over some of those who didn’t vote for us at the last election.", as if that weren’t glaringly obvious.
If Kezia Dugdale seriously hopes to be First Minister after the next Scottish election, she will have to win back all of those who abandoned Scottish Labour at the last election, as well as winning over all of those who deserted them in previous years.
It may well be, that whatever is needed for Labour to have any hope of a resurrection in Scotland, is quite different from that which is needed for the party to make progress in England. United Kingdom or not, Labour, like the Tories, can arguably be seen as an English party, incapable of accepting, never mind adapting to the ever evolving Scottish political landscape. Which brings us back to the possibility of Scottish Labour breaking away from ‘London Labour’. There would be nothing to hinder entirely independent Scottish and English Labour parties from forming a coalition at Westminster (other than the same sort of arrogant, narrow minded stupidity which has seen Jeremy Corbyn rule out cooperating with the SNP), should the Tories fall short when the time comes.
Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be the imagination, or radical spirit required to bring about an upturn in the fortunes of the Labour Party in Scotland. Ms Dugdale needs to realise that hoping for the mother-ship to provide a savior won’t be enough. Even if it were, Owen Smith almost certainly isn’t it.
A decade ago, a fresh faced David Cameron claimed that "Tony Blair's government has tarnished politics and eroded public confidence in our traditional institutions". He went on on to say "We need to restore trust and tackle the public's underlying cynicism”. Cracking job Dave! The former Prime Minister’s resignation honours list shamelessly rewards cronies, donors and fellow Remainers with ‘gongs’ that have been all but bought. In any other democracy it would be called corruption, in Britain we call it tradition.
Does the realm really need more peers, when the unelected upper house is already bursting at the ermine seams with failed politicians? Is there any prestige left in a knighthood when in the past they’ve been handed out to the likes of Philip Green and Fred Goodwin, never mind Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith? Theresa May saw fit to dispense with the services of Chancellor George Osborne, nevertheless he is made a companion of honour. Imagine how he’d have been rewarded if he had actually succeeded in restoring the British economy to health.
Here we are, sixteen years into the 21st century, and the establishment are still dishing out OBE’s, MBE’s, CBE’s and the rest, despite the fact that the British Empire to which they refer, died a death in the last century. It is not only the manner in which honours are handed out that is discredited, the very structure of the British honours system is woefully outdated. As Liberal Democrat leader put it, "David Cameron’s resignation honours list is so full of cronies it would embarrass a medieval court. “.
There can be no doubt that the British honours system is in dire need of root and branch reform. Crucially, it needs to be taken out of the hands of our politicians altogether. As things stand, it appears as if prime ministers feel obliged to repay their political debts by handing out honours to those who have served them in some way or another. Indeed, it is as if there is an expectation on the part of some donors, that their contributions will be rewarded, presumably with the size of the gong being proportional to the generosity of the donation.
Though he criticised Tony Blair for fostering public cynicism of politicians and politics, David Cameron has fallen into the same trap. Either he is stuck in a bubble, unaware of how his actions appear to ordinary people, or he has no regard for them. I cannot decide which is worse.
Our politicians often talk of the need for reform, to make politics more accountable, more relevant to those it is meant to serve. Yet when push comes to shove, they can’t quite bring themselves to do what is necessary. We have only to look at New Labour’s botched reform of the House of Lords, the ConDem Coalition’s feeble cop out on electoral reform and successive governments wholly inadequate, piecemeal tinkering with the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements to see this. There is every chance that any changes to the honours system will be equally half-hearted.