- Monday, 30 June 2008
Brief as it was woeful, Wendy Alexander’s leadership of the Labour Party in Scotland has come to an end. Alexander was forced to resign after being given a one day ban from parliament for breaking rules regarding donations for her campaign to become Labour Party leader. Her actions were illegal – no doubt about it. No one is quite sure why such large sums of cash were needed for what in effect became a coronation, given the lack of an opposition candidate.
Alexander broke parliamentary rules regarding funding, and seems to have received an exceedingly lenient punishment given that donations of about a thousand pounds from several different donors went unregistered (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7478913.stm). In effect Alexander has received a slap on the wrist from her fellow careerists for an act that would see most workers facing charges of embezzlement or fraud. This is also in stark contrast to the four Scottish Socialist Party MSPs who were banned from parliament for a month and had their salaries and allowances withdrawn for the period for the crime of protesting against the 2005 G8 summit inside parliament.
However what is far more concerning than the technicality of parliamentary procedure is the revelation of where the money for Alexander’s leadership campaign came from. Rather than being reliant on the support of the labour movement, it was large donations from individuals such as Jersey based businessman Paul Green that made up the financial backing for the campaign.
In a tantrum-like speech announcing her resignation Alexander appeared to lash out and blame everyone but herself and the Labour Party leadership for putting her in this position. She went as far as to remark that;
“I have sought to lead Labour in the Scottish Parliament with commitment and conviction, without indulging in the personal attacks which have become so fashionable in current Scottish politics.”
Reality is of course that Alexander has continued leading the Labour Party in the same right wing direction as her predecessors in the Scottish Parliament. Under her leadership there was no attempt to form a serious alternative to the current status quo of politics in Britain. Rather than raising a bold socialist alternative to the programme of the nationalists Wendy Alexander tried to out do the SNP at their own game, claiming that she would be better at running Scotland under capitalism than the nationalists. The Labour Party has been consistently outdone in the polls and Alexander in parliamentary debate as she provided no substance of argument in response to the policies of the SNP. Whilst focusing on the SNP’s failure to deliver on election promises such as cutting student debt there has been no promise that in power the Labour Party would deliver such a measure. One of Alexander’s main criticisms of the SNP has been their failure to recruit 1,000 new police officers in a crude appeal to the hang ’em flog ’em brigade.
Although Wendy Alexander raised the slogan of nationalism or socialism at the Labour Party conference earlier this year she has failed to come out in support of the refinery workers at Grangemouth who went on strike in April or the tanker drivers earlier this month. She has also failed to deliver support to public sector unions in their battle against below inflation pay “rises”. At a time of rising inflation and the resulting falling pay, price hikes, increasing student debt and the creeping fear of unemployment Wendy Alexander has been found wanting by Labour’s traditional supporters and shall not be missed.
Alexander was elected unopposed in 2007 after the left failed to present a candidate. To do so again would be a criminal error at a time when the Labour Party is in a dire state in Scotland and seemingly on course for defeat in the next general election. The result of this situation is a rank and file that is looking for answers and will be open to a socialist alternative after seeing that more than ten years of Blairism has meant nothing more than the continuation of Thatcherite policies and attacks on the working class. This is a route that the SNP have only continued, albeit covered in a mask of populist policies.
Such a contest will also come at a time of emerging struggles of the working class with Unison local government workers set to be on strike in July just the latest in a number of emerging disputes. The campaign for socialism, which has the support of the left of the party and several MSPs, could become a left wing poll of attraction if it were to stand a leadership candidate arguing for socialist policies as the beginning of rebuilding a fighting left within the Labour Party in Scotland. It is only on the basis of taking this debate to the rank and file of the labour and trade union movement as well as the youth that we hope to see this happen.