Scottish Labour leadership – Herald Letter (no paywall)

DOUG Maughan (Letters, November 1) raises a number of issues which are worthy of discussion regarding the current position of the Scottish Labour Party, including that of the nature of the politicians Labour produces.

I have a great deal of sympathy with his argument, especially regarding the decline in representatives who came up through the shop floor trade union route. Most trade union MPs were non-ideological types who could be trusted to represent the aspirations of their constituents and members realistically and pragmatically. This started to come to an end in the early 1980s, when their place was increasingly taken by middle-class “left-wing” professionals who had little experience of the shop floor or working-class life. (I blame Tony Benn and his acolytes for their attempt to turn the Labour Party into a party of socialist ideological purity.)

The result is that many representatives appear to be out of touch, although the example of Nicola Sturgeon and Johann Lamont seems to throw some doubt on whether being a professional politician is a disadvantage. Ms Sturgeon has been a career politician all of her adult life, having first stood for election as an MP at the age of 21 and is now the epitome of the media-groomed, manufactured public figure. Johann Lamont taught in Glasgow schools for 20 years before even thinking about standing for election, and looks and speaks like a normal person, flaws and all. Who is now about to become First Minister?

Be that as it may, Scottish Labour members now have an interesting choice of leaders. Jim Murphy has an impeccable working-class background, witnessed the injustice of apartheid South Africa, had the moral courage not to serve in the racist South African army, and chose instead to return to unemployment in Scotland. Neil Findlay worked for years on building sites as a bricklayer and then trained as a teacher. Sarah Boyack is steeped in the politics of devolution and is committed to local government and service to local communities.

None of the candidates for the leadership fits the identikit researcher-to-safe-seat stereotype: all three have a great deal to offer Scottish Labour and the people of Scotland, so we can look forward to a lively and worthwhile debate. Bring it on.

Peter A Russell

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