Scottish politics doesn’t make as big a splash as it used to or should, which is a shame as the terms of the debate are, to a degree, rather more to my liking. I don’t know if it’s the advent of the Holyrood assembly and the tacit acceptance by the British media that Scotland is to all intents and purposes now separate from England, but the lack of coverage of Scottish politics (when contrasted with, say, London) is a little concerning. We should be hearing more, not less about politics north of the border.
Anyway, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has signalled a dramatic move to the right by announcing her intention to drop the party’s commitments in Scotland to universal benefits like free prescriptions and free care for the elderly. Great things to be cutting, I’m sure you’ll agree…..
It’s a move to try and undercut the SNP’s ‘opportunism’ and ‘populism’, by attacking them from the right and accepting ‘Tory logic’. Very troubling, when now more than ever ‘Tory logic’ is looking flimsier than ever.
The shift provides an insight into how so many people in the Labour Party, especially around the leadership, think. They are still trapped by the Blairite, win at all costs mindset and aren’t even willing to countenance left-wing policies that are popular.
As has been pointed out before, when you remove the universal aspect of a benefit you aren’t targeting the money where it is most needed. You are beginning a process of undermining the measure and stigmatizing its recipients.
It’s also a bit concerning that this appears to be an example of life imitating satire. Just a couple of weeks ago on The Thick Of It Nicola Murray announces that her party is going to accept a couple of the more spiteful Tory cuts to highlight the party’s credibility. The timing of Lamont’s announcement is perverse, to put it mildly, and her move could backfire even more spectacularly than Murray’s.
I’ve re-blogged below an excellent piece from Moments of Clarity about the issue that points out many of the flaws in Lamont’s decision. The piece also makes the rather significant observation that Lamont is claiming to be ‘starting a debate’ on the issues. She is in fact presenting the move as a fait accompli. Again, very Blair-esque. Democracy without the actual democratic bit.