Labour for Independence Will Be Vital in Winning a Yes Vote - If it Learns From Past Mistakes
The news in the National newspaper this week that Labour for Independence has returned should be welcomed by all yes supporters awaiting a second referendum. Despite beginning from scratch in 2012 and having no real support from the YES Scotland HQ, LFI played an important and often understated role in the campaign, helping to convince 37% of Labour voters that a yes vote could lead to a better society and a return to a real Labour Party with socialist values.
As the Convenor and National Spokesperson of the group in the last campaign. I will always be incredibly proud of the job we did. This occurred through hard work, passion and commitment of hundreds of activists across the country. That is not to say though that we did not make mistakes. I believe the new LFI can learn from these mistakes and become a much more salient and valuable vehicle in this next referendum campaign.
In the first campaign Labour for Independence were often caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Castigated by our own comrades within the Labour Party, doctored photographs trying to depict us as disloyal to the party. We were supported by many others within the yes movement at that time and as such we fell into a situation where we attacked our own party much more than we should have.
Don’t get me wrong Labour at that time were giving plenty of ammunition to be critical about them. But for Labour for Independence this criticism should have remained internal within our group and also through our CLPs. We should in particular regret any comments made regarding the Labour leader at that time Johann Lamont. For the simple reason she was the leader of our party meant that she deserved more respect than we afforded to her. More than that, Johann is a thoroughly decent person who cares passionately about making a difference in her community, country and the world. While she may have been doing a job that wasn’t suited to her this should not have led to such divisions between LFI and the rest of the party. All this negativity did was add fuel to a weak argument that LFI were just part of a nationalist yes campaign rather than the values we were espousing of equality and social justice in an independent Scotland.
Johann Lamont should have been afforded more respect.
This time LFI need to remember that they are members of the party for a reason. That there is much more that unites us than the division over the constitutional question. Kezia, like Johann before her is a decent person with whom LFI share a great deal of values with.
This resurrection of Labour for Independence has to continue to be led by Labour members and while I will continue to support their work in the campaign as a non Labour member I will not be a part of any executive decisions within the group. As such I hope this advice is taken in the spirit intended. LFI need to learn not only from what we did well the first time around but also the mistakes we made. Those who are still involved will have became better activists, better strategists and will understand the need to continue to support the Labour Party in its fight against a Conservative Government and cuts to healthcare, education and local councils. Support the party in the council elections, work within it’s structures to persuade and convince Labour members and supporters of the true merits independence can bring.
For No supporting Labour members and voters, please understand that while there is disagreement with you and LFI on the constitution they are still your comrades and still agree with your stance on the majority of issues. Work where you agree and where you don’t discuss in a comradely fashion.
For the SNP and yes voters. Embrace Labour for Independence, they are they key to winning over the 500,000 voters who voted Labour at the last election. Welcome once again LFI into the yes community but also understand that they are there because of a mutual agreement on the need for a constitutional change. Do not expect them to support the SNP or their policies. Do not expect them to slur the party that they are members of or vote for. Independence is not about the SNP. No political party holds control over the constitution nor the future of Scotland. Learn from these mistakes and we can win a yes vote in the next referendum.
As George Santayana said: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” A yes vote is possible in fact probable if the yes campaign learns from its mistakes in presenting a viable economic message. In this Labour for Independence will play a vital role. It needs to continue to embrace its role within the Labour Party, campaign for the party in the May elections and convince members and voters of a better opportunity for fairness and equality in an independent Scotland.