Writing for the Sunday Herald, Tom Watson makes the case for Neil Findlay's Scottish leadership campaign and recommends party members back him. Ivan Lewis disagrees. After Tom's article appeared, Ivan tweeted "It's essential that Scots decide best person to be leader of Scottish Labour. Others interfering not in the interests of the Labour Party." Tom tweeted back and it went downhill from there.
Whatever one's opinion on the leadership election, it's Ivan who's in the wrong here. It's an important contest not without consequences for Labour in the rest of Britain. Just like the referendum. Anyone who cares about our prospects in next year's election and the sort of direction the party should be taking need to pay attention. Just like the referendum. English and Welsh comrades, in the spirit of good neighbourliness, should be prepared to offer supportive arguments for their choice, if they feel so moved. Again, just like the referendum. Ivan's passive-aggressive "who could I be criticising?" tweet is symptomatic of all too many in the PLP who not just flee from, but fear political argument.
It's not hard to see why. Take the anointed candidate, Jim Murphy. He does have a number of qualities that recommend him. In the lead up to the Syrian intervention that never happened, he spoke for air strikes from his shadow defence brief on Assad's regime against the PLP's line which, at that stage, was a hopeless muddle. Ed Miliband did not appreciate the attempt to bounce the party into a hawkish position, and Jim was removed - ironically along with Diane Abbott, who made the opposite case. So with Jim you have someone who will speak up for what he believes in, even if you disagree with him. He's also a canny political operator and is probably the sharpest Blairite figure to have graced the shadow cabinet under Ed. That's one, not oft-commented contributing reason for his sacking and helps explain why the Scottish party machine is prone to oversights that favour Jim. Ed is happy to have a potential future rival tied up away from the centre of power. Lastly, what I especially like about Jim is a willingness to lead from the front. He is one among a clutch of sitting MPs who takes campaigning extremely seriously. He relishes the cut and thrust of doorstep politics, whereas most - and then not all - of Westminster's inhabitants do it out of grim necessity. To be sure, if Jim wins Scottish Labour will be shook up. His activist conception of politics will come front and centre as he remoulds a beleaguered and battered party independently of One Brewers Green.
The problem is Jim's politics and those of former Labour voters go together like cactus and cream. Were I not some weird ex-Trot pseudo-Gramscian pinko/Bennite sell-out but a hard-nosed Blairite who wants to see Scottish Labour bounce back instead, I'd still support Neil Findlay. It doesn't matter whether the SNP's social democratic turn is fake or not, the ex-Labour voters that have turned that way in their droves appreciate the party as a centre left alternative and treat it as such. Since Holyrood's foundation, Scottish Labour has been very New Labour, and that continued under Johann Lamont - albeit apparently imposed from afar. While it is true the leftishness of Scotland is somewhat overstated, a left platform that puts self-security at its heart stands a better chance against Nicola Sturgeon's SNP than a continuity candidate whose opposition is not backed up by popular policies. The Blairite playbook helped get Scottish Labour into its present difficulties, so why would more of the same produce different results? That way madness lies. Jim might, and probably would, tack to the left if he won but you, me, and Scottish voters know it wouldn't be heartfelt. Neil Findlay on the other hand is the real deal.
The "interests of the Labour party" in Scotland and the wider UK are best served by Neil's successful candidature. Jim, for all his qualities is the wrong man at the wrong time. If you're a member of the Scottish party, or have an affiliate membership through your union and/or socialist society, please vote for Neil when your ballot paper drops.