#ReadyForFindlay? What next for Scottish Labour?
After Kezia Dugdale’s shock resignation — who is next to take on the task?
In late 2014, after a spectacular and somewhat unexpected resignation from then Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont, followed one of the most interesting party leadership elections that Scotland had seen in it’s recent history. The real contest was between Jim Murphy and Neil Findlay with Jim Murphy ultimately winning — in name only.
Findlay performed a far more important task than winning. His leadership election brought positivity to the Scottish Labour Party and inspired a greying, ageing and disconnected left wing of the Scottish party to branch out and brought young people into the fold. Findlay’s campaign was inspiring and with each media appearance, each positive news article — we almost thought he might do it. The electoral system and Jim Murphy’s name recognition ultimately won the day, but things have changed in a very short period of time.
After two years, Kezia Dugdale has thrown in the towel. She was a reasonably competent leader who oversaw one of Scottish Labour’s worst electoral performances and indeed, saw them recovering in this year’s general election. Kezia has left with her dignity intact, the same of which cannot be said for many of the others.
Much of the talk will now turn to who is to replace her, as is natural. But we must be careful. Now is a time for debate and discussion about the future of the Scottish Labour Party and the direction which it is to take.
On Corbyn’s recent tour of Scotland, it was clear that he is a far more popular figure here than he was two years ago. Any potential new leaders of the Scottish Labour Party should, ideally, be a natural ally of Corbyn. It would be a clear shift to the left of the leadership of the Scottish Party and also representative of the shift the UK Party has taken. It would put clear red water between Scottish Labour and the SNP. It would take away our focus on constitutional issues and further serve to detoxify the Scottish Party.
For this, the natural candidate appears to be Neil Findlay. An MSP since 2011, he has the vision, the drive and the energy to run again. He has also developed a more visible profile in that time and has shown himself to be an ally and a friend to Corbyn in Scotland, which can be a very lonely place. Hours after Kezia’s resignation, members have already been calling upon him to stand. Findlay may be reticent to stand after he lost out the last time, but his time has surely come now?
The left is in a far better position within Scottish Labour than it was three years ago. It is far more organised and visible, organising a sell out “Festival of Socialism” last weekend in Glasgow. The continuing success of Scottish Labour Young Socialists also demarcates a shift within the Scottish Labour Party that is becoming impossible to ignore. Along with the electoral system and a renewed left within Scottish Labour, Neil Findlay could convincingly win any leadership election — particularly with the registered and affiliated supporters mechanism.
Whether or not Findlay stands, it should be on his mind that the left in Scotland is in a far better position than we were three years ago. The future is far brighter for Scottish Labour now, than it was in 2014. We need a leader who realises this and the potential it brings with it.