Sunday 22 September 2013


• Glasgow businessman Brian Dempsey has been a lifelong supporter and substantial donor to Scottish Labour. He wrote this piece for the Scotsman back in 2011, after the SNP's record breaking win. I have not provided a link because I've no wish to add to their traffic. I assure you it is there.

I found it in my bookmarks, and I thought it was an appropriate time to examine what he said, and how much of it was taken on board by Labour. It's a decent piece from a guy who was not afraid to admit that Labour was in a mess and that their opponent was formidable. A man who faces facts rather than saying what people want to hear. I don't agree with some of what he says (as noted), but I'd welcome your opinions. 

It's probably worth noting that Mr Dempsey now lives in the Caymen Islands, having gone bankrupt in 2011 with debts of over £10 million, but I doubt that fact affects his analysis of the Labour Party's problems.

Sorry it is a bit long, but it's worth a read. The illustrations are mine and I have corrected some typo errors in the Scotsman's original.
If the party in Scotland is to recover, it needs to split from London and select a new leader - preferably Douglas Alexander or Jim Murphy.

AMBITION is the fuel that drives any successful politician. But there comes a time when personal ambition must be set aside for a greater good. As regards the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party, that time is now. For the facts are simple: the party is in crisis and faces the prospect of electoral extinction at the local government elections next May.

Labour's victory at Inverclyde raises false hope. The Scottish electorate may have demonstrated that, on a national level, they still favour Labour in what was once their party's heartland. But on a Scottish level they voted SNP. And what are the local government elections but Scotland in micro-miniature?

In the wake of Labour's crushing election defeat in Scotland, the worst in its long and illustrious history, I listened with incredulity to party spin doctors insisting that Labour's core vote had held up. I had knocked on enough doors during the campaign to realise that this was not true: too many Labour voters told me they had turned yellow, so to be speak.

So it was fascinating to read the results of the Scottish Election Study which showed how deeply the SNP had penetrated into Labour's traditional core vote, for they won the majority of Catholic voters, winning over both working and middle class voters.

We once had a lead amongst women and young people. You only had to look around the Glasgow SECC on election night to see how that has changed. Youth was on the SNP side, leaving Labour appearing to be the party of old men, and, according to the judgment of the electorate, Scotland is now no country for old men. Change must come. The question is how?

Labour is currently undertaking an internal review to which I would like to contribute my own thoughts.

The first is that the Scottish Labour Party must unchain itself from the anchor of London, and set sail as an independent party. At the moment all this debate over who should take over as leader of the Scottish Labour Party is academic, for the Scottish Labour Party already has a leader, Ed Miliband.
The fact remains that Iain Gray is leader only of Labour's MSPs. The best case scenario would be to have a new leader of Scottish Labour who would command the respect and loyalty of both MPs and MSPs, but who was not tied to the coattails of Millbank Towers.

Policies would be focused on how they could achieve the best results for Scotland, not on how they would impact on Ed Miliband's general election prospects.By creating an independent Scottish Labour Party, any new leader would be able to take a fresh look at the structure of the party. The Scottish Executive of the Labour Party is too unwieldy and requires pruning; it needs to be smaller, more disciplined and single-minded. It may seem strange to say, but it needs to be less democratic. Once the leader is in place, it will require a benign dictatorship to reinvigorate this movement.

The second point is that Scottish Labour needs to start thinking and planning for independence. In the past, to do so was viewed as somehow admitting defeat. We are way beyond that point now. We may not wish for the union to be split up, but we frequently make plans for things we do not wish to happen in our private lives, so why not do so politically?

For a long time, all we have done is repackage the clichés - and shout them out loud - about independence. Now someone is going to have to do the serious thinking, as a precautionary measure, about how to make it work.

I do not make the serious suggestion that the Scottish Labour Party should become independent from London and prepare rigorously for independence because I believe that the SNP will win the majority backing of the Scottish people or that an independent Scotland is inevitable, because I do not hold such a belief.

I do, however, think that it is prudent and sensible to prepare for the possibility of things not going according to plan. It is also, to my mind, the best way in which Scottish Labour will be able to re-build, and better galvanise its existing supporters and reach out to many more.

Alex Salmond is an impressive First Minister and an exceptional politician. His success at the Scottish elections was, I believe, partly because of the positive campaign run by the SNP.

The Scottish people will always favour the positive over the negative, preferring hope over fear. So what the Labour Party in Scotland needs to do is, on the one hand, dissect the SNP's failures in office and, with the other hand, show what they would do differently and better.
The Scottish Labour Party is in a difficult position, but it has been in difficult positions in the past and has always managed to rise above circumstance through tenacity, intelligence and hard graft.
These are the qualities that are required now. The irony is that now is the time for young people to get involved with Scottish Labour, for there is a great opportunity to help shape the party.

But I do believe that no one should underestimate the peril that the party could be in if it fails to grasp the nettle and reorganise and restructure.It is crucial that it develops a better, sharper and more focused intelligence unit, one that would have picked up the warning signs of the political tsunami that all but washed it away in May.

We now come to the question of who should lead. For too long the Scottish Labour Party has been like a tilted billiard table, with much of the talent rolling south. This is not to say that there are not talented men and women serving their communities well as MSPs. But it is fair to say that the Scottish Parliament has not seen politicians of the stature of Gordon Brown, John Reid or Alastair Darling.

Westminster has been the draw, the place for an ambitious politician to make his or her mark, with the prospect of the ministerial car and sprawling department. Yet the hour has come for senior Labour figures in Westminster to set aside their own personal ambitions and do the right thing by the party in its hour of need.

The irony is that the biggest battle that the United Kingdom will face will be fought north of the border. The very future of the United Kingdom depends on the results of a referendum that will take place north of the border.
If you believe in Scotland's place as a crucial part of the union, then surely there can be no better personal and political ambition than seeking to save our country in the manner in which a Labour politician thinks it needs to be saved. This is why I believe it is imperative that either Jim Murphy or Douglas Alexander set aside whatever personal ambitions they may have about serving in high office in the next Labour Government and take up the challenge of revitalising the Scottish Labour Party.

There is currently talk of having the incumbent Ian Gray remain in place until January. This is a bad idea. Labour needs a new leader in place by early autumn, one who will focus his attentions immediately on the local government elections next May and ensure that the SNP do no achieve their goal of seizing control of Glasgow City Council.

He must do more. He must find a way to roll back the SNP's recent victories and return Labour to its former position as Scotland's largest party. It will be a difficult task, but it can be achieved.

Now is the time for Scottish Labour to be bold and decisive. Tomorrow, I'm afraid, may be too late.


  1. It doesn't sound like he expected the new leader to be a woman ;)
    Dennis Canavan did a great speech yesterday. As did they all.

    1. Clearly he thought that Jim or Dougie should do it.

      They seem to think of them as big hitters. I'm not sure about Alexander, but I've always thought Murphy was a dipstick!

      Yeah Canavan was fantastic (although slightly over dramatic delivery for my liking).

    2. Spud u like or not. Me not. lol
      I love the old fire and brimstone speeches. Reminds me of the good old days :)

    3. Ha ha... nor me. I am appalled by how poor he is. I heard him on two occasions being bettered on every question by ordinary phone in contributors. One for The Scotsman and the other for the BBC.

      No one agreed with him and on the BBC he started to accuse the SNP of a campaign to ask him hard questions.


      Like the BBC would have allowed nasty Nats to spoil their show with one of their... oh sorry Labour's ... big hitters.

      I thought, although I was truly inspired by what Mr C said, that he sounded at times a little like (un)gorgeous George.

  2. Tris

    I think there are things in the article most people would agree with regarding the Scottish branch of Labour but none of it will happen. They meet for their conference today and it will be more of the same. They will talk a lot of rubbish and sound bites without committing to anything and the few there will stand up and cheer. Lamont and Currun will talk Scotland down and do nothing bu attack AS and the SNP, to cheers, but there will be no vision for SCotland. Miliband will talk about scrapping the single room subsidy while trying to find a policy that will make that committment fiscally neutral so no one will notice. Balls will talk about lowering VAT knowing that it won't happen as they will not change the direction Osbourne has taken because they are cowards and don't have the balls. I hope to see some of it, haven't watched a good sit com in ages so maybe it will be fun, maybe not, probably not.

    Lucky you getting to the march, I was up the law hill making a film about involving young people in decision making with a group of young people.


    1. That sounds like fun though Bruce. I suppose I was doing the same sort of thing, being u a hill involved in getting people to make decisions!!

      What will they do?

      Well someone as influential as mr Dempsey (big donor) advised them what to do. It must have been talked about.

      *Get in a big hitter (which would involve him (her) giving up London politics to concentrate on Scotland). Well, they never did. Obviously Dougie and Spud weren't interested in Scotland. They had bigger fish to fry. I remember when Brown promoted Murphy to the cabinet, Murphy, a junior minister for Europe at the time, had said "anything but Scotland".

      *Give Scotland real power within Labour. Well they said they did. Ms Lamont is in charge of the Councils, the MSPs, MPs, MEPs . Except of course, she isn't. And we saw that over Joyce, and over the successor. Miliband dealt with it all, despite them being Ms Lamont's responsibility.

      *Accept that Alex Salmond is a formidable opponent and a consummate politician. They don't. They go on, week after week bringing pathetic arguments against him, which he demolishes within seconds, showing them up for the amateurs they are.

      eg: L:abour: "Why didn't you put £50 million into the alleviation of the Bedroom Tax?"

      AS: "Because it would be against the law. We put in the maximum allowed".

      Labour: "Yes, but why didn't you put £50 million instead of £20 million?"

      Accept and start planning for Scotland becoming independent. At least show that you accept it could happen. Nope. Not a plan.

      So no, after a root and branch reorganisation, they seem to be where they used to bem, except they have lost a few million a year from unions and are still as more or less as unpopular as they were.

      Well played!

  3. I should imagine that Douglas Alexander has burnt his boats with the attack on his sister but then again that may be viewed as entirely acceptable to Labour?

    1. I doubt that that counts for anything much, John.

      Dog eat dog. She's almost undoubtedly have done the same to him.