As the start of the Scottish election campaign draws ever closer it will be fascinating to see how the Labour party tries to present itself to the electorate. Recent shenanigans do not seem to have helped them that much.
First up is the recently passed Scottish Budget for 2011. In an effort to mitigate at least some of the swingeing cuts imposed by the Tory\LibDem government in London, the SNP proposed to raise £30 million by an additional levy on the largest supermarkets and out-of-town retail parks. Money which could go to keep some people in jobs. But the Labour party, along with the Tories and the LibDems voted the proposal down.
Now I can understand why the Tories, as the traditional friend of big business would vote this way. But why would the Labour party, the so-called representative of the working man and woman, whip their MSPs into line in order to defend the rising profits of big supermarkets? Not clear how easy it will be for them to defend this decision during the election campaign.
Labour seem to have compounded their potential difficulties over the budget by voting against it in the final vote. This, despite the fact that the final package included additional funding for apprenticeships, which Labour had claimed was one of their key demands. Yet they tried to vote the budget down. Seems they will vote against anything, no matter if they agree with it, just to oppose the SNP.
This can even more clearly be seen with the recent revelations about the decision to release Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds. The investigation into the background to this decision reveals that the then Labour government in Westminster was very keen to secure Al Megrahi’s release. They feared the consequences if he died in a Scottish prison. They even went so far as to facilitate the Libyans with details of how to apply for compassionate release. Yet when the decision to release Al Megrahi was announced, the leadership of the Labour party in the Scottish Parliament let all hell break loose with their condemnation of the decision.
What we need to know now is did Ian Gray know that his own government in Westminster was actively promoting this result? Or was he kept in the dark by Gordon Brown and his Labour colleagues at Westminster? If so it shows that the Labour party at Westminster either did not trust Gray or at best regarded him as a nobody. In which case why should the Scottish people have any faith in him.
Of course if he did know, then he is an outright liar and hypocrite. I suspect he was kept in the dark. However it does somewhat beggar belief that after the decision had been taken, that he made no effort to find out what his masters in Westminster thought of the matter. Remember the Prime Minister was Gordon Brown, a fellow Scot and MP for Dunfermline West. Nothing easier than picking up the phone and asking.
Ian Gray made much of his assertion that if he were First Minister, then Al Megrahi would not have been released. This just does not ring true. We are to believe that Ian Gray would have rejected the strong and forceful arm twisting that Gordon Brown, on behalf of the UK government and the leader of the Labour party, would have exerted on him? I think not.
Yet Gray and the Labour party in Scotland still stick to the line that they knew nothing and asked nothing. Just about sums them up.