That the Daily Mail practically exists to make money for its owner by destroying Labour (amongst other things…) is well-known in England. In Scotland, it’s just as true but some Scottish Labour folk seem confused about it.
The Daily Mail’s commercial success is rooted in English conservatism. In Scotland, because of Labour’s terrible weakness, this cause is usually best served by attacking the SNP. But since in Scotland the key dividing line nowadays is not Tory vs Labour but Union vs Independence, the Daily Mail can’t really do the SNP much harm. Daily Mail antipathy, along with the antipathy of almost all the Scottish media outlets, is something the SNP has always had to live with. In accountancy-speak, the SNP has already ‘discounted’ for the The Daily Mail.
Indeed, in England Labour has also discounted for The Daily Mail. In Scotland, though, the Scottish Daily Mail is causing serious damage which Scottish Labour hasn’t simply failed to discount for but has actually made worse by allowing the Daily Mail to fashion that party’s defining policy of unionism.
I had a Twitter exchange with some Labour folk the other day. I’d pointed out that the outspoken Daily Mail guy Scottish Labour has hired to speak for them was doing Scottish Labour great harm. They riposted that the other parties have Daily Mail folk too. This revealed the terrible truth that they really don’t understand how politics and newspapers work.
Political parties hire newspaper folk because they’re usually pretty good at their job. It isn’t easy to get a proper job in the newspapers, so they’re normally competent folk with a solid understanding of the media. That’s obviously important to political parties. These folk generally serve their party well inside a structure where politicians make policy advised by experts, Special Advisers (SpAds), and often activists too. Normally, the media folk who go to work for parties are party supporters. So it’s fair to assume that, for example, Daily Mail folk who presently work for the SNP, the Tories and Labour are following the political instincts they keep under wraps when working within the media.
The difference for Scottish Labour right now, though, is twofold and it’s all bad.
First, as said above, the SNP has already discounted for an antipathetic Daily Mail. Whereas Scottish Labour (unlike Labour in England) hopes to benefit from courting the Mail, while all the Mail does in return is use Labour’s entreaties to stick the boot in.
So Labour press releases often quote Daily Mail articles and when they do this, they’re saying: “Hey, look, here’s a credible article from a top newspaper”. Of course, not all Daily Mail readers are Tory supporters – but most are unionists. So when those Mail-reading but maybe-Labour-supporting unionists have confirmed by their party that their paper is a good one and the unionist line is the only way to go, while having it confirmed by their paper that the Scottish Labour Party is useless, then some of them will make the natural conclusion and vote Tory with their unionist/Mail instincts. In other words, Scottish Labour’s present media strategy – having their own Daily Mail guy to keep Labour as the weakling twin joined at the hip with its much larger Tory bully – is virtually guaranteed to lose it voters to the Tories.
Second, it’s easy to see why a competent media person with a party loyalty would go and work for the SNP – this guarantees them a job at the centre of government, actually doing stuff which changes lives. The same applies to the Scottish Tories, of course, since Ruth Davidson is clearly the UK government’s most influential Scottish politician. But Scottish Labour has nothing of this order to offer.
The truth is that Scotish Labour’s deal is that they get a competent media guy and their Daily Mail guy gets to make his public persona larger then benefit from that when he returns to the Daily Mail, or some such. Anyone who thinks this is cynical might want to read his predecessor (also a sometime Labour supporter) slagging off Labour each week in his, er, Daily Mail column. And here he is before the last UK election. Strikingly, here he is saying the Labour Party is dead, but here he is proudly punting his Daily Mail column telling us all how awful the SNP and independence are. He says the Labour Party is finished and that the SNP is the devil. This is exactly the Scottish Daily Mail’s position, of course. The only message is; “put the union first, Labour is useless so vote Tory”. This is exactly what Labour’s present Daily Mail guy will do next. Just watch.
So for now, and unlike the SNP’s Daily Mail guys, Scottish Labour’s Daily Mail guy (boys club dominates this game, obv) is in charge and actually making his own statements on behalf of the Labour Party. He has a much higher profile than all but one Scottish Labour politician. And he operates like a double-agent whose first loyalty is to the Daily Mail philosophy his career depends upon. Or, another analogy, he’s using Scottish Labour’s line and hook to pull Labour folk in to the Mail way of seeing things, then the Mail does the netting for the unionists and Tories.
Why did Scottish Labour mimick the Scottish Tories by saying that the most important thing about the local authority elections is the union? Why are they actively encouraging tactical voting against the SNP – which obviously goes both ways? It’s clear to everyone that if one Labour MP argues for tactical voting his way in order to defeat the SNP, then the implication is that Labour folk should tactically vote Tory to the same end. It’s a policy of tragedy and pathos.
Placing the union above social justice and all else, putting Scottish Labour in league with the Daily Mail and The Tories – that way lies certain doom for Scottish Labour.
Scottish Labour’s present leadership is ensuring that when Scots vote for independence they’ll hate the memory of Labour rather than thank it in the present for having looked to Scotland’s best future.
Over to the candidates and activists. Here’s hoping some of them see sense and campaign instead to rid Scotland of The Last Tory MP by arguing for independence. If they don’t, they’ll simply rid Scotland of The Last Labour MP; and along with him the existence of Scottish Labour as a meaninginful political party.