Consider the Labour party at the moment - likely defeat at the next UK election, already in opposition in Scotland, MPs jumping ship left, right and centre, (arguably) a distinct lack of talent left on the benches and staring at a future which looks decidedly against them.
On that basis, I have a question for Yousuf. And, well, all Labour-types really who purport to be "social-democrats". It's about Labour, the next election, preferences, social democracy and conservatism. Actually, from that previous sentence, you can probably make the question yourself.
Why would the Labour party in Scotland prefer to see Scotland governed by a Conservative government at Westminster - and, in turn, the Tories roll back
all any of the good, social democratic policies delivered by Labour in the past 13 years - when they could have an independent Scotland which, in all likelihood, would see social democracy as the norm?
This question - put in a fairly similar form - was put to the author of a different blog but I can't for the life of me remember which blog or who asked it so I will very much apologise for not sourcing it. If it is any consolation, I thought it an excellent question, and one I've been thinking about since.
Labour's campaign for re-election in Scotland purports to ignore the SNP as irrelevant, focusing solely on the Conservatives. Perhaps that is smart - it is a UK election, where the SNP are on the fringes after all - but for me, it smacks of desperation. The SNP form the devolved government of Scotland - people are not going to forget who they are. But by setting up the election as a battle between themselves and the Tories, Labour are drawing the battlelines - and identifying their real enemy. And apparently it isn't nationalism - its conservatism.
Now that makes sense - "social democracy" (as New Labourism likes to self-define as) has always been opposed to conservatism. The outlook on the individual, on society, on the role of government is all different - in short, they stand for different things. I guess Labour will tell you they want a "fair" society, with "equality of opportunity" for all while for the Conservatives, the focus is on law and order, and on encouraging enterprise. Obviously these concepts are not mutually exclusive, but it is the way in which the parties focus - and prioritise - which provide the biggest differences.
Priorities. Preferences. The key concepts in this debate I think. For if Labour, as they purport to be, really are about promoting equality and improving standards of living, then surely that could be achieved better on a smaller scale? And their opportunity to do so on a smaller scale would also be bigger - that is, political competition in Scotland is focused on the politics of the centre-left, with only the Conservatives and their 15-20% of the vote residing outside the dominant political discourse.
What is my point? Simply this - Labour's core principle, social democracy, is one which is easier to achieve on a smaller scale. In Scotland, Labour's core principle is in tune with the electorate (arguably it is across the UK, but only really in cycles). Labour's visceral behaviour towards the SNP is predicated upon a threat not to that principle but to their electoral prospects and their ability to enact these principles. If the party were not so blinkered, they'd see in the SNP a party with principles remarkably similar to their own. Yes, the SNP are a broad church of opinion - with independence the glue that holds it all together - but predominant policy in the past 25 years has been guided by centre-left values. Combined, the two parties dominate Scottish politics. Why would that be any different in an independent Scotland?
So, I'll put the question to the Labour types again:
Why would the Labour party in Scotland prefer to see Scotland governed by a Conservative government at Westminster when they could have an independent Scotland which, in all likelihood, would see social democracy as the norm?
If the SNP are smart, they'll start asking Iain Gray and Jim Murphy this very question.