Monday May 25th 2015
Article by Ian Baxter, Bonnyrigg Green Councillor on Midlothian Council.
As I’ve often reminded people, Midlothian used to be called “the one party state”. A legacy from its mining community days, for a while Labour had 17 of the 18 councillors, held on to its Westminster constituency – solidly – since its inception in 1955 and likewise the Holyrood constituency before it was split in 2011.
All that started to change in 2011, when both the ‘Midlothian North and Musselburgh’ and ‘Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale’ Holyrood constituencies went SNP. Labour then lost control of the council in 2012 and now this.
Just two General Elections ago in 2005, Labour and the Liberal Democrats picked up over 70% of the Midlothian vote between them. Ten years later it was just 32.5%. Who knows where we’ll be ten years from now.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The political landscape in Midlothian is changing so fast, and unless those lessons are quickly learned, history will indeed repeat itself, but not in the way many people think.
Midlothian is in danger of becoming a one-party state once again, this time in the colours of the SNP, but would that be good for democracy, or for the people of Midlothian?
In November of last year, it did look like a Labour revival might be on the cards when Kenny Young won the Midlothian East by-election, but as I wrote in a previous blog that particular campaign was unusual. The result this month seems to confirm it’s business as usual for Labour’s decline in one of its heartlands.
In an article in today’s Scotland on Sunday, former Labour MP Ian Davidson put Scottish Labour’s decline down to the four ‘C’s – complacency, conservatism, cronyism and careerism. Is that also true in Midlothian? I don’t know for sure, but I would certainly say complacency has played a big part.
I still fail to grasp why the Labour group on the council continues to boycott two committees after three years. The Business Transformation Steering Group (comprising 2 SNP, 2 Labour, 1 Green) was set up to oversee a programme of change to address the budget gap over the next few years. So that committee now sits with only three councillors, and the official opposition intends to play no part in addressing how we provide much needed services with greatly reduced income and rising costs.
The Safer Communities Board (previously Police & Fire liaison) also sits without its two Labour representatives. Why? Apparently because they don’t agree with those services being restructured by the Scottish Government. For the record, neither do I agree with it, but we have to play with the cards we’re dealt, I’m afraid.
Instead of building trust and acting like a potential ruling administration, Labour continues to act with a ‘Labour good, Nats bad’ rhetoric which does nothing for politics, and it does nothing for the people of Midlothian, whose interests we’re all here to represent.
I had hoped for better from Kenny Young. Kenny is bright, he’s young and he’s articulate. He has potential. However, he too has adopted the tribal mentality of his peers with relish.
I don’t know what Kenny learned from the bubble he worked in beside Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown, but deleting Facebook comments and blocking people on Twitter just because they challenge your views is not the stuff of grown-up politics.
I am particularly disappointed that he hasn’t apologised for going into a Twitter frenzy over the Nicola Sturgeon/French consul alleged conversation when this has now been found to be a fabrication. Sometimes we screw up, Kenny. When we do, admit it, apologise and move on. Saying nothing and blocking people who challenge you doesn’t look good.
I certainly don’t want to go back to the days of the one-party state, of whatever colour, where all parliamentary representatives belong to one party – with huge majorities; where that party runs the council with a significant overall majority; and where huge numbers of voters feel there’s no-one there to represent them.
What’s clear from this month’s election result – across the UK – is that people want change. And people want politicians to change too. What they don’t want is to replace one lot of complacent politicians with another.
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