Richard Leonard with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
BRIAN WILSON writes …
Demands for “loyalty” from a besieged leader should be treated with suspicion. Loyalty to whom or what?
It is not an ethical dilemma which troubles the Tories. A leader perceived to be a loser is dispatched with minimum gratitude and maximum ruthlessness.
Labour worries about these things and Richard Leonard should not prolong its dilemma. I suspect he is being done no favours by a cadre who insist he must stay, regardless of consequences.
In this respect, he may be little different from Jeremy Corbyn, on whose tide he was swept into a position he never expected to hold and in which he has proved decent but inadequate.
So where does “loyalty” now point? That is a question for all of us who hold Labour membership cards but also for Mr Leonard himself. He can read the numbers.
Some who have called for him to go have given large chunks of their lives to advancing Labour’s cause and the generations whose prospects it has transformed. They too should expect loyalty to that legacy.
I spent a disproportionate part of my own past in draughty village halls, building support in the Highlands and Islands where, not long ago, Labour had constituency MPs and MSPs.
In last year’s European elections, under Corbyn-Leonard, Labour won four per cent of the vote and under ten in Scotland as a whole. Four per cent, Richard. Is that what I am supposed to be loyal to?
There is not the slightest sign of improvement and loyalty now has to be prioritised. To an individual? Or to the many who need a Labour Party, rather than the few who regard electability as an optional extra.
Government by edict only works for so long. Eventually, people start to question and become resistant to being told what to do.
I suspect many in Scotland are close to that tipping point. There are so many anomalies, so little satisfactory explanation, so much suspicion of politicking that even edicts which are justified risk disrepute. That is dangerous.
Nicola Sturgeon informs us she has “probably answered more questions about Covid-19 than any other leader on the planet”. It is unlikely to occur to her that this might signify a problem rather than the solution.
Like any politician who has not done a lot else, Ms Sturgeon is an expert only in …. well, politics. Unarguably, however, she has commandeered more broadcasting time than any politician, of nation large or small.
Her admirers put this ubiquity down to “leadership”. Others are more sceptical. Certainly,it has not been a great success in terms of outcomes while there is a difference between questions batted away and satisfactory answers provided.
In other countries, routine updates usually come from apolitical medics unaccompanied by a politician’s lengthy monologue. If there are policy initiatives, they are announced under scrutiny rather than by decree. That might usefully become the norm here too.
With a daily pulpit, there always has to be something to preach from it. Much of what we have heard over the weeks was geared to headlines which is the difference between a political briefing and a public health one. The broadcasters must surely recognise that distinction.
Whatever happened to the “elimination strategy” or the false claim that English cases were “five times more prevalent than in Scotland” leading to the pernicious rubbish fuelled by Ms Sturgeon about closing the border? Such pronouncements carried – to put it mildly – political undertones under guise of public health briefings.
As elsewhere, we have an increase in the number of identified Covid-19 cases but I have no real idea of what that actually reflects. Let me give you an example. The son of Spanish friends was tested this week in advance of returning to school. He was positive but asymptomatic and this led to other cases, so far benign, being identified.
Like Ms Sturgeon, I am a lay person. But I guess that story illustrates that the number of identified cases is hugely influenced by the number of tests carried out. In Scotland, barely ten per cent of us have ever been tested so do we have any idea how many people are carrying, or have carried, the virus?
I would love to hear an authoritative answer to explain why there has been so little testing in Scotland and whether that demands remedying. But I want to hear it from an epidemiologist and not from Nicola Sturgeon whose vested interest is in confusing science, statistics and political defensiveness.
Ms Sturgeon tweeted this week about the “utterly irresponsible” Midlothian house party with 300 attending. Nobody would disagree though the point has not been missed that other utterly irresponsible actions in Scotland’s Covid-19 saga remain uncensured and unapologised for.
Again, house parties are symptoms of government by edict which has not been thought through. Young people will find a way to party. Banning music in pups and clubs pushes them into unregulated settings (where, as I heard one nightclub operator pointing out, they are more likely to consume drugs than alcohol).
Yet, where is the compelling evidence to support banning music and television sound? I watched a commentary-free football match in a pub and if the decibel inspector had appeared, he would have shut the place down. In the absence of sound, people are more rather than less likely to shout.
Meanwhile, half Scotland’s beleaguered hospitality businesses report 30-40 per cent drops in custom since the unsound sound ban was introduced. From Greek tourism to Glasgow v Aberdeen lock-down rules, too much of Scotland’s government by edict is failing to justify the necessary public trust.
We need more scrutiny and less decree with reasonable questions answered by people who are independent of politicians and their other agendas.