A new Scottish Politics, or a bit more of the old?

The results of the parliamentary elections on Thursday have confirmed the position of the SNP.  SNP, Liberal Democrats and Greens were largely happy to hold their own; the biggest change is the reduction of the number of representatives from Labour, and the increase in the representation of Conservatives.  Both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats put a lot of emphasis on the show-business end of politics, including performances with children and animals.  That may, I fear, mislead future campaigners into believing that what matters is the razzmatazz.

What the SNP and the Conservatives had, and what Labour notably lacked, was a broader narrative.  For the SNP, the principal points were about self-government and competence; for the Conservatives, it was about the strength of the union and mounting effective opposition.  Labour, by contrast, tried to emphasise a series of policies.  None of the parties was short of policy.  Nor was this, as John McTernan would have it, about right and left: all the parties in Scotland are to the left of the UK government.  The simple truth is that offering people a shopping list is just not enough to counter a good story.   If Labour wants to appeal, it needs to restate its own narrative.  It can do that by focusing on its principles – equality, empowerment, solidarity and the common weal.

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