Books: Lessons from a Jurassic survivor

Written By: Maria Fyfe
Published: November 14, 2017 Last modified: November 16, 2017

Socialism And Hope

by Neil Findlay

Luath Press £12.99

 

Jurassic Labour is how Neil Findlay describes himself: not Old Labour and certainly not New Labour. And his book shows it clearly. Written in diary form, he begins by telling about his early life and how he came to be a socialist. It was clearly a case of seeing wrongs that needed to be righted, and seeing the wisdom expressed by family, neighbours and workmates. Not studying Politics at university, where he went as a mature student and gained his Geography degree.

However, his book makes an essential contribution to History. I am not sure if he saw it as such when writing it, but what is certain is that he wants all of us who were not in the loop to know the things that went on.

He takes us through the upheavals in recent Scottish political history: the independence referendum and the Better Together campaign, the European Union debate as played out in this part of the UK, the General and Scottish elections, and the leadership battles within Labour at both UK and Scottish levels. Findlay was an active participant all through.

He reveals a major aspect of how things went so badly wrong for Labour, with people all around saying it was dead or dying. The fall was nothing less than spectacular. From being the party that could send 50 MPs to Westminster, it fell to a point where only one – remember, one – was elected in the last but one General Election.

Findlay’s narrative shows how internal machinations contributed to the downfall. Johann Lamont, who had stepped forward at a time when the leadership was already seen as a poisoned chalice, stood in the way of Jim Murphy’s ambition to be leader. So he plotted against her, shamefully joined by people who had been friends acting behind her back, and that included party officials. So they got their way, but what Murphy spectacularly failed to do was win over Scottish voters, and so he in turn had to go.

But also to be welcomed is Findlay’s warning to socialists down south who think the Scottish Nationalists are a progressive party with whom Labour should make common cause. Socialists up here do get a bit annoyed with comrades in the south who are taken in by the leftist rhetoric and don’t see the lack of action. To take but a few examples: he notes in May 2014 that “the progressive, left wing” SNP will again vote against Labour amendments to provide a living wage for workers engaged in public service contracts; in May 2015 he notes that Nicola Sturgeon says she wants an anti-Tory coalition, while urging a vote for the Greens in England. Of course she was playing games that suited her, but also helped the Tories in England. They have form for this.

This is a book to savour for lots of reasons besides those mentioned. It should be on the bookshelf of everyone who wants to see a society for the many, not the few.