Douglas Alexander, the most senior Scot in the shadow cabinet, has today delivered a devastating critique on his own Scottish party in a latest bout of bloodletting to follow the party’s woeful election result this year.
Mr Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, berated the Scottish Labour leadership for the party’s successive election defeats to the SNP in 2007 and 2011.
Mr Alexander accused Scottish Labour of failing to embrace “New Labour”, of being stuck in the past, of adopting the wrong slogans and sticking by tired old tactics that were never going to work.
Alex Salmond’s successive election victories, culminating in his humiliating defeat of Labour in this year’s Scottish parliament elections when the SNP secured the first majority in Holyrood history at Labour’s expense, were the result of Labour’s own failings, Mr Alexander said.
And while the Paisley and Renfewshire South MP did not name his sister Wendy Alexander, she will have to take at least a share of his criticism because she led the party directly after its defeat of 2007.
Mr Alexander’s criticisms are also more clearly directed at Jack McConnell, the first minister from 2001 to 2007, who was in charge when Labour lost to the SNP for the first time – and at Iain Gray, who took over from Ms Alexander in 2008, leading the party to its ignominious defeat this year.
Mr Alexander’s remarks represent an escalation in a war or words within the Scottish Labour Party which started as soon as the scale of Labour’s disastrous election defeat in May this year became clear.
Even though Mr Gray announced his intention to resign as Scottish Labour leader soon after the election, senior figures in the party have been looking for others to blame ever since – with Westminster and Holyrood politicians accusing each other for of being responsible for the party’s position.
Mr Alexander clearly believes that his Holyrood colleagues are to blame.
He said that Labour stuck with the same anti-SNP “divorce is an expensive business” campaign all the way through from 1999 to 2011 – despite the fact that it was never going to work more than once.
“I said after the 1999 election that it was the last time I thought we could run such a campaign,” Mr Alexander said, “and yet it is surely now clear that in the decade that followed, too little was done by my party to tell a different story of possibility about Scotland.”
And he added: “In 1999 we identified what would have been the wrong path for Scotland, but thereafter we didn’t do enough to describe the right path by which to achieve a better nation.”
Mr Alexander criticised the party for not modernising in the way the London-based Labour Party did under Tony Blair, and that left the party vulnerable when the SNP started to do well.
In a thinly veiled criticism of Mr Gray’s ill-fated campaign theme this year, which was designed to scare voters with warnings about the Tories, Mr Alexander derided his colleagues for continuing to warn of the risks of Thatcherism.
And he argued that Labour complained about the SNP’s failure to deliver on its promises without coming up with enough examples to justify these attacks.
“Labour, in opposition, was seen as too often concerned only with opposition for its own sake,” he said. “Too many Scots judged us to have complained in unspecified ways about the SNP’s failure to deliver, without articulating a clear enough alternative story and account of Scotland’s possibilities.”
Mr Alexander also criticised the Scottish Labour Party for opposing minimum pricing for alcohol when voters wanted something done to tackle binge drinking.