Letter No 60  by Mike Allott: back to directory
16 December 2014
Dear Sir or Madam,

Jim Murphy and Scottish Labour’s own independence question

You report that Jim Murphy wants “to press Scottish Labour to rewrite clause four of its constitution to emphasise that the party will act ‘in the national interest of Scotland’”. Clause IV is more than just warm sentiments. It is 345 succinctly crafted words, expressing the “principles” on which “Labour seeks the trust of the people to govern”.

It was under paragraph 2(c) that the original principle of devolution was born and developed: “we work for … an open democracy, in which government is held to account by the people [and] decisions are taken as far as practicable by the communities they affect”.

However, political events in Scotland have clearly moved on. Devolution never envisaged national separation. The Tories are unambiguously unionists. The Lib Dems (according to their constitution) are federalists. A new form of words ought now to be found to distinguish Labour’s new principles of government for devolved nations (bearing in mind that, constitutionally, a Scottish Labour party cannot embrace national independence).

If the issue of national integrity is to be so redefined, it is also surely right that Labour clarifies its governing principles over its political and economic relations with Europe. A new cascading and embracing principle of devolution and nationalism is again surely well overdue.

On the broader level, remember, clause IV was the defining product of New Labour. So, yes, perhaps Murphy is right to want to go back to first principles.

Mike Allott

Eastleigh, Hampshire