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by Louise Wilson
19 May 2022
Comment: Labour’s ‘grown-up politics’ is all talk

Comment: Labour’s ‘grown-up politics’ is all talk

For all their talk of ‘grown-up politics’, Scottish Labour seems to have emerged as the new leaders of Stirling Council by sulking and refusing to share its toys.

The party’s Stirling branch, like elsewhere in the country, performed well at the recent council elections, successfully upping their seats by two to given them six councillors.

But that wasn’t well enough to get them out of third place in the city. The SNP saw eight councillors elected and the Tories secured seven.

Yet somehow they’ve managed to barter their way into the top positions, with Chris Kane today elected as leader and Margaret Brisley as depute.

Typically, I don’t buy the idea that the party that comes in first should be the party that forms the government. Unlike first-past-the-post, that’s not how proportional representation is meant to work. New governments, at any level, should be the ones that can command enough support by cross-party working – be that formally or informally.

But something bizarre has happened on Stirling Council.

Scottish Labour’s blanket ban on doing deals with any other party meant it simply was not willing to see any party other than itself take control.

And so what seems to have happened here is, rather than going into negotiation deals with a spirit of compromise, the party’s representatives have simply said ‘we refuse to back anyone else so it’s us or absolute chaos’.

The close-run numbers meant that one of the big three parties had to compromise – but Labour seemed content to hold the council hostage until their demands were met.

The SNP and Conservatives were clearly never going to work with one another. Labour could have offered a power sharing agreement with either of them, therefore securing a majority by coalition.

Instead, the party refused to budge and, even more bizarrely, the Conservatives accepted this and backed a Labour minority administration – without, as far as reports suggest, getting anything in return beyond the symbolic position of Provost and the ‘good feels’ for keeping those pesky Nats out.

It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which the SNP and the Tories refused to negotiate, given they both won more votes than Labour. But where would that have left Stirling residents?

Scottish Labour’s refusal to do deals is against the very spirit of proportional representation.

In Stirling, somehow, it has benefited them. But elsewhere it will surely only lead to them being left on the sidelines while other parties do look to work together – like grown-ups.

On the bright side, it probably bodes well for Stirling residents that their new leaders are absolutely masterful negotiators. That might come in handy when it comes to securing more cash from central government.

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