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Editorial: With the Tories in disarray, Labour must be a paragon of unity

WITH the Tories in some disarray, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is keeping his powder dry while Boris Johnson’s uncertain future at the hands of his party is likely bringing him out in a sweat.

Johnson is maybe safe enough for the moment: there is a way to go before an election and his probable successor might prefer for more disasters to befall the Premier before the push.

Prime ministerial bluster looks even more misplaced while Johnson cannot call on a claque of baying Tory MPs — but his present precarious position owes more to the series of U-turns, blunders, mixed messages and misfirings that have marked his administration than to his distracted and distracting tactics at PMQs.

Division in the Tory Party is a sign that our ruling class is unsure of what policies to follow and who is best to lead their preferred party of power. It is an opportunity for Labour and a powerful incentive to go on the attack.

Opposition criticism of the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis has been rather muted and it seems more than misplaced to make an issue of the Premier’s reluctance to meet grieving families struck low by the coronavirus.

How much demand there is for such encounters seems obscure. And the bereaved, who are likely to blame Johnson’s government for their grief, are surely as reluctant as he to endure such an encounter.

Even more more odd then, that Labour makes this its main challenge when the government lies prone before a series of open goals and murderous events are taking place in the Middle East.

For two weeks now Israel has been bombing Gaza and, as yet, barely a bat squeak has issued from Labour.

Keir Starmer was elected on a platform of party unity and a pledge to maintain the progressive policy stances associated with his predecessor.

One thing he could do to give substance to these pledges, then, is to call a halt to the series of co-ordinated attacks on Richard Leonard by the remnants of the discredited Blairite tendency in Scottish Labour. These damage Labour’s chances of forming the next government.

Scotland’s Labour leader was elected precisely because he was associated with the broad trade union and rank-and-file opposition to the disastrous former leadership.

It was the policies and tactics of this desperately incompetent gang that saw the loss of all but one of Labour’s MPs and reduced the party to a rump in the Scottish Parliament.

Leonard and his team — associated not only with the broad progressive policy advances of Labour in recent years but also with the growing forces for renewal in Scotland’s working class and labour movement — needs every assistance from the all-Britain party.

The mutually reinforcing claims of unionism and nationalism have narrowed the ground on which Labour can make a case for class-based politics.

Now, a handful of Labour’s shadow spokesmen in the Scottish Parliament have resigned in a “mini-me” version of the co-ordinated resignations which Labour’s right wing launched against Jeremy Corbyn.

It took a great effort by the party membership and loyal MPs, trade unions and Labour activists to overcome the electoral damage that was caused by that treachery.

Transport staff union leader Manuel Cortes is right to call for “stability and unity” and criticise these treacherous acts and Leonard is right to double down on his determination to lead Scottish Labour into a fighting campaign in next year’s election.

One fact is abundantly clear from recent experiences. Labour’s renewal in Scotland will not come through a lurch to the right or with a leadership tainted with treachery.

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