I’ve just watched the Scottish party leaders’ debate on ITV. The main thing that’s struck me is how little Jim Murphy’s Scottish Labour really wants my vote. They like to think they do. On the surface of it, I’m their ideal target audience. My grandpa was a joiner and always, always bought The Mirror. His dad was a miner. I work part-time in a low-paid job. I’m totally reliant on housing benefit and tax credits for the roof over my kids’ heads and the clothes on their backs. I should be a shoe-in for a Labour vote.
Well, I did vote Labour in the last General Election in 2010. I hummed and hawed about voting SNP but in the end went for Labour as a safer bet – more chance of winning as the seat was looking like a three-way marginal between Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a tactical vote because at that point I actually believed returning a Labour MP would be a good thing. But I’ve been disappointed with the results. Ian Murray, my MP, voted with the Tories to cap social security spending in March last year and with the Tories to continue austerity in January this year, which is pretty unforgiveable. Yet he’s still pretending to think otherwise.
Jim Murphy tried to use a woman in similar circumstances to me tonight to appeal to people to vote Labour. He told us about a woman who’d come to his constituency office in tears because despite working two jobs she couldn’t afford to buy one of her children new shoes. It was a direct appeal to look like Murphy and Labour empathise with people like her. I’ve been in almost identical circumstances when my children were younger; living on Income Support as a single mum with 3 kids under 5, there was a period of about a year before I got a job where my kids had to wear shoes from LIDL because that’s literally all I could afford when they grew out of their existing shoes. My eldest daughter’s 11 now and her toes are deformed because of that year wearing crappy shoes that didn’t fit properly, because we were fucking poor. She’s got a permanent reminder of poverty.
I have to say Jim going all misty-eyed over this wee woman in need in his office didn’t sit very well with the sexist, patronising, bullying way he interrupted both Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson when they were speaking tonight. You’re not going to win many female votes with that attitude pal. Sometimes women aren’t just convenient weeping anecdotes; we talk back.
Now, I don’t really know if this woman is real or a convenient figment of Jim’s imagination but it doesn’t really matter; if it’s a lie it’s very cynical of him and if it’s true it’s even more cynical because he’s trying to use her misery to guilt people into voting Labour because they think she and her children would be better protected with a Labour government. But Labour don’t intend to stop or slow the austerity cuts that have put that woman in that position, as evidenced by the way they’ve voted. And it’s telling that the poor greeting woman in Jim’s example was ‘working two jobs’. Deserving poor. Labour don’t want to be seen as the party of people on benefits. They’ve said they’ll be ‘tougher than the Tories’ on welfare. No help or empathy for people in a position like I was, when my kids were too young for me to be working, and my daughter’s feet grew crooked because of cheap shoes.
I should be Jim Murphy’s target audience, and what’s he got for me? Nothing.