The Death of Old Labour
Michael Martin owed his position to loyalty - not to voters, but to a Scottish party machine that all but ignored them...For more than 50 years after the war, it ran councils and constituencies as a self-perpetuating oligarchy, with a code as rigid as that of a latterday mafia. The assumption that Labour was the natural expression of the people's opinion was so endemic that the people themselves were rarely required to be involved in its affairs.
So, when Mr Martin responded to the wave of outrage that has swept the country in the wake of the expenses scandal by turning on his critics rather than promising to expose the abuse, he was merely reflecting the system he represents.
This is the true corruption of a party that has been in power too long - it is not the bathplugs or flat-screen TVs that matter in the end, but the failure to connect with those who put them there in the first place.
For Mr Martin and his supporters, the expenses story was seen as an unwarranted intrusion into private affairs rather than an exposure of abuse. These diehard representatives of Labour hegemony seem to believe that power is theirs by right, rather than something to be fought for. In the long course of Labour domination, the fundamental question of why they came to politics in the first place has become blurred. The old notions of championing equality, fighting poverty and defending the underprivileged have grown emptier over the years as the gap between rich and poor has widened. And poverty appears as ingrained as ever, while the underprivileged remain just that.
No one walking through Mr Martin's constituency of Glasgow North East yesterday could have failed to note the stark contrast between the deprivation on the streets, and the stories of refurnished second homes and thousand-pound food bills that have been front-page fare for the past two weeks. The gap between the haves and the have-nots has always been incendiary in politics. It is what brought Labour to power in the first place. Now, as the voters look around, they see that, for all the promises, the reality of their own lives bears no comparison with the luxuries to which their MPs have grown accustomed. That is why the anger is so palpable, the desire for electoral revenge almost tangible.
Labour must now reinvent itself, go back to its roots and discover again the simple maxim that it is there to serve the people rather than help itself to power. When, at the next general election, it presents itself to the voters, it must do so in sackcloth and ashes and in a mood of humble contrition - as different as it is possible to be from the mumbled resignation speech of a man who simply failed to recognise that history has moved on.
As the dinosaurs die out I won't be shedding any tears.