There are resounding successes, and then there are Labour party in Scotland annual conferences. What was supposed to be Kezia Dugdale’s big break and her chance to re-re-relaunch Labour’s ill-fated federalism fairytale was instead dominated by all the wrath at Khan for his ill-advised speech. That was the speech in which London mayor Sadiq Khan said that Scottish nationalism wasn’t racist, it was just exactly the same thing as racism. He then tried to clarify his remarks by saying that he just meant that Scottish nationalism was divisive in the same way that extreme far right racist organisations are divisive, but that doesn’t mean that Scottish nationalism is in any way similar to extreme right wing racism except in those ways that it is. So that’s OK then and we’re grateful to Sadiq for the clarification.
Meanwhile all sorts of unlikely Labour sympathisers came to Sadiq’s defence. Sympathisers who themselves have more than a touch of the right wing about themselves, and who were strangely silent when Sadiq Khan was subjected to a racist dog-whistling campaign at the hands of the Tories in the London mayoral elections. You know that Labour has got a problem in presenting itself as the sole voice of left wing progressive politics in Scotland when one of its fiercest supporters is a rabidly right wing website written by a former Daily Mail journalist. But then Labour’s own strategist is a former Daily Mail journalist so we shouldn’t be too surprised.
The crap that’s being poured on the independence movement already is a small harbinger of the tsunami of British nationalist diarrhoea that is heading our way once the second independence referendum has officially been called. We’ve seen all this before, remember when someone threw an egg at Jim Murphy and all of a sudden there were anguished articles in the British media about how Scottish nationalism was all but indistinguishable from terrorism. Meanwhile the very real violence meted out by Unionist thugs went unremarked.
The controversy over Sadiq Khan’s nonsensical and ill-advised speech distracted from the message that Labour was hoping to present. To be honest however, Kezia Dugdale ought to be grateful for the distraction, because the message that Labour in Scotland wanted to present was incoherent, poorly thought out, and doesn’t enjoy the support of her bosses in London. Let’s have a new form of federalism! Was the battle cry from Labour, despite the fact that they had promised exactly that in 2014 but as soon as the No vote was safely in the bag Labour forgot all about its promise of a new form of Home Rule and instead played devolution jenga with the Tories, each one of them competing with the other to remove as many powers as possible from the Smith Commission proposals. They didn’t do it in 2014 when they had the chance, and now that Labour has one MP in Scotland and zero credibility there’s even less chance anyone will believe them this time.
Labour’s proposals for federalism are even more spectacularly ill judged than Argyll and Bute’s new campaign to attract inward investment and tourism by plastering an image of a nuclear submarine all over its new brochure. It’s an interesting tactic to encourage tourism, come and visit Dunoon or we’ll nuke you. Come to Argyll and stand outside a barbed wire fence and get arrested for spying if you try to take photies. Who needs swimming with dolphins when instead you can swim with a nuclear sub which the Royal Navy is going to rename HMS Flipper? And unlike swimming with a dolphin swimming with a radioactive submarine bearing nuclear missiles really will leave you with a warm glow. And infertility. The entire idea is as sterile as Labour’s plan. The cooncil must have been advised by the same people who planned Labour’s federalism strategy.
On Sunday, while the party was still reeling from being the ground zero of Sadiq’s idiocy, we got some more idiocy in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn. Scotland’s too poor to be independent, he told us, while Labour MSPs tweeted that you can’t eat a flag. Unless it’s the red one that Labour likes to pretend is its flag. That would be the red flag that Labour can only get to wave as long as the rest of us have to have the red white and blue one.
Jez isn’t too keen on Kez’s plan for federalism. He doesn’t want a new Act of Union, and he’s really not keen on devolution for the English regions. The truth is that there is no more appetite for English regional devolution now than there was back in 1997 when it was first mooted as part of the Blair government’s plans. Without English devolution any federalism plan is dead in the water as Scotland will still be outvoted by England’s representatives. Labour in the rest of the UK isn’t very interested in the idea, the Tories are dead set against it. Kezia’s great hope to save her party with a constitutional convention is dead in the water. The only people who’ll be coming to her pity party are her own dwindling band of supporters.
Labour claims that independence isn’t an escape from Brexit. It isn’t an escape from the Tories, and it’s not an alternative. Independence is all three of those things. In an independent Scotland we will be able to remain a part of the EU, so it is an escape from Brexit. In an independent Scotland we will be able to introduce better and more humane immigration laws so it will be an escape from the xenophobic migrant phobic future that the Tories have in store for us. It will be an escape from the Tories, because in an independent Scotland we will only have a majority Conservative government if an absolute majority of Scottish voters are foolish enough to vote for one. In the UK Scotland gets a Conservative majority government when we only return a single solitary stuffed toy Tory and due to first past the post it’s only supported by a minority of voters in the rest of the UK. Independence is an escape from that, an escape into democracy. Independence is an alternative. It’s an alternative to the politics of a UK. It’s an alternative to the madness of Brexit. It’s an alternative to the selfish mendacity of Theresa May. It’s an alternative to the fantasy politics we saw at Labour’s conference in Perth. The fact Labour can’t see that goes a long way to explaining why it’s at 14% in the polls. Nothing they said or did at their Perth conference is going to help them recover.
Labour voters, Labour supporters, it’s time to deal with reality. Do you want a nasty right wing xenophobic Tory Britain, or a progressive social democratic independent Scotland. Those are the real alternatives. I know which I prefer.
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