Well it finally happened. There have been rumours of impending splits for weeks, the only uncertainty was whether it was Labour or the Conservatives which would break first. Now we know, Labour broke itself. In the UK we don’t have a political system, we have an ego massage for no marks who lack even the so bad they’re good talent needed to appear as let’s all have a laff at them candidates in the initial stages of the X Factor or the good looks and expensive teeth required to appear as extras in Hollyoaks. Politics is broken, said the new Independent Group, and so is their website. It’s not incompetence, it’s a metaphor.
For the rest of us, today’s events are confirmation that not even the Labour party thinks that the Labour party can save us from a Tory Brexit. Seven Blairite MPs have flounced off from the Labour party in order to perform a tribute act to the unlamented 1980s one hit wonders the SDP. They will succeed in precisely bugger all, except to make Labour even less electable than it already was. Although you can bet your rapidly depreciating pound coin that they’ll get considerably more favourable media coverage than the entire Scottish Government and SNP combined. Next week’s BBC Question Time will feature one of them fielding a question from a flute band member in the audience about how Scottish independence is even worse than Brexit.
According to a report in the New Statesman, the rebel Labour MPs considered asking Ruth Davidson to head their new movement. Which can only mean that they are as clueless about the true nature of the intensely careerist Ruth, as they are about Scottish politics in general. Either that or they were hoping for some of her dark money and burly men. If they do decide to stand in Scotland they’ll have to change their name to the The Independent But Not For Scotland Group, either that or they’re going to be a Scottish Independent Group that is anything but independent. So not really that different from the Labour party in Scotland after all then.
Surprise surprise, the not remotely magnificent seven spent most of their press conference slagging off the rest of the Labour party, and not attacking the Tories, that hate group which is actually the root cause of the Brexit problems which are screwing over the UK in the first place. On they trotted, each of them laying out their issues with Labour, every one of them greeted with “Who’s that?” from the assembled audience, followed by “Didn’t she once represent a sofa on Gogglebox?” Whoever was caught by the BBC microphone greeting the announcement with an “It’s mad. Between this and Brexit we’re absolutely fucked,” had it spot on.
The Independent Group isn’t social, it’s not democratic, and it’s not a party, but apart from that it’s exactly like the SDP. When the Gang of Four broke away from Labour in the 1980s in protest against Michael Foot daring to take a party that was supposed to be socialist in a vaguely left wing direction, the flouncers were at least big beasts within the party. All of them had been cabinet ministers in previous Labour governments and two of them had held one of the great offices of state. David Owen was a former Foreign Secretary, Roy Jenkins had previously served as Home Secretary. The others were almost as illustrious, Shirley Williams had been Education Secretary, and Bill Rodgers had served as Defence Secretary and Secretary of State for Transport. Yet even though any one of them possessed greater political experience and ability than today’s sorrowful seven combined, they still failed to make any serious electoral impact with their new party and only succeeded in splitting the opposition and ensuring a decade and a half of Conservative rule.
There are, it has to be said, serious issues with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party. He is the mirror image of Theresa May, incapable of reaching out beyond his own support base, narrowly tribalist, and ideologically inflexible. He came to power promising to be different, that he’d listen to the membership and prioritise what ordinary Labour members wanted. Once in power he’s done the opposite. He’s turned into exactly the kind of Labour leader that he himself serially rebelled against, and he is doing his utmost to ensure that Brexit happens. He just wants the Conservatives to take the blame for it and then hopes that he can coast to power in the ensuing chaos. It’s a breathtakingly cynical form of politics from a man who promised honesty and moral fibre.
Yet today’s split is self-serving and will ultimately prove futile. It pretty much guarantees that if the Conservative party can hold itself together, that it will remain in power for the foreseeable future even though it is the most incompetent, inept, clueless, and randomly vindictive government that the UK has ever seen. None of the splitters has the slightest intention of submitting themselves to the electorate even though they claim to have split on the question of allowing the electorate to have its say. The kindest thing you can say about The Independent Group is that it’s all an elaborate exercise in trolling the Corbynite wing of the Labour party, who are now demanding that if you’re not giving the voters what they thought they were getting then you need to resign and allow the electorate to vote on it, and thereby logically force them into supporting a second referendum. If that’s the tactic, it’s doomed already.
For Scotland this is merely more confirmation, if yet more confirmation was needed, that British politics are irredeemably knackered. It’s more knackered than a nag that’s already been boiled down for glue, but with less ability to make anything stick. The Labour party isn’t going to save Scotland from Brexit, because the Labour party can’t even save itself. If we want to avoid a repeat of the 1980s and the long dark night of Tory rule with no apparent end, we need to save ourselves. Today, the Labour party gave us seven more reasons for Scottish independence.
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