Political funerals most often pass unremarked, and that’s exactly the case with the Labour party in Scotland. There will be no mourning, no eulogy, and few will miss them. But excepting the occasional British nationalist zombie stomping around in Edinburgh South, whose corpse is animated by the tactical votes of Tories, the Labour party in Scotland is finished.
Last week the branch office manager of Labour in Scotland who can scarcely rise to fame in his own living room, Ronald Limpspeaker, made an announcement about his party’s policy for the next Scottish election. Not that anyone really noticed much, because it was also the day that an opinion poll had been published which showed that support for independence was now at 55%. Undaunted, Ragnal Looselubber told anyone who was listening – which was basically a reporter from the Scotsman and no one else – that he had resolved that in the next Scottish elections in May next year the Labour party will stand on a manifesto of opposing another independence referendum.
Unfortunately for Reginald Lickstamper, he made his statement just as that very same poll revealed that 42% of his own party’s supporters also believe in Scottish independence. The party’s overall vote share has plummeted to just 16% according to polling, and now the party wants to alienate over 40% of those voters it’s got left. This is only a winning strategy in Ian Murray and Jackie Baillie’s book. Not even Remington Lucklacker really believes in it, but he has to go through the motions now that what is left of his party branch office has been taken over by the British nationalist do or die faction. And it’s mostly die, if we’re going to be honest about it.
If you’re a Labour voter who believes in Scottish independence, Rafael Lumpsquasher has just given you a very good reason to pause for thought, while at the same time destroying any possiblity that non-Labour voters who support independence would ever consider shifting their vote to the party. The Tories have already got the diehard staunch opposition to independence vote already sewn up, so Labour is fishing in a very small, and shrinking, pool which is already occupied by a large voracious and unprincipled fish.
That was all bad enough, then the party’s woes got even worse yesterday when an internal party memo was leaked to the press. It told us that Labour has already abandoned Scotland, making the decision in the last Westminster General Election not to spend much money targetting seats in Scotland.
But what was really shocking was the revelation that one of the factors which Labour was looking at in order to decide whether it was going to put money into fighting a seat was the proportion of Catholic voters in that constituency. Sectarian politics are alive and well in the Labour party in Scotland.
It has been obvious from previous examinations of voting patterns that people in Scotland from an Irish Catholic background are more likely to support independence. In some ways that’s not surprising. A community which has historically been discriminated against by people who wave union flags and sing God Save the Queen was always going to have a far weaker identification with symbols of Britishness and a British identity. Of late there has been a concerted effort to draw an equivalence between a Catholic family background and support for independence among some of the more orangey and blue sections of British nationalism in order to make support for independence a sectarian issue despite the fact that there are far more supporters of independence who are not from a Catholic family background than those who are. It looks as though this tendency is also very much in evidence in the Labour party in Scotland.
Has Labour decided that people in Scotland from a Catholic family background are more likely to vote for independence and so has written them off? Does this mean that Labour isn’t very interested in doing very much to tackle lingering issues with sectarian discrimination because it’s no longer interested in pursuing voters in Scotland from a Catholic background? Does it mean that the party in Scotland has gone all staunch? Enquiring minds want to know. None of this is a good look for the Labour party in Scotland. The lingering rump of the party has just blown the few shreds that are left of its credibility. It is no longer deserving of any respect.
Labour has given up on Scotland, just as they long ago gave up on any principles that they once possessed. Scotland for its part has given up on the Labour party. There is still a bright future for left wing, socialist, and social democratic politics in Scotland, it’s just that the Labour party will not be the vehicle for it. The party in Scotland is lost, incoherent, and lacking in any direction except a knee-jerk hatred of the SNP. On the one hand Labour demands that there’s greater redistribution of wealth, more steps need to be taken to ensure social equality and the reduction of social divisions, while on the other they stand with the Conservatives in refusing to allow Scotland the powers to do those things.
Labour attacks the Scottish Government for making cuts despite the fact that the Scottish budget must operate within financial constraints set by the Tories in Westminster while it cooperates with the Tories to ensure that the Scottish Government remains constrained. Then it hopes that Scottish voters don’t notice.
Even at a UK level Labour is a failure. Despite the fact that it’s opposing the most inept, most chaotic, most incompetent Conservative government in living memory, it still can’t make a breakthrough in the opinion polls and went down to a historic defeat in last December’s General Election. It has become an irrelevance.
The battle for Scotland’s political soul is now very squarely a contest between a social democratic, liberal, tolerant independent Scotland, and the xenophobic small state British nationalism of the Conservatives. The Labour party in Scotland is over, and with it any chance that the UK can cling on to Scotland.
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