I’m not a huge fan of Keir Starmer’s Labour party, whose opposition to the Conservatives is fatally compromised by his pandering to Brexit voters and his anti-democratic refusal to accept that it’s for the people of Scotland, not him, to decide whether Scotland ought to have another independence referendum. The Scottish electorate made that decision at the Scottish Parliament elections in May when they elected the largest pro-independence majority that Holyrood has ever had, with pro-independence candidates standing on a platform asking for an explicit and unequivocal mandate for another referendum.
The electorate of Scotland resoundingly gave them that mandate. Democracy demands that the will of the people for another referendum be implemented. The people, including many Labour voters, listened to Keir Starmer advising against one and decided, “Naa, we want one anyway.” If Starmer really was serious about winning Scotland back for the Labour party he could usefully start with the simple proposition of respecting the decisions that the people of Scotland make at the ballot box. If Scotland doesn’t need another party that ignores its decisions and insists on foisting policies on us that voters in Scotland haven’t given their democratic assent to, we already have the Conservatives for that sort of thing.
Starmer has just published an 11,500 word essay on the future of the Labour party which managed just a couple of brief mentions of Scotland, all of which were attacks on the SNP. Amongst other gems he falsely claimed that the SNP was “symbiotic” with the Conservatives while Labour councillors act in concert with the Conservatives in Aberdeen and Labour in Scotland continues to enable the Conservatives in their destruction of the devolution settlement and their authoritarian denial that the outcome of democratic elections in Scotland should count for something. He claims that “nationalism” seeks to divide, unlike his own supposedly cuddly patriotism, but his is a party which is now every bit as committed to Brexit as the Tories are.
There was absolutely nothing in the thirty five page document about how Starmer intends to rescue the Labour party in Scotland from the near oblivion in which it continues to languish. That’s because he has no clue how to do that. He has nothing positive to say and nothing constructive to offer. This is what happens when the most important influence on your policies for Scotland is the advice of Ian Murray, an MP who only clings on as the last Labour MP in Scotland thanks to the tactical votes of Morningside Conservatives.
On Sunday the news was dominated by the pearl clutching of Tories who had, surprise surprise, managed to find something to feel victimised by. At an event during the Labour party conference Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner called Boris Johnson misogynistic, homophobic, racist, Etonian scum. She’s not wrong there. Her comments were, entirely predictably followed by Tory talking heads on the media bewailing this dreadful language which “has no place in public life”, unlike actually being a misogynistic racist homophobic Etonian scumbag in public life, which is apparently just fine with the Conservative party. We see yet again that peculiarly Conservative morality inversion which means that it’s a far worse sin to call someone racist scum than it is to actually be racist scum. You see the real victims here are the butt-hurt Conservative snowflakes, whose offence taken about their party leader being called out for his racism, misogyny and homophobia is far far more important than the offence taken by people of colour, women or LGBT people by Johnson’s racist, misogynist or homophobic comments.
Angela Rayner was quite right to stand by her comments and to insist that she’d only apologise once Johnson has apologised for his scummy bigotry. We all know that is never going to happen.
The real problem for the Labour party however is its inability to mount an effective challenge to a mendacious, chaotic, and incompetent Conservative party. Thanks to Conservative incompetence, corruption and partisan self-interest the UK has suffered both the highest covid related death toll in Europe and the greatest economic damage. We are now seeing empty supermarket shelves thanks to Brexit and the Tories compounding a crisis by needlessly driving away the EU citizens who were disproportionately represented in the transport and delivery sector. We are seeing soaring energy bills thanks to the Conservatives’ ideologically driven privatisation and deregulation of energy companies. And all this is happening just as the Conservatives are financially penalising the poorest families in the UK by removing the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and ending the furlough scheme.
We have a British Government which cannot even guarantee the most basic provision of food and fuel and presides over millions of children living in poverty. A halfway competent opposition ought to be trouncing this government in opinion polling, but the most recent polling still gives does not give Labour a comfortable lead over the Conservatives but predicts a hung parliament – and that’s before taking into account the voter suppression the Tories have planned in their Elections bill. We all know that the British media is hopelessly biased in favour of the Conservatives and constantly seeks to undermine the Labour party, but that’s not a sufficient excuse. The media in Scotland is even more biased against the SNP than the UK media is against the Labour party, but that doesn’t stop the SNP soaring high in opinion polls and trouncing the anti-independence parties at the ballot box. The same poll which predicts a hung parliament also predicts the SNP would take 56 of the 59 Scottish Westminster seats.
From a Scottish perspective this means that there is precisely zero chance of Labour’s much promised federal UK ever getting to a stage where there are concrete proposals which can later be watered down and stripped of anything that threatens the absolute dominance of Westminster, never mind the radical restructuring of the British state which would be required in order to pull the rug from underneath calls for Scottish independence. It’s not going to happen, not after the next Westminster General Election or at any time in the foreseeable future.
Recently Labour former First Minister Henry McLeish said that he’d support independence if the UK fails to reform itself. For now and for years to come, there is as much chance of the Labour party protecting Scotland from the Johnson government’s assault on devolution as there is of Michael Gove and the alcohol fueled spasms that pass for his dad dancing winning the new series of Strictly Come Dancing and likewise there is no chance of the UK reforming itself. Perhaps Henry will realise that too, at least in time for the next independence referendum.
in his play the Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde said “We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.” Keir Starmer’s Labour party is neither useful nor admirable.
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