The UK is bracing itself for a winter of discontent, of strikes affecting numerous sectors, even nurses are being driven in their desperation to take strike action. Across the UK we are facing rising food prices, the looming threat of another unaffordable hike in energy bills, soaring rent and mortgage costs, and presiding over it all a Conservative government determined to ‘tough it out’ no matter what the suffering caused to millions of households which are already struggling to stave off hunger and the winter freeze, terrified about keeping a roof over their heads. The are hoping that the public will blame the striking workers for the disaster that the Conservatives have created.
The Tories have run a programme of austerity and slashing public services to the bone for the last 12 years, they have blatantly worked on the basis of one rule for us and our mates and another for the rest of you – most obviously with the so-called ‘VIP lane’ giving the Conservatives’ cronies and donors preferential access to PPE contracts during the pandemic,now the consequences of corruption of Conservative institutional corruption are breaking through in a Britain where everything is broken, where everything is shoddy and shabby, more difficult, poorer in quality and yet more expensive, where shit is pumped onto beaches and where the most simple tasks like booking a driving test or a dentist appointment entail herculean effort.
Britain is broken and it’s the Tories who broke it. They broke it with their ideologically driven hard Brexit, their privatisations, their austerity, their contempt for decency in public office, their enrichment of their cronies and their pillaging of public funds for private greed.
Yet according to the Sunday Times, the priority for the government which has created and is presiding over this mess is new laws on asylum seekers, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman proposing that asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats should be locked up indefinitely and banned from ever settling in the UK.
When you have royally screwed up everywhere and have no tools to clean up the mess, try blaming desperate foreigners in order to appeal to the xenophobic English nationalists who still believe in Brexit. The UK has an ageing population, and serious huge skill and staff shortages. Food is rotting in the fields, the NHS is desperate for staff, whole industries are desperate for staff and immigrants are needed in order to rescue the British economy from the problems that the Conservatives created when they ended freedom of movement.
Despite the claims of Keir Starmer and the even more lightweight Anas Sarwar, a vote for Labour is a vote for things to remain the same. Labour will not seek the UK’s re-entry into the Single Market or Customs Union and has ruled out the restoration of freedom of movement. And just like the Conservatives, Labour will continue to ignore the decisions of the people of Scotland as expressed through the ballot box if these are decisions not to Westminster’s liking. Starmer is as hypocritical and evasive as Douglas Ross when it comes to detailing what Scotland’s path to another referendum is. They both insist it exists, they both refuse to say what it is, it’s top secret.
The shadow health secretary Wes Streeting believes in continued, and even increased, private sector involvement in the NHS. Both he and Keir Starmer have taken donations from private health providers. On Sunday, Labour peers warned Starmer against ‘wasting political capital’ on reform of the House of Lords, insisting he would get bogged down in a constitutional quagmire.
Gordie Broon hadn’t even unveiled his much vaunted proposals for constitutional reform, proposals which you can be certain will be broadcast with much fanfare on BBC Scotland News ,yet we could already hear the screeching sound of Labour doing a sharp handbrake U-turn. The proposals will be touted as Labour’s great alternative to independence but you can be certain that they will not include ensuring that the UK really is a voluntary union of nations with an internal Scottish democratic route to another independence referendum or effective means of placing the devolution settlement beyond any possibility of Westminster meddling.
But lack lustre and milquetoast as these proposals will most certainly be, what they will boil down to is a series of consultations which will result in whatever it is that BBC Scotlandshire orgiastically announces being watered down more than a homoepathic remedy in which nothing of the original substance remains. This has always happened with Labour’s proposals for constitutional reform. For example the devolved parliament we ended up with is not the devolved parliament Labour promised before it was elected in Blair’s landslide of 1997. That was a Scottish Parliament which would have had control of broadcasting and with extensive powers over taxation, including even a promise to grant Holyrood powers over VAT ‘should this be possible.’ Surprise surprise, Labour decided it was not going to be possible, just as it decided that control of broadcasting was not going to be possible either.
The early signs are that Brown’s proposals will go the same way. That is because the purpose of Brown’s constitutional proposals is not to articulate a plan that is going to actually be implemented, the real purpose is to provide some political cover to the Labour party in Scotland in its manoeuvres against the SNP. Labour in England has no real interest in constitutional reform, and it is certainly not about to agree to any meaningful restrictions being put on the power of the Prime Minister in order to rescue the credibility of Anas Sarwar.
The Observer newspaper has reported that some at high levels of the party have cautioned against a manifesto commitment to drive through Lords reform as soon as a Labour comes to power, Starmer did not mention reform of the Lords in an article he wrote for the Observer at the weekend in which he promised to pursue a wide range of reforms to restore trust in politics and politicians.
He could start by recognising the mandate for another independence referendum won by the Scottish Government at the last Holyrood elections, but we all know that’s not going to happen. Labour announced that the people best placed to decide what works in Stirling, Sunderland or Swansea are the people who live there, except that if they decide they want an independence referendum, then Westminster will decide.
The proposals themselves landed on Monday with a resounding ‘meh’. As predicted these are not firm commitments for radical change, but a promise to ‘consult’. Significantly absent from Labour’s promise to distribute power away from the centre was any mention of reform of the Commons. It’s like promising to do something about a dragon jealously guarding a hoard of treasure by rearranging the placement of the treasure and leaving the dragon firmly in place.
Gordon Brown loftily proclaimed that as far as Scotland was concerned the debate is no longer between independence and the status quo, it was between independence and a reformed United Kingdom. That is exactly what he told us in 2014 and we can see what happened. Now Labour hopes to pull off the same trick again.
Both the main British parties deny Scottish democracy and seek to keep Scotland trapped in an everlasting winter of Westminster contempt. That’s why as soon as possible, Scotland must vote to leave this broken Britain.
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