There can be no doubt by now that the Labour party is in the business of peddling exactly the same right wing Anglo-British exceptionalist nationalism as the Conservatives. It’s the politics of fantasy and goal post shifting.
Keir Starmer’s Brexit plans have been dismissed as “delusional” by leading European commentators. Wolfgang Münchau, director of the EU policy website Eurointelligence said: “Sir Keir Starmer’s attempt to re-write the relationship is based on a delusion of a similar kind[to previous UK policy], that it is possible to stay outside the single market and the customs union, and get a better deal. This is a political lie.”
He added: “Probably the biggest delusion yet to be unpicked is Sir Keir’s repeated assertion that there is a better deal with the EU out there. This is simply not true. There was a lot of vindictive commentary from the EU during the entire Brexit process, but the deal that was eventually agreed was a reasonable third-country trade deal.”
Meanwhile closer to home there was yet more British nationalist exceptionalism from Labour. Over the weekend Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves waved away the prospect of an SNP victory in Scotland at the next Westminster general election. It’s not that she refused to countenance the possibility that the SNP could win a majority of Westminster seats in Scotland, that would simply be the kind of pre-election puffing that we expect of politicians bigging up their party’s chances before a vote takes place. Reeves appeared to accept that it’s perfectly plausible that the SNP could end up with a majority of Scotland’s Westminster seats, what she said was something far more insidious and concerning, remarks which it’s fair to say call into question whether there is any longer such a thing as democracy in Scotland as part of this supposedly United Kingdom.
What Reeves said was to deny that an SNP victory in Scotland at the next Westminster general election would constitute a mandate for another independence referendum. Naturally she did not spell out precisely what would constitute a mandate for another referendum given that we know that Labour, just like its Conservative fellow travellers refuses to accept that it’s a mandate for an independence referendum when the people of Scotland vote for a Scottish Parliament with a majority of MSPs from parties which explicitly stated in their manifestos that they would seek to bring about another independence referendum should they win a majority in the Scottish Parliament. Meanwhile Labour and the Conservatives, which stood on platforms of explicit rejection of the idea that there ought to be another independence referendum, lost that election.
Yet Reeves now tells us that a pro-independence and pro-referendum party winning a majority at a Westminster general election doesn’t count as a mandate either. Then she had the gall to trot out the same patronising guff that the Scottish electorate had heard from her party back in 2021 and had rejected at the ballot box.
It is clear that a blatant set of double standards is at play here. Labour and the Tories would both claim a mandate to form a government and implement their policies on the basis of winning a majority of seats in the House of Commons at the next general election, they would do so no matter what percentage of votes cast that they had won, because that’s how elections in Britain work. The current Conservative Government enjoys a comfortable majority of seats in the Commons even though they won just 42.4% of votes cast. The current Scottish Government is based on SNP MSPs and the SNP won 47.7% of the constituency vote in the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary election. Apparently the Scottish Government doesn’t have a mandate but the Tories do.
Labour could very well win a large majority of Commons seats at the next Westminster general election despite failing to win a majority of the popular vote, Labour will then claim it has a mandate to deliver its policies, because that’s how elections work. Elections are not referendums. Yet although that is how elections are supposed to work, the Labour party and the equally democracy blocking Tories insist that Westminster elections in Scotland work in a completely different way. Moreover that’s a way that they are not going to specify. Effectively the Scottish electorate are reduced to a football team which is trying to score a goal only the goalposts keep moving and the team is blindfolded. Moreover Westminster reserves the right to change the position of the goalposts retroactively, so even if Scotland does score they’ll only tell us that it didn’t count.
The Labour party is telling us that it could fail to win a single seat in Scotland but it would still have the right to impose its will on the people of Scotland on the back of the Commons majority that it won outwith Scotland, meanwhile how the people of Scotland actually vote themselves is supremely irrelevant as far as Rachel Reeves and Keir Starmer are concerned. The winning party in an election in Scotland only has a mandate if the majority party in the Commons says it does.
The unspoken truth which neither Labour nor the Conservatives is prepared to say out loud is that they will only accept the outcome of a vote in Scotland if the electorate of Scotland votes in a way that Labour and the Tories approve of. If the people of Scotland fail to oblige then their votes will be britsplained away while the likes of Rachel Reeves lectures them on what their priorities “really” are.
This is all but indistinguishable from authoritarianism. Elections in Scotland are reduced to a performative exercise from which all democratic import has been stripped. British exceptionalist nationalism means heads, Scotland loses, tails, Scotland loses too.
This intervention from Reeves proves that there can be no democracy in Scotland as long as Scotland remains under Westminster rule. How Scotland votes will be waved away and ignored if it is not to the liking of the majority party in the House of Commons. The only way in which the people of Scotland can get what they vote for is with independence.
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