Labour’s Scottish optional identity mark: Fantasy politics from a fantasy party

On Monday Keir Starmer was on one of his trips to Scotland to pretend that he cares about us. He certainly doesn’t care enough to take any Scottish opinions on board, or indeed to show any awareness that such a thing as a Scottish opinion exists. The Labour leader is one of those British nationalists who are of the unshakable view that the opinions of Scottish people are the opinions that he tells us we are allowed to have. Starmer is interested in one thing only, winning a Labour majority at the next Westminster general election. In pursuit of that he will say anything that appeals to the Brexit voters in the English regions that the FPTP system makes the deciders of the next election. He will happily U turn on any policy that does not serve that purpose. What voters in Scotland want does not enter into his calculations no matter how many platitudes he utters about how important Scotland is.

Ever since the many and obvious policy differences between Starmer and the Labour branch office in Scotland have come to light apologists for the Scottish Optional Identity Mark have been insisting, “We are allowed to have devolved policies,” and Starmer has been like, “LOL. No. Not in a Westminster by election you’re not.”

They are divided on Brexit, on the two child benefit cap, on the bedroom tax, on free school meals. On Monday Starmer insisted that anyone looking for policy differences between him and the Scottish Accounting Unit “would have a very long search.” So now Starmer joins the Tories in the brazen nature of his gaslighting. It took me all of ten seconds to find some policy differences, and Labour is putting a nonsensical proposition to the voters of Rutherglen who are being asked to vote Labour in order to oppose Labour policies. Although exactly how a newly elected Labour MP in Rutherglen is going to get Keir Starmer to change his mind is not explained. It will happen by magic.

But then in a very real sense Starmer is right when he insists that there are no policy differences between him and Scottish Labour, in no small measure that’s because if you are looking for a distinctive political party called Scottish Labour you’ll be in for a very long and fruitless search before you realise that there is no such thing, there is merely an Optional Identity Mark and a Scottish Accounting Unit registered in Newcastle. A party that does not exist cannot have policies of its own. Since “Scottish Labour” is nothing more than a marketing brand owned by the Labour party and registered as such with the Electoral Commission then finding a division between that marketing brand and the political party which owns it will always involve a “very long search.” It’s like searching for a difference between the contents of a branded tin of baked beans and a supermarket own brand tin of baked beans made in the exact same factory. Both are going to give you the exact same amount of bloat and gas. You cannot have a real and serious difference of opinion with your imaginary friend.

But in another sense there are no policy differences between Starmer and the Scottish Accounting Unit because the policies that Labour candidates in Scotland stand on are the policies that Keir Starmer dictates to them. They do what Starmer tells them to do and when they get to Westminster they will be under the exact same obligation to vote the way that Starmer tells the Labour whips to instruct them to vote. This is an election to send an MP to Westminster, not Holyrood. There’s no such thing as a Scottish Labour MP in Westminster.Labour’s candidate is campaigning to become a Labour MP. As such he is simply either lying or is delusional if he’s claiming to stand for anything different from what Starmer has said is Labour policy.

Michael Shanks, the Labour candidate in Rutherglen and Hamilton West recently told the Daily Record that he is “not against” the UK rejoining the EU, this is in marked contrast to Starmer’s espousal of the hard Brexit foisted upon us all by the Tories. However Starmer has explicitly ruled out not just any return to the EU but also to the UK rejoining the European Single Market and Customs Union, rather, he has insisted that his government will “make Brexit work” which is rather like insisting that you will make a computer work after it has been smashed into dozens of pieces and claiming that you are going to make it work even though you do not intend to put any of the broken pieces back together again. It’s an absurdity, but what is equally absurd is for a Labour by election winner in Scotland to imagine that he’s going to change a Labour party policy which was never designed with appeal to voters in Scotland in the first place.

It is telling indeed that in a by election which Labour tells us is so crucial to a revival of its fortunes in Scotland that Starmer won’t even throw it the bone of promising to scrap a policy as universally reviled as the two child cap. “If we win a GE, we’ll ask the boss really, really, hard if he’ll change the policy.” Is the garbage hand that Labour in Scotland has to try and play.

With Keir Starmer all Scotland gets is absurdity heaped upon absurdity, an intelligence insulting exercise in offering the illusion of change but none of its substance. Scottish Labour is a party which is not a party, putting forward policies that don’t exist and which even if they did exist it would have no means of implementing. The entire balloon of unreality only continues to exist because the media in Scotland has a vested interest in not popping it. The media in Scotland knows full well that there is no such thing as Scottish Labour in the context of a Westminster election. There is only Labour.

The kind of magical thinking offered to Scotland by the Labour party is the kind of froth that only works in opposition, should Starmer make the electoral breakthrough in Scotland that he so craves, it is highly likely to be very short lived. Victory will reveal the true colours of Starmer’s right wing British nationalist pro-Brexit Labour party, and this revelation will occur in a Scotland where support for independence will remain unaffected by whatever occurs electorally to the SNP.


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