The SNP party conference is due to start in Aberdeen on Sunday, nevertheless that didn’t stop a reporter on Sky News as the Labour conference came to a close this week remarking that the end of the Labour conference brought the party conference season to a close. The SNP is still by far the third largest party in terms of representation at Westminster but seemingly it still doesn’t count as far as the British media is concerned. That speaks volumes about the true place of Scotland within this so called United Kingdom.
The Labour conference ended on Tuesday with a speech from Keir Starmer which naturally gave several minutes to triumphalist gloating about Labour’s victory in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by election the previous week. As he stood on a stage in front of a massive British flag in an auditorium bedecked with more flags than you’d see at a Coronation party in an Orange Lodge, and unveiled a new party membership card which has a British flag replacing Labour’s traditional red rose on one side and bears the legend “putting country first” on the other, Starmer proclaimed that the Labour party had defeated “nationalism”. It’s official now, Keir Starmer hasn’t just broken most of his previous promises, he has broken the irony meter as well.
The party’s new membership card is not merely a blatant and overt proclamation of Labour’s full hearted espousal of Anglo-British nationalism, it is also a document which as recently as a few years ago would have unambiguously marked you out as a member of a far right party. In fact Paul Golding, the leader of the extreme right wing party Britain First, has praised Labour’s redesigned membership card saying: “Labour Party membership cards are looking very ‘Britain First’.”
I have often commented that a defining characteristic of Anglo-British nationalism is it’s refusal to admit that it is indeed a form of nationalism, but with the recent Labour party conference we were treated to a display of obvious and naked nationalism yet Starmer proclaimed that this self-evidently Anglo-British nationalist party has “defeated nationalism”. That is not merely delusional, it is positively pathological.
Labour insists that it is open to Scotland’s independence supporters, but what it really means is that it expects Yes supporters to abandon their dreams and hopes and get behind Starmer’s brand of muscular unionism, the Labour party has absolutely no intention of meeting them half way, far less acknowledging that people in Scotland have voted repeatedly in favour of having an opportunity to revisit the question of independence in a referendum. All that supporting Labour offers Scottish independence supporters is to give Keir Starmer the opportunity to proclaim that he has defeated nationalism while he wraps himself in a British flag, refuses to set out a democratic route to another independence referendum, and continues the task of undermining the devolution settlement which was begun by the Conservatives.
During the Conference Anas Sarwar, the branch manager of the Optional Identity Mark said that he was open to the idea of introducing English style elected regional mayors to Scotland. Responsibility for local government in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament so the only way in which Sarwar can get his wish is either for the Scottish Parliament to agree to it, or for a future Labour government in Westminster to impose it on Scotland in yet another outright assault on an already tattered and torn devolution settlement.
However the real reason that Labour in Scotland is now in favour of greater powers for new regional authorities in Scotland is simple. It’s for the same self-serving and transactional reasons that a reluctant Tony Blair was persuaded to support a Scottish Parliament in the 1990s. Blair was persuaded to give his backing to a Scottish Parliament because he was assured that it could provide an alternative power base for the Labour party in Scotland when the Conservatives were in power in Westminster. Sarwar wants powerful directly elected regional ‘mayors’ in Scotland, even though Scotland’s towns and cities have never had mayors, they’ve had provosts and lord provosts, because he wants to establish alternative power bases for the Labour party since Labour cannot be certain of holding power at Holyrood. In the 1990s as now it has never been about what the Labour party can do for Scotland but rather what Scotland can do for the Labour party. The repeated electoral kickings that voters in Scotland have been giving the Labour party for the best part of a decade have taught Labour precisely nothing. The moment that Labour gets a whiff of success at the ballot box its old sense of entitlement comes raging back undiminished.
Meanwhile hours before she was due to be deselected by a local constituency party that was thoroughly fed up with her, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow MP Lisa Cameron made the bizarre announcement that she is defecting to the Tories. She released a statement complaining that she had been bullied by the rest of the SNP Westminster group. One SNP MP speaking to the Scotsman said that her decision was ‘malicious’ and that it came as no surprise as she had always been a Tory. If that’s the case then the SNP group should have forced her out a long time ago. There can be no place in the SNP for a Conservative politician who tells the Daily Mail that Scottish independence is divisive and who praises Rishi Sunak. The Tories are heading for a thrashing at the next election, what we have here is a rare instance of a rat jumping onto a sinking ship.
It’s a move which smacks of vindictiveness. If she was merely unhappy with the SNP in general or its Westminster group in particular she could have resigned the party whip and continued to sit as an independent or defected to Alba. Then she could have made a case that she was still upholding the core principles on which she was elected. However she jumped to a party which defines itself by its opposition to Scottish independence, its naked hostility to the devolution settlement, and its support for the concept of a single British nation and a unitary British state.
There may also be a large dose of ego and self interest involved too. It has been reported that Cameron’s defection was orchestrated by Sunak himself and there is speculation that part of the deal was the offer of a peerage. It must be stressed that this is only speculation on social media without reliable sources, but should this prove to be true it will merely provide further confirmation of the moral and political bankruptcy of the Westminster system Lisa Cameron now seeks to uphold.
Lisa Cameron was perhaps best known at Westminster as chair of the Crypto and Digital Assets All-Party Parliamentary Group, now she can pivot from promoting cryptocurrencies and digital assets as an SNP MP to promoting cryptocurrencies and digital assets as a Conservative, in Lisa Cameron’s case NFT stands for non-fungible Tory.
After the news of her defection broke, Cameron insisted to a pro-Alba website that she still believes in Scottish independence but has “grave misgivings” about it being achieved by the SNP. So instead she has joined a party that loathes the very idea of Scotland as a nation with the right to self-determination, constantly undermines the devolution settlement and relentlessly pursues the absolute supremacy of Westminster. If you can follow that logic you can win an NFT of a bored ape wearing a vote Tory for Scottish independence t-shirt.
Despite her protestations and complaints, Lisa Cameron is not the victim here, the real victims are the voters of her constituency who elected a supposedly pro-independence pro-EU, anti-austerity MP who have now been landed with a woman who sings the praises of Rishi Sunak and now represents a right wing Anglo-British nationalist party which opposes Scottish independence and seeks to undermine the devolution settlement. The real victims are the local party members who expended their party time and effort to chap doors in all weathers and to canvass and campaign to get her elected only for her to turn around and stab them in the back. She has ended her career and destroyed what credibility she once had.
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