Starmer’s devolution deceit

As he launched his party’s election campaign for the local and mayoral elections due in England on 2 May, a little over a month away, Keir Starmer promised that if he becomes Prime Minister after the Westminster general election expected to be held later this year his government will introduce “full fat devolution”. That’s a phrase with unfortunate connotations for a Scottish audience who recall Gordon Brown’s vow during the Scottish independence referendum campaign that the UK would introduce ‘full fat federalism’ within three years of a No vote.

As anyone who has been paying even the most cursory attention will know, the only full fat thing we got from Westminster after the no vote was in the bag was full fat contempt. We got some very trivial tinkering with the powers of the Scottish Parliament, we got English Votes for English Laws, we got the shameless lie that the powers of Holyrood would be legally protected from Westminster meddling. Then we got the Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for and a Westminster government that used it as an excuse to mount a further attack on the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

The only full fat thing on offer from Keir Starmer is full fat deceit. This a man whose campaign for the leadership of the Labour party was the most deceitful and mendacious election campaign in British politics this century, and that’s saying something given the lies told by the leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum and the full on hysterically lying propaganda of the original Project Fear during the 2014 referendum.

Those who organised Starmer’s leadership campaign now openly admit that he had no intention of keeping any of the promises he made when he was trying to court the support of the Labour party membership. This is a man who will say and do whatever it takes to get himself into power, he feels not the slightest remorse about lying through his teeth in order to win the power he craves. He did it during the Labour party leadership campaign in the wake of the party’s defeat in the 2019 general election, and he’s doing it again now.

Absolutely nothing that Starmer and his acolytes say now can be trusted, for all that he talks about ‘change’ and about pushing out ‘real power’ to the English regions this is a power hungry individual who craves the near absolute power that the corrupt and dysfunctional Westminster system offers to the leader of the party which wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons and who despite his promises of ‘change’ will do nothing at all to change a system that gives him exactly what he wants.

Starmer promised a “new Take Back Control Act” which he said would set a “presumption towards devolution, and new powers for mayors over transport, skills, energy, and planning, so they can rejuvenate our high streets and generate growth for every town and city – a full-fat approach to devolution,” in England.

Nothing that Starmer will do will enable any other elected body to challenge his supremacy. The promises he’s making to the English regions now are very much in the same mould as the promises Gordon Brown made to Scotland ten years ago. They are insincere and unprincipled and made purely with the goal of securing votes. Once those votes are in the bag Starmer will feel no reason to be bound by them. How many times does the man need to deceive us for people to see what he really stands for. He stands for himself, he stands for his own power, when he says he stands for change what he really means is changing Rishi Sunak for Keir Starmer. That is the totality of the change that Starmer represents.

Once Starmer gets into Number 10 that full fat devolution for the English regions will be run through focus groups and Starmer’s right wing advisors, it will be heavily diluted and watered down in Commons committees. Eventually what will reach the statute book will be the palest shadow, an unrecognisable travesty of what Starmer is promising now, and it will be nothing at all that is remotely capable of challenging the near absolute power that Starmer craves for himself. He is not spending all this time and energy in the single minded and deceitful pursuit of power for the sake of power simply to give it away once he gets it. If you believe he’s going to do that, Gordon Brown has a vow to sell you.

British colonialists expropriated land and resources from colonised peoples in the British Empire with beads, blankets and mirrors. All that Scotland gets from Starmer is a vague hint that there may be a promise of some beads, blankets, and mirrors at some unspecified date in the future.

Notably Starmer has said nothing at all about extending devolution in Scotland, and that is what really proves the insincerity of his promises to the English regions. Extending devolution in Scotland would entail strengthening the powers of an elected body which does have a limited ability to stand up against the overweening power of the Westminster government and the dictatorial power of a British Prime Minister. Starmer is never going to permit that, he is as authoritarian and centralising as the Tories he claims to represent a change from.

However Starmer is quite likely to tamper with the devolution settlement in Scotland and he absolutely will do so if the Labour party makes significant inroads into the SNP’s dominance of Scottish Westminster seats at the next general election. What he will do will be to strip powers from Holyrood and give them instead to Scottish local authorities. Labour will brand this as ‘real devolution’ but what Starmer will really be doing is to diminish the ability of Holyrood to challenge him while giving power to local authorities which are far too weak to pose an effective challenge to the centralising power of Westminster and which are much more likely to be controlled by a compliant and collaborating Labour authority. All that Starmer is really offering is full fat devolution deceit.


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