When is a party not a party: When it’s an optional identity mark

Whatever happens after the next Westminster General Election we will still have a Conservative government, although if the polls are reliable indicators it will be calling itself Labour. In his desire to attract the votes of former Labour voters in Leave supporting constituencies in England who defected to the Tories in order to “get Brexit done,” Keir Starmer has led his party on a headlong dash to the right because under the undemocratic Westminster system it’s only a few marginal Labour-Conservative constituencies which matter, no such seats exist in Scotland so no matter what Starmer claims about the importance of Scotland to him, the reality is that Scotland does not matter at all and Starmer has no interest at all in shaping Labour policies in a way that might appeal to voters in Scotland.

One after another Starmer has abandoned any policy that might appear dangerously social democratish in favour of hardline Tory positions. Gone is any opposition to the hard Brexit given to us by Boris Johnson, Labour is now a full throated Brexit party. Starmer has given up on abolishing student fees or renationalising public services. Just this week Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting announced that a future Labour government would expand private sector involvement in the NHS in England. On Sunday Labour took steps to prove that it would be every bit as cruel and heartless to migrants and asylums seekers as the Conservatives are. Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s immigration spokesman, has announced that controversial military camps and prison barges would still be used to house asylum seekers if Labour wins the next election.

Labour is also hurriedly U-turning on its previous commitments to environmental policies following its failure to take Uxbridge from the Conservatives in the recent by election held after Boris Johnson’s resignation. Labour’s failure to win the seat was widely put down to the proposed expansion of the London Ultra Low Emission Zone to include the outer boroughs of Greater London.

The “Scottish Labour Party” has failed dismally to shift Starmer’s hardline Daily Mail pleasing policies in a more humane direction. Jackie Baillie insists that “Scottish Labour” opposes the two child cap on social security which UK Labour has said it’s not going to repeal. So currently the Labour party is urging voters in the upcoming Rutherglen and Hamilton West by election to vote Labour in order to change Labour policy. Labour’s candidate in the by election, Michael Shanks, has vowed to oppose his own party if it tries to keep the two-child policy in place. Vote for me because I oppose my own party’s policy, that’s where Labour in Scotland is these days.

Rifts continue to grow between the Labour party’s Scottish branch office and the increasingly right wing UK party, which is now considerably further to the right than it was under Tony Blair. Both Anas Sarwar and Jackie Baillie have previously spoken out against the cruel two child benefit cap, a policy which has been described as a machine for manufacturing child poverty. But their protests have had zero influence on braking Starmer’s lurch to the right.

Now a second rift has opened up on the controversial issue of Self-ID for trans people, Labour’s shadow equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds MP recently wrote in The Guardian that under a Labour government, trans people will need to get a medical diagnosis before being awarded a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), a shift from Labour’s previous policy which now means that Starmer is directly contradicting the position held by Labour in Scotland, which voted in favour of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and which continues to support the demedicalisation of the process by which trans people receive legal recognition of their gender identity.

Unhappiness about Starmer’s increasingly right wing positions has been increasing amongst party members in Scotland with reports of younger party members warning that they feel “disheartened” by the party, with many considering resigning their membership. Scotland’s sole Labour MP Ian Murray has denied there is ‘disunity’ in the party. Well he would say that, wouldn’t he.

There is in fact increasing focus on the question of whether “Scottish Labour” is a party at all. Spoiler alert, it’s not. Earlier this year Anas Sarwar dismissed claims that “Scottish Labour” was not really a political party as “conspiracy theories.” Yet the Electoral Commission recently confirmed that “Scottish Labour” is merely an “optional identity mark” used by the UK Labour party in Scotland. Who knew that the Electoral Commission was a hotbed of conspiracy theorists. Eh, Anas?

In other words “Scottish Labour” is not a distinct political party, it is merely a branding exercise used by the UK Labour party. “Scottish Labour Party” also appears under the Electoral Commission’s list of “accounting units” of the wider UK party. The Scottish Labour accounting unit’s given address is not even in Scotland, it is in England, at Labour Central, Kings Manor, Newcastle, NE1 6PA.

“Scottish Labour” is essentially an exercise in deception, permitting the Scottish accounting unit of the Labour party to pretend that it has policies and an identity distinct from that of the UK party. This is what enables the likes of Jackie Baillie to continue to insist that the party she represents in the Scottish Parliament continues to oppose the two child cap on social security even as the UK party has stated that if elected in Westminster it would not attempt to abolish it. The Scottish media is complicit in this deception, rarely questioning “Scottish Labour” on how exactly it can force Keir Starmer to change tack or to demonstrate how it has managed to steer UK Labour policies in a direction more in tune with Scottish public opinion.

Certainly on the key issue of Brexit the Scottish accounting unit has dismally failed to ensure that the Labour party adopts policies which are even mildly reflective of Scotland’s overwhelming opposition to Brexit. “Scottish Labour” has proven itself to have no interest in trying to ensure that Starmer’s Labour party respects the democratic will of the people of Scotland on the crucial issue of Scotland’s constitutional future. Labour calls itself the “people’s party” but that too is merely a branding exercise as devoid of substance as “Scottish Labour”.

Labour is not some cuddly and friendly party that is on your side. The reality is, if you vote “Scottish Labour”, you are voting for a right wing Anglo-British nationalist party which panders to the worst prejudices of the Conservatives from the English shires. You are voting for a party that will not repeal the two child cap on benefits or the Tories’ authoritarian legislation that suppresses peaceful protest. You are voting for the expansion of private sector involvement in the NHS. You are voting for Brexit and the continuing suppression of Scotland’s right to decide its own future. And worst of all you are voting for a system that will inevitably return the Conservatives to power sooner or later.


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