Labour has forgotten nothing and learned nothing about its demise in Scotland

Labour has forgotten nothing and learned nothing about its demise in Scotland

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Monday 24, February, 2020

I WAS NOT FORTUNATE ENOUGH to attend the conference held by These Islands on the future of Scotland and the Union. Sometimes browsing the media can, however, be informative in a way being on the ground is not.

A few messages have emerged that concern me. Indeed, they concern me greatly. I haven't heard any new ideas to solve old and new problems. I haven't read anything specific coming from the conference. And then it hit me. What I have is something that belongs in the past. Triangulation.

It is a child of the 1990s when New Labour was at its zenith. As David Goodhart would say, this is when Labour made a choice to be a party of ‘anywheres not somewheres’. They played identity charades. They were Welsh, they were Scottish, they hated Eurosceptics, they oversaw more immigration from 1998 to 2010 than had ever arrived in the entire history of "these islands" before them.

They hated being British. Gordon Brown himself referred to a staunch Labour voter as "some bigoted woman" in his final dank days in office.

He asserts that now there are five nationalisms threatening the UK. Brexit, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Ulster nationalisms. Remarkable, given how his policies were meant to have killed nationalism stone dead. The truth is these are not centres of nationalism as much as they are ‘somewheres’. It means something to be Scottish or Welsh. No one quite knows what on any given day, but we know it's a good thing. Likewise the two tribes in Ulster and the rise of Sinn Fein in the Republic.

What we are really seeing is identity filling the dead space of third way triangulation. The third way is not about right and wrong. Third way social democrats don't engage. They don't debate. They dominate or they debase public discourse. They are everyone's friend or anyone's enemy depending on what suits, There is no demos. There is only a confected narrative that they represent.

That is, they just represent the will to remain in power. The more nebulous the better. Cool Britannia, EU, it's part of the Davos pathos that really the establishment knows best, we do well to shut up and take it.

Who seriously believes this triangulation is about harmony or unity? It's like reading an updated draft of Kidnapped where chiefs without clans leer out of their Brussels tenements, dreaming of fighting the last war. Once you make the switch from somewhere to anywhere it’s over. You trade off existing loyalties for new found friends and leverage both. It works. Once.

Labour is in freefall in England. In Scotland it's already a corpse. Only this week we saw a local by-election result in Middlesbrough – Brexit nationalism heartland as Brown would see it. Tories held the seat but the Labour vote fell by 31 per cent from 51 per cent to just 19.9 per cent. If that were a human body that would not be a haemorrhage, it wound not even be haemorrhagic shock. It would be death by exsanguination. If you lose 60 per cent of your circulating blood volume you are very dead, as if you'd been attacked in the dead of night by a vampire with ADHD.

Against this backdrop the conference organisers faithfully tweeted out the data shows we must appeal to remainers as well as leavers. Hold the anchovies just a moment please. I can't buy this. Data is the past. By definition it is the past. How can anyone reject or rebuff the majority vote of the UK people and then of its parliament and then say they are unionist? They are opportunionist. Nothing more.

In the five years since the independence referendum what have these so-called unionist groups achieved? They've burned money faster than dotcom start-ups and for what? Where is the "data" that they're doing anything to bring back SNP voters or even trying to understand the narrative is no longer set by them but the tribalism of the day. Tribalism that should fade, but not if it is being drip-fed with bemoans of leaving the EU or this very absurd notion of Scexit? Scexit? That's the winning byword? You have got to be joking. Sneering, scheming, sleekit weaselwords by similar weasels will not wash with anyone. Trashing the vote of the UK public is going to blow back very badly.

The last GE should have taught us the SNP has cleaned up that hardcore Remain vote, regardless of how misguided those voters are in voting SNP. It's done. The waters have parted. It is only the Bourbon Labour Party that does not forgive Scotland for rejecting it. It has forgotten nothing of its arrogance in office and learned nothing of why it fell from power.

I'm afraid these unionist ginger groups are coalescing around rehashing the Better Together campaign and trying to reboot New Labour. No serious unionist can entertain this. Campaigns and parties that lost colossal poll leads coming back for another go, are like an ageing prize fighter punching for pennies.

It's not good enough and it will end in tears. Gongs, peerages, prizes, salaries and tears. This is not what winning looks like. It looks too Brown for that. 

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