The leader of the House of Commons says it would be wrong for English MPs to be over-ruled on England-only matters, while ensuring the Scottish Affairs Select Committee has a majority of, er, English MPs. Wait for SNP campaigners turning up in English constituencies and arguing that the local MP is out of order dominating Scotland-only matters – and how does the valuable time involved help their English constituents anyway? – to receptive ears (English nominees won’t come from marginals for exactly that reason). Anyway, the effect of over-ruling the Scottish chair and all the Scottish MPs on any issue would be to bolster the cause of nationalism, so chair Pete Wishart actually has more power to his elbow in the short-term than it might look to the casual observer.
But the larger issue lurking behind such jousts is that at the UK parliament there are no UK national parties now. Having a single MP doesn’t really count. This is an existential matter, of course. In many ways, the Tories have had time to adjust to this – their Scottish Secretary is just a cipher – but Labour and Lib Dems are just beginning the shift. The new UK Labour leader will know s/he won’t be able to rely on Scottish MPs to win in 2020 and his/her priorities will shift elsewhere in recognition of that. Some kind of deal with the SNP for 2020 may become unavoidable. It’s almost poignant, therefore, to see likely new Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale – yet to win a constituency seat – suggesting that there may be ‘another storm to come’ (SHerald, paywall) for Labour in Scotland while arguing against an independent Scottish Labour Party.
Of course, the storm which has actually already destroyed Labour as a UK-wide party hasn’t gone away at all. Labour is simply sitting at the eye and its insistence upon remaining a Scottish branch of a UK Party whose own politics is already beginning to shift to the new realities may well lose Scottish Labour all it’s Holyrood constituency seats next year.
As the same article points out, amongst 25-34 year olds Labour is 75 points behind. Uh? SEVENTY FIVE POINTS BEHIND? Yep. So one might point out that being part of a vanishingly tiny, wholly unrepresentative, minority of 25-34 year olds is hardly an endorsement for being installed as a party leader. Moreover, if the thrust of the argument is that you understand an age group better if you’re a member of it, surely the logic of Dugdale’s argument is that people should vote for her rival, Ken McIntosh (aged 53) since he ‘represents’ an age group more likely to vote and not so massively skewed against Scottish Labour?
But casual fun aside, most SNP folk may want Labour as it exists to die but they also harbour a desire to live in a democracy. Moreover, SNP supporters run from far-left to moderate right at present and there are difficult fiscal calls coming up fairly soon. So however distant a possibility it may seem just now, there is a space for a vibrant and strong party of opposition and future government in Scotland. Maybe the answer lies in an independent Scottish Labour Party and maybe in a new kind of entity altogether. One thing’s for sure, though. As long as the Scottish Labour Party isn’t even in charge of fixing its failure to secure its own name as a trademark (Sherald, paywall), then it isn’t going to be winning Scottish elections anytime soon.