False dawn

These ‘new powers’ for British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) will doubtless be touted as massive reforms which make the pretendy wee party electable once again. But what do they actually mean to voters, rather than the BLiS hierarchy? It’s easy to see why Kezia Dugdale might get excited about being grudgingly granted the seat at British Labour’s ‘big table’ that most people will be surprised to learn she didn’t already have.

The odd eyebrow may be raised on learning that Dugdale is only now – and with undisguised ill-grace – being given a few of the trappings of office that one might reasonably have supposed to be the minimum requirement for somebody pretending to be the real leader of a real party. But it’s hard to see why this show raise her credibility with the electorate. This tinkering with British Labour’s internal processes and procedures has no discernible implications for voters. It’s all about the party. It’s nothing to do with the people.

BLiS loyalists will obviously get all swooning and breathless about the new powers over “policy-making in devolved and reserved areas”. Those viewing things from a more rational perspective, however, will surely recognise just how utterly meaningless this is. The same party cannot possibly have different, and potentially contradictory, policies in different locations. It would be plainly infeasible and quite ridiculous, for example, if British Labour in Scotland was to have a policy of opposing the renewal of Trident while the real party went to the electorate with the opposite policy. Not only would it be unworkable and confusing, it would be downright dishonest, and possibly illegal.

It would be dishonest in that BLiS would be talking the anti-Trident talk knowing full well that the choke-chain held by their bosses in London would force them to walk the pro-WMD walk.

Not that BLiS is likely to have any qualms about perpetrating such a deceit. If the experience of Better Together/Project Fear has taught us anything it is that the British parties will stop at nothing to protect the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

Let’s not be fooled by the hype about Dugdale’s ‘new powers’.The changes may enhance her control within the branch office and add her squeaky wee voice to the anti-Corbyn clamour of conservatives on British Labour’s NEC; but as far as voters in Scotland are concerned, it’s business as usual. BLiS is, if anything, even more firmly embedded in the British political establishment than it was previously. It remains a peripheral sub-division of an explicitly unionist party. It continues to be incapable of addressing the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

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