Would it be terribly insensitive of me to point out that Labour have got to get their story straight on whether the Scottish Labour party is actually autonomous or not, and just how far any autonomy extends? The Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle said this yesterday -
"I welcome the input of Scottish Labour and its conference into our internal debate, they’re one of many important voices that there are across the Labour movement about this issue. But let’s be very clear about what this does and does not mean. This does not change our policy. Defence isn’t a devolved matter, so Labour party policy has to be set at a national party level, at a UK level."
That flatly contradicts what we've been hearing recently, not only from Kezia Dugdale, but also from Eagle's own Shadow Cabinet colleague Ian Murray. According to them, the vote on Trident at the weekend was not a relatively minor "input" into a UK-wide "internal debate", but the binding decision of an autonomous party which is entirely free to develop policy on both devolved and non-devolved matters alike. Dugdale has even strongly implied that it will not be possible to whip Scottish Labour parliamentarians to vote in favour of Trident until some sort of formal negotiation has occurred between the UK and Scottish parties to thrash out an agreed platform for fighting an election, presumably along the lines of policy negotiations between the CDU and CSU in Germany.
Eagle's gaffe reminds me very much of Chuka Umunna's extraordinarily blunt slapdown of Jim Murphy during the general election campaign. London Labour figures always seem to let their guard slip when they're not talking primarily about Scotland, but instead about a subject of UK-wide interest that happens to have a Scottish dimension. Their true contempt for their Scottish branch office suddenly comes shining through : "This has got nothing to do with haggis or tartan. We deal with the grown-up stuff."