So has Keir Starmer completely lost the plot? In a UK which polls show has decisively come to the conclusion that Brexit was a catastrophic mistake, why on earth would a Labour leader take to the pages of the Daily Express of all papers to definitively extinguish any possibility of a Labour government seeking to rejoin the EU, the Single Market, the Customs Union, or the system of reciprocal freedom of movement? Why would he go full Farage by chucking in a gratuitous line about the EU stealing Britain's dinner money?
The answer, of course, is that Starmer thinks he's ingeniously gaming the God-awful first-past-the-post voting system. He reckons that pro-EU voters will feel they have nowhere to go but Labour if they want to keep the Tories out, but also that there is a severe danger of ex-Labour, pro-Brexit voters in the 'Red Wall' sticking with the Tories if they fear there is any danger of Labour flirting with the EU. So even though Brexit supporters are now far fewer in number than pro-EU voters, Starmer believes the path to victory is to ignore the latter while attending to the former. He may well be at least partly wrong about that, because the Liberal Democrats are now making a somewhat superior offer to pro-EU voters, some of whom may lose patience with Labour sufficiently to be content with voting for an anti-Tory party regardless of whether a Lib Dem vote makes the most tactical sense from an anti-Tory point of view in their own constituency.
And of course in Scotland there's the option of sticking with the pro-European SNP. When the price of choosing the unpopular Humza Yousaf as SNP leader started to become clear in opinion polls a few weeks ago, it became commonplace for Humza-supporting MPs to muse that everything would come right once voters woke up to just how pro-Brexit Labour have become. And those MPs are purring today because John Curtice has given some endorsement to their theory by noting that Labour may begin to pay a price among pro-EU voters for embracing Brexit, and that Labour may have effectively chosen to sacrifice their chance of recovery in pro-EU Scotland by focusing on the anti-EU Red Wall. What worries me about all this, though, is the mode of thinking it reveals among SNP parliamentarians, who seem to be banking on a 'get out of jail free' card to such an extent that they believe they can 'get away' with not presenting voters with their own party's best possible offer, which self-evidently would not involve such a disliked new leader and the demotivation of their own core vote by ditching all plans to win independence. Parties that think they can get away with not treating voters with the proper respect are more likely than not to come a cropper.
It's important to bear in mind that the SNP's pro-Europeanism is a currency that is diminishing in value. They had tremendous goodwill behind them in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 referendum as they treated Brexit as an emergency which independence could avert. But by effectively ditching independence under Humza, they've clearly signalled to voters that they believe Brexit is not an emergency and in fact must be tolerated indefinitely. They've also sent a clear message that a vote for the SNP does not offer any sort of practical path back into the EU. If all they're offering is the symbolism of a pro-European protest vote, even the most anti-Brexit electorate may still find ways of convincing itself that a vote for Labour offers the more tangible benefits. And remember the London media will be all too keen to present Brexit as a dead issue now that the two "Prime Ministerial candidates" are agreed on it, and will frame the general election as about other things.
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