Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Is Starmer going full Farage the 'get out of jail free' card the SNP have been waiting for?

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.

* * *

I launched the Scot Goes Pop fundraiser for 2023 a few weeks ago, and the running total has now passed £1500.  The target figure is £8500, however, so there's still quite some distance to travel.  If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue by making a donation, please click HERE.  Many thanks to everyone who has donated so far.


  1. Presumably the immediate task is therefore to use any of these forthcoming SNP days of action that actually happen to challenge hard the most senior SNP person that can be found to - explaIn how voting SNP will take us any closer to regaining our place in the EU.

    Surely even the average numpty can see that, with the anti EU positions of both main UK parties, an SNP position in favour of the EU is futile posturing without an effective drive towards independence ?

  2. It's a strange place to find myself as a lifelong SNP voter—ever since I was old enough to cast a ballot in the first Holyrood election in 1999, I've voted for them plus Green on the list until giving Alba a futile shot last time—but here I am hoping the polls don't get any better for them. Why? Complacency.

    As James says: parties which treat their voters with cynicism tend to get what they deserve. Labour did it with their out-torying the Tories under Blair. Turns out your base won't turn out if you treat them with contempt! The fall of the 'red wall' was prepared long in advance.

    There's nothing permanent about Scotland's support for the SNP. But without a radical shift in action, the permanence of the Union is guaranteed. You don't write cheques you have no plans to pay for very long. We don't all button up the back.

  3. Finally, summer approaching, the heat is going off the SNP a bit - maybe (I don't for an instant think so) the SNP will realise it's lost, prioritise indy, thus find its voice again, its motivation and direction... anyway, no, it'll take being kicked out of power to clean the mind and refocus - yet, it doesn't have to be this way. Online still, the SNPy folksters are still deaf, dumb and blind to the reality of the coming political disaster.

    The SNP is lost because of following a talented leader who was a lieutenant, not a general and not someone advocating independence as the SNP'S foremost, existential priority, not even a priority really. We will rebuild and come back stronger - nothing like getting kicked out of power to get the juices flowing again (shame it has come to this state but it is too late to moan, yet clarifying the failure is necessary - will people see the mistakes and realise it's time to act ? ). Probably not till after being kicked out of power - sadly, it really could be averted... oh well, it is what it is.

  4. What mystifies me is how anyone can see Labour as an electoral threat to the SNP on grounds of Brexit, more tangible benefits, or anything else that might distinguish it from the Tory party -- considering that Starmer himself has advertised Labour as the true conservatives. You might search and find some isolated policy that's better than what the Tories offer, but it's hardly a defining difference. Are there people in Scotland who still hold some nostalgic image of Labour as left-wing? Just bewildered.

    1. Sadly Katherine .... some still do.

  5. It's been said before by others but the SNP really is Scotland's IPP. The IPP delivered nothing for Ireland as far as independence is concerned and it took the action of true independence believers in Ireland to challenge English rule.

    I had hoped Alba would be Scotland's Sinn Fein but so far they come across as being just another SNP/IPP combo [one for you Kinnock nostalgists].

  6. Fair point about the two main political leaders both accepting Brexit and maybe quashing it as a major electoral battleground. We all know the SNP are strongly pro-EU (as am I) but a wildcard you’re discounting are the Lib Dems. They’ll be hoping for a hung parliament and, as well as proportional representation, I suspect a price they’ll extract for their support may be a more pro-EU emphasis from a prospective Labour government. Therefore pro-EU voters in Scotland may see Labour led coalition as a more pragmatic gateway to EU ties.
    The other way would be for the SNP to demand the same pro-EU stance for their support (they would have to drop any referendum demands in the meantime).