Keir Starmer travels to Glasgow to tell Scots if Johnson can’t save the Union, Labour will. Yes, really

Has today Keir Starmer abandoned any hope of a Labour recovery in Scotland to boost Unionist Labour in England?  Mark Perryman suggests he has.

So just let me get this right.

Keir Starmer travels all the way to Glasgow today to tell Scots that despite the failings of Boris Johnson they can absolutely rely on the Labour to hold together the Union. 

Has nobody in the Labour Leader’s office not noticed that following Gordon Brown’s heroic efforts to be the Tories’ little helper against independence in the 2014 referendum Labour a year later in the 2015 General Election went from 41 Labour seats to one. And hasn’t recovered since. What Starmer has done today is basically write off Unionist Labour in Scotland in the vain hope it will boost Unionist Labour in England. 

Which is richly ironic. Because despite all of Keir’s talk of ‘progressive patriotism’ aka wrapping himself in the Union Jack, there’s one nation that never earns a mention, barely recognised, written out of Labour politics. I’ll give him a clue its the team he got freebie tickets to cheer on at Wembley during the Euro’s. Except its more than a team, its that unspeakable nation in Labour Unionism. 


This is why Labour’s unionism matters, at least should, for the English Left (I use the term, as always, advisedly, to date it barely exists). In the not very distant future there will be three independent nations co-existing on one small island. Outside of Scottish and Welsh civic nationalism what kind of vision does the English left (sic, ditto) have for such a settlement? Because right now Unionist Labour’s consists of in the short term losing Scotland (and as a result almost certainly at the next General Election no parliamentary majority for Labour on its own). Medium term, fingers in ears, hands across eyes, hoping, wishing, willing any break-up won’t happen. And long term? Nothing, zilch, not a single clue. 

If we need evidence that Keir and his ministerial entourage lack vision this absolutely is it.

Mark Perryman is a member of the Labour Party in Lewes, East Sussex, his latest book is Corbynism from Below.  

Comments (25)

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  1. Squigglypenpen says:

    Excellent article. I did laugh.

  2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Thank goodness there are some in Labour who are realising that they have to discuss England and its governance and what ‘Englishness’ connotes beyond the Union Jack, the monarchy, Churchill, ‘standing alone’.

    However, since Starmer has appointed the Bodger (initials ‘GB’ – ‘nomen est omen’?) to develop a policy on the constitution, that question will not be addressed.

    And the Tories will play the Britain/England card, with jibes about ‘whingeing Jocks’ and ‘Taffies’ Most people in England think they are the best at patriotism.

    1. @ Alasdair Macdonald says:

      ‘Most people in England think they are the best at patriotism.’


  3. Richard Benifer says:

    The objective seems to be to transform the UK into a deregulated, insecure employment, minimal social catchnet, devil-take-the-hindmost corporate workcamp; where we do the work, and profits are spirited away offshore. I suspect that the establishing of freeport zones is part of this plan.
    It’s my personal opinion that Starmer is successfully doing what he intended to do: ensure that there is no effective opposition to this, with the Conservatives and Labour as the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of mainstream political parties. Cynical? Paranoid? Maybe
    Please demonstrate that I’m wrong. I hope I am.

    1. Max Phillips says:

      Absolutely right. You are not paranoid but simply reflecting Starmer’s awful lack of vision or even knowledge of the ferment of ideas and ways forward on the left. He is a liar and intellectually non existent – probably a spy cop sent in after that nasty business with Corbyn who galvanised millions to hope for a slightly socialist future.

  4. Jacob Bonnari says:

    Interesting points. Labour associating itself with the Union Jack in this pandemic period is worrying. For half of NI’s population and a fair chunk of Scotland’s & Wales’ the UJ is not a positive symbol. It is in fact a symbol of oppression and violence.

    I myself associate the Union Jack with the following negative entities:
    The Tory Party
    The BNP and NF.
    Ulster Unionists and Loyalists and their paramilitaries
    The Orange Order and their hangers on.
    The Rangers fans who called me a Fenian (we were Italian not Irish) regularly and kicked my head in several times in my youth.
    Rangers fans who keep singing for me to go home.
    The Rangers fans who disgraced Scotland when they cause problems in European competition.
    England soccer hooligans. (Admittedly that’s less of a problem than it was in the 80s and 90s).

    It’s hard to think of a positive representation. I’d have said British Airways once upon a time, and possibly also the Royal Navy, but it’s clear that the UJ has many many negative connotations for people who otherwise might be Labour supporters.

    As the article says, Labour needs to engage with the idea of England and Englishness as an identity and the fact that the UK is comprised of four nations and five separate polities (NI being two). John Denham is onto this, as is Billy Bragg and John Harris, but I don’t see KS acknowledging their views on this topic.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      Six nations: You forgot Cornwall

      1. @ Axel P Kulit says:

        In what sense is Cornwall a ‘nation’?

        1. Axel P Kulit says:

          They have an independence movement and used to be a nation.

          1. @ Axel P Kulit says:

            When was Cornwall ever a nation?

    2. JP58 says:

      I support neither of Old Firm but acknowledge there is a section of Rangers support that is Unionist and behave poorly.
      However evidence from 2014 Ref showed that Rangers supporters split along national Yes/No voting trends.
      Tories are making a cynical move to use football as a political football especially targeting Rangers fans to vote No.
      Do not fall into their game plan by making silly generalisations.
      Keep football out of independence debate it is so shallow and counterproductive to do this.

  5. david says:

    LOVED (sic, ditto) – more of this please!

  6. Maclean says:

    After 40 years as a Labour Party support and union member, it’s finally dawned that they’re just another side of the colonist coin. Now they’ve joined the Tories Nazi’s and corruption party so Keir Starmer can’t is just another slaver preaching from the Jimmy Savile handbook on Grooming. Idiot.

  7. Gavinochiltree says:

    Starmer is a lawyer. Lawyers tend to have big print headlines and the important stuff in small print. So…………..
    We will have Broonie back with his “nearest thing to”………bullsh,t, but the small print will be “cannot possibly get this through both Houses”.
    I don’t believe Devo Max is possible. I don’t believe federalism is possible. I believe independence is close to fruition.
    To get to independence, there will be a highly damaging referendum process. This probably cannot be avoided, but. I envy the Czechs and Slovaks for their clever divorce.

    If Starmer was smart, he would suggest independence -all-round, with a close association between England, Scotland, Wales and all-Ireland. This would be between sovereign nations, with each looking to both national and regional interests(otherwise it could not work). This might necessitate compromise. For example Scotland could lease out Faslane and Coulport for a decade, until England decided to built anew down south or scrap it.
    England might guarantee currency sharing (with all the fiscal implications thereof) until Scotland/Wales floated their own currencies—-possibly the same decade, though I prefer a Big Bang currency floatation for Scotland.

    If………..Starmer did this, he might form a government with Scottish backing, and we can all divorce in velvet fashion, amicably.
    Otherwise the Tories, with a new leader, will be back.

  8. David B says:

    Well for a start, there’s no indication Wales is particularly keen on independence any time soon. The Welsh public as a whole seem fairly happy with a leftist Labour government that’s putting serious thought into how devolved powers can best work for their country. You might think Mr Perryman as a Labour member would celebrate this.

    As for Scotland, it’s absolutely correct that Starmer hasn’t to date articulated a distinctive Labour vision on the constitution – but what specifically is Mark suggesting? If they swing full-scale behind independence they lose their remaining pro-union vote and compete with the SGP and left wing of the SNP for the Indy vote. That doesn’t look like a path back to electoral victory

  9. James Mills says:

    Starmer appears to be adopting that well-trodden path by recent Labour Leaders – parrot whatever the Scottish contingent of Labour say , regardless of how negative it has shown to be in every election in the last decade . This is the classic ostrich ( or Gordon Brown ) position .
    He needs to address the elephant in the ballot box – independence !
    Unless and until Labour admit that this IS a live issue with the electorate then his party in Scotland will continue its death by a thousand federal soundbites .
    Even then I feel that Labour in Scotland have little hope of resurrection this side of Independence .
    Only in an independent Scotland will a SCOTTISH Labour Party see support rise again -maybe ! But Starmer and his ”British nationalism ” will have no part to play in that – thankfully .

  10. Robbie says:

    Many good replies and suggestions here,but the thing is whether Tory, labour or whatever ,England must have its Royalty and their House of Lords ,they use both establishments to create an illusion of power and grandeur ,the rest of the world envies ,imagine how it would look if England was on its own Disneyland stuff” they would no longer be ranked in the top table and be privy to all that implies,and they just couldn’t live with that ,so I can’t see a smooth transition to Indepedence for us as much as we would prefer that but nevertheless Independence will come for Scotland and hopefully For Wales and the island of Ireland, perhaps when that happens we can establish a true and respectful friendship between the 4 of us

  11. Gerry Robertson says:

    No matter how Starmer and Labour dress it up the reality is most Scots who venture into social media now know Labour betrayed Scotland and being part of the Union is merely a guise for plundering Scotland’s wealth which has been going on now for many decades and will continue as long as Scotland is denied sovereignty. As matters stand Scotland is unable to cash in on its abundant wealth and only will thro’ Independence. The fact most Polls show 50/50 split is simply because too many >70yo’s (I am one) who unfortunately still rely on MSMedia which will only be countered once campaigning starts. Remember in 2014 we raised support to within a whisker of Indy and will triumph next time round for sure.

    1. David B says:

      “most Scots who venture into social media…”

      Indeed. That’s because the social media algorithms selectively push strong viewpoints, which then provoke equally strong reactions and therefore feed engagement with the platform. The Labour activists I know who actually go out into the real world and knock on doors are reporting something quite different: a general softening of attitudes towards the party, combined with many people being fair ferfochen wi what they see as constant Tory/SNP bickering. Whether this actually translates to more votes for Labour at the next election is another matter, but I recommend no one should confuse their social media bubble with real world opinions.

  12. Anne Aubeeluck says:

    Jumping into Bed with the Tory’s 2014 means I will never vote for them ,They are Two Cheeks from the same Bottom ….plus they told lies about Pensions ,and also took my Pension away .Made me work another 6 years ,so go home your not welcome here

    Independence is a Must to get away from Westminster

  13. Alan M Johnston says:

    “Losing Scotland”. Right there in that two word phrase is a part of the problem. An unthinking, casual and throwaway comment that reeks of colonialism. We are not a possession to be “Lost”. Today we saw Sir Keir and Sarwar at a food bank. The English Sir and the Scottish millionaire whose family business won’t pay the living wage having the gall to pose at a foodbank. The same Labour branch office that, along with the GMB, spent a reputed £2,500,000 over a ten year period to secretly and criminally deny the women of Glasgow their legally won equal pay awards. Perhaps Sarwar should have taken Sir Keir to George Square and shown him the bench commemorating the more than 160 women who died while waiting for their pay awards, some of them in extreme poverty. I really don’t need our country, politics and direction of travel Anglosplained to me. However, seeing that Sir Keir chooses to patronise me with his rehash of G Browns cascade of mince, let me give him some advice. England is in the worst position it has been in since 1940. A large part of that is due to the Labour Party’s behaviour. It has left its support in England bereft of any means of articulating itself through the ballot box. Sir Keir must apply himself to the great challenge of telling the people of the North of England that he knows and sees that they have been thrown into the pyre that Labour is making of its values and roots. Scotland will soon be an independent nation. We will always welcome our friends from the other nations of these islands but would ask them to leave the patronising colonialism at our borders.

    1. David B says:

      To be clear, “losing Scotland” are the author’s words, not Starmer’s

  14. Blair says:

    Scotland is a lose-lose situation for the Labour Party. In 2015 they lost what many considered their most dependable safety-net seats in parliament (although much of inner London has been Labour voting for longer than anywhere and yet never included in the same formula as Scotland + Wales + N England). They also suffer greatly with the middle englanders that the Labour right covets so strongly, every time they are seen to defer to us Ungrateful Jocks. The best solution would be to pull out entirely Vietnam style. Evacuate, evacuate.

  15. Alan D says:

    Something like 80% of England’s population identifies as both English and British to some degree or other. There is a relatively small split where English-only voters tend to be older and rural with British-only voters being younger and nearer to cities. These two groups are small.

    So England-as-Britain will continue for a while. In the end it will probably come down to whether Wales stays or leaves too – and I wouldn’t count on it. Even reduced to “just” England, they’re still about 85% of Britain in population terms and in my view they’re welcome to it, kind of like the way the United States of America’s claim to Americans isn’t contested by Mexico and Canada. Indeed, many Mexicans and Canadians would be horrified to be called American… as some of us Scots and our Irish neighbours would be to be called British, however technically correct it may be.

    1. @ Alan D says:

      Yep: whether they like it or not, Mexicans and Canadians are part of the population of the Americas; and Scots, etc., will always remain part of the British population.

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