Everything Joanna Cherry says about British Labour and Sir Keir Starmer is correct. But pointing out the utter uselessness of British Labour and its leader does seem to be stating the obvious. We rather take it for granted now that the supposed main opposition party will offer no meaningful opposition whatever to a regime which arguably is more in need of effective opposition than any in living memory. And I do not exclude Thatcher from that. I’m hardly the one to sing the praises of the Batty Baroness, but at least in her day the Tories made some effort to be discreet about their corrupt practices. Thatcher’s policies may have been anathema to anyone with a social conscience, but they were worked-out policies. What she planned was despicable. But at least it was planned.
We may find the ‘old order’ abhorrent. But at least it is order of a kind. With Boris Johnson, all is disorder. Everything seems disjointed, makeshift and slapdash. This is the very antithesis of the ‘joined-up government’ we’re forever being promised. It’s a mess.
And yet if there was a UK general election tomorrow it is highly likely that the British Conservative party would be returned to power – largely on the back of votes that once would have gone to British Labour. That is the measure of British Labour’s failure. That is the measure of the failure of the entire British political system. It’s not just that the British government resembles a teetering pile of Jenga bricks. It’s that the main opposition is unable to muster the nudge that would topple it. The system’s own corrective is completely ineffective. This isn’t just failure. It’s deep failure.
There is, however, a big difference between failing and falling. The idea commonly voiced on social media, that the manifest failures of the British political system signal its imminent collapse is naïve. One of the main reasons Sir Keir Starmer is incapable of delivering a knockout blow to Boris Johnson is that he doesn’t want to. British Labour’s internal strife may have undermined its ability to be an effective opposition. The polls may make the prospect of an election uninviting. But there is also a profound reluctance to do anything that might jeopardise the system itself. British Labour is as much a part of the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state as the Tories. Those structures must be preserved at any cost.
British Labour is useless as an official opposition not least because what is perceived to be at stake is more than just a spell in government. British Labour won’t fully exploit revelations about corruption and criminal incompetence within the British government for the same reason they won’t tolerate the people of Scotland exercising our right of self-determination. Both represent threats to those structures of power, privilege and patronage which are as necessary for British Labour as for their Tory dancing partners.
. In a recent article for the White Rose Rising blog I wrote,
The present constitutional arrangement is flawed not only due to the asymmetry of power enshrined in the Union but because of the imbalance of power entrenched in the British political system. For change to happen; for there to be even the possibility of a more satisfactory distribution of political power the existing system must first be broken and the fragments vigorously shaken. UK elects neither break nor shake. They leave the structures of power, privilege and patronage intact with no more than a trivial shifting around of the pieces.
Ending the Union is a revolutionary act. Restoring Scotland’s independence is a revolutionary act.A revolutionary act
British Labour is not a revolutionary party. It’s not even a radical party. It’s barely a socialist party in anything but name. British Labour is not going risk breaking or even shaking the system within which it is embedded and with which it has a symbiotic relationship. British Labour won’t even deal with the affront to democracy that is the British House of Lords for exactly the same reason.
The headline on Joann Cherry’s column asks Will Boris Johnson block indyref2 plans with a General Election? The answer to that question is affirmative. If that’s what it takes, he won’t hesitate. He certainly won’t hesitate on account of fear of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. He knows he can rely absolutely on British Labour’s loyalty to the system epitomised by the monarchy. British Labour seems to have accepted that the British state is a Tory state where they get to have a spell in office once in a while but are otherwise only there to soak up the votes which might otherwise go to a radical or even a revolutionary party.
There was a time when the SNP had the potential to be that revolutionary party. Now, it seems not.
In closing, Joanna Cherry says,
My fear is that Johnson, or indeed a successor such as Sunak, will engineer another General Election at a time of his choosing to […] stymie the chances of holding a second indyref in 2023. Contingency plans are required.
My fear is that not only is Nicola Sturgeon not making plans for such a scenario, she is actually counting on it to justify further delay in confronting the constitutional issue.
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