After weeks of shamelessly kicking Yes Scotland of having a plurality of visions for an independent Scotland, Better Together unexpectedly and spectacularly split over the course of a few days with no apparent hypocrisy at all. Have Labour just stuck a red rosette on the independence referendum?
In one brutal day, the campaign tagline “Better Together” was finally ruined. No longer will they pretend we are Better Together when they can’t stomach to stand together. In truth, the strain has been showing for months – ever since Tory-donor Ian Taylor’s contributions to the campaign became public, campaigners have struggled to find a coherent narrative that justified accepting the money, nevermind continuing to stand alongside Tories who have no problem with such money. And with an increasingly chaotic Tory party south of the border boxing shadows with the UKIP wide-boy, Scottish Labour obviously recognise that not everything is Better Together. Without any sense of shame or acknowledgement of hypocrisy, Scottish Labour now appear to accept that it is OK to have competing visions within the independence campaigns. We are “United with Labour”… presumably unless you are a member of Labour for Independence! (Note: it is quite unclear just how much influence UK Labour have on this initiative so expect much confusion when the UK party are pulled right in the months ahead and Scottish Labour are further isolated in the UK context.)
The smart money says that Scottish Labour are realising that the Better Together umbrella doesn’t resonate with their core vote. The branding, the language, the standing alongside Tories – not a single red rosette in sight. Like a modern-day, electoral Bat Signal, how else can Labour trigger that deep-rooted and oft-abused loyalty if they cannot deploy the core Labour vote? My guess, and I accept it just a guess, is that Labour are nervous. While the SNP were winning an historic majority in 2011, the Labour vote actually held up well, but all it was doing was holding. And just. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that vote was unlikely to hold up as well after a several years justifying and excusing the Tories, nevermind sharing a platform with them and their donors. Beyond 2014, throwing everything at Better Together also does very little for their brand identity or electoral fortunes, and the launch of United for Labour allows Scottish Labour to do what they increasingly always do – look after Number 1. Say Labour; say it often. Give it a rosette. Colour it red. Say No. Do not ask questions.
Expect to also see their online presence thin (or rather, don’t expect it to improve). From @2014TruthTeam to #500Questions, it is clear they have problems understanding social media and the internet, or the behaviour of people online. And narrating their call to the Labour vote online only encourages people to analyse and expose what is a shallow and vague campaign. Many of the core Labour vote don’t necessarily use or even have social media so it’s a double win that they might forfeit something they clearly cannot do and attracts ridicule. That this is the 21st century seems to escape Labour but that’s what happens when you treat an electorate like it’s still the 80′s and 90′s. The absence of a deep “United with Labour” narrative on Scotland’s future within the UK has meant their campaigners on Twitter are having to fill the social media void with the usual meaningless guff and vacuous soundbites on Twitter:
Are you “Labour”? Were you “Labour”? Are your parents “Labour”? If so, Labour are activating that vote – they aren’t taking it for granted by not actually giving you specifics or outlining how they’ll make things Better Together – but they hope, or even expect, you to fall in to line. Don’t ask too many questions, and trust Labour to do what they think is in their best interests. Ignore the debate, tick the box and do as Labour tell you in 2014.
Isn’t it about time Scotland asked why?