A major problem for the Labour Party is the split evident between Scotland and England/Wales. Indeed, in the General Election it was clear that the anti-austerity message of the SNP had appeal to the more left leaning Scottish electorate. At the same time, the electorate of England and Wales were evidently more prepared to accept a government that wanted to accept austerity as a means of tackling the deficit.
Such an inconsistency created no problems for the Conservatives. The electorate of Scotland had turned its back on them decades ago. For the Labour Party, however, it was a major problem due to the rise of an SNP that could promise the earth – while knowing that they could never have enough seats to establish a Westminster government. In effect, the SNP could promise anything, and then blame others if they could not deliver.
A major problem for the Labour Party was its election banner of ‘One Nation’. Indeed, that description was also used by David Cameron in his ‘we won’ speech after the 2015 General Election.
To my mind therein lies the problem. We are not one nation. We are four nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Instead of an aim of one nation. our political leaders should be striving for an acceptance of ‘four nations’ in one ‘United Kingdom’.
By taking such a constitutional approach, the Labour Party could/should accede autonomy to the Scottish Labour Party. Indeed, they could accept the freedom of the SLP to establish an entirely distinct political programme that responds to the more left leaning demands of the people of the Scottish Nation. Obviously, the national parties of Labour would need to unite under the banner of a ‘United Kingdom’ for the purposes of government in the House of Commons. In a sense, that would mean the different nation divisions of the Labour Party would then need to operate as a grand coalition of national labour interests.
Over the next few months the Labour Party will be looking within itself, as it seeks to find and unite behind a new leader. In my view, before they start such a process, they should look at changing the constitution of their party to one that recognises the independence of the different nations that make up the ‘United Kingdom’. By taking such an approach, each division of the Labour Party could produce policies and a political message that is tailored to address the differing political demands of the electorate that live in each of the four nations.
Labour needs to move from a ‘One Nation’ party, to a coalition style party that fully accepts the autonomy of the four nations of the ‘United Kingdom’.
Dr Peter Jepson is the editor of LawsBlog. He tweets as @LawsBlog