Yesterday Jim Murphy, Shadow Defence Secretary, made clear that the Labour Party would be leading the charge to defend the Union in Scotland. However, he may have missed that the fact that Union he is defending is the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Labour conveniently ignores the fact that the Labour Party does not defend the Union here.
It is constitutionally offensive for a Party that aspires to govern the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to systemically refuse to seek a mandate in a part of it (i.e. the Northern Ireland bit). Moreover Labour’s sister party here – the SDLP – only appeals to Nationalists (and almost exclusively Catholics). It’s a Party whose elected representative cannot even bring themselves to refer to Northern Ireland as Northern Ireland. Instead they refer to “The North”, or “the region”.
The SDLP also takes diametrically opposite positions to Labour on local issues. For example it opposed the last Labour government’s positions on a host of issues (like uncapped domestic rates for Northern Ireland). It certainly is not the manifestation of the British Labour Party in Northern Ireland. Indeed most SDLP voters would be Conservative voters if they lived in Great Britain.
The Labour Party’s position is to deny left of centre pro-Union voters in Northern Ireland any opportunity to support the Party or vote for it. And yet it supports the Hillsborough Agreement which maintains the status quo of continuance of the Union with Britain so long as the majority so wish. In short, therefore, Labour’s position in terms of organisation and seeking a mandate is pro Irish Nationalist (as its sister Party is pro Irish Nationalist). That is the reason why the Party’s Unionist position for Scotland is fundamentally hypocritical – and why Jim Murphy needs to get his act together.