Will Labour be able to honour Gordon Brown's pre-referendum promises? Photo: Getty
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Scotland and devolution: is Gordon Brown making life difficult for his party?

The former PM’s promises could cause trouble for Labour.

Now that the impassioned desperation of “The Vow” days before the Scottish referendum has made the necessary transmutation into the administrative mire of an independent commission, is it time Gordon Brown stopped?

Credited by many as the “saviour of the Union”, having eloquently made the 11th hour promise of significantly more power to Scotland, it appears that his intervention is causing some trouble for his own party.

Brown’s on-the-hoof policy proposals to Scotland pre-referendum were not only a surprise to the Prime Minister – who was not informed of Brown’s plan beforehand – but were also ahead of what the Labour was saying at the time.

Though the three main party leaders hastily made the “Vow” for a drastic handover of power to Scotland following Brown’s statements, they now have to deal with the fallout of such pledges.

The Smith Commission, a cross-party body put in place to decide Scotland’s new powers, has been set up and will follow the timetable of having draft legislation prepared by Burns Night. As the Scotland Secretary Alistair Carmichael dryly told me: “It will probably be as long as Tam O'Shanter but not quite as entertaining or poetic.”

Though not quite as vocal as the debate happening between the parties on English votes for English laws, there are differences between the Conservatives and Labour on how much power to devolve to Scotland. The Tories want to go further on the handover of tax levying powers than Labour does. The Financial Times explains this difference in detail:

The Conservatives and Lib Dems want Edinburgh to be in charge of setting rates and bands of personal income tax while Labour would impose limits. Under Labour’s plan, for example, the Scottish parliament could increase the higher and additional rates of tax but not cut them.

The handover of further autonomy on tax and welfare was part of the last-minute plea to Scotland led by Brown. I hear from a source close to the Smith Commission that those on the Labour side of Scottish devolution plans are concerned they won’t be able to support plans as strong as Brown first proposed.

There is concern that their former leader will make them come across as tame, and even reneging on the Vow, by virtue of the passion of his original promises. This could explain Brown’s sudden vocal condemnation this week of David Cameron’s plan to devolve total income tax control to Scotland.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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