Show Hide image The Staggers 3 November 2014 Labour pains: Scotland's heading left while London's heading right Branch office politics. Print HTML Ed Miliband’s move to cut his “One Nation” slogan from his recent party conference speech seems a prescient move. After all, we aren’t one nation in any meaningful sense. The disintegrative effects of devolution mean different parts of the UK are increasingly looking to find local solutions to local problems and to meet local desires. It’s a reality being played out right now in the Labour party itself. As the race begins to find a new leader for the party in Scotland, it is clear that the political landscape north of the border is now forever changed following the independence referendum. Indeed, a poll for The Herald yesterday found that 66 per cent of Scots want another referendum on independence within a decade. Meanwhile, the latest opinion polls in Scotland make grim reading for the Labour, training a resurgent SNP by 29 points, following the resignation of Scottish party leader Johann Lamont. The answer, according to many in the party, is for Labour to define itself to the left of the SNP. Already, the train drivers’ union Aslef has come out for the left-wing challenger to succeed Lamont, Neil Findlay. Others are expected to follow. But while it looks like Labour in Scotland is heading left, the party in London is moving right. Tessa Jowell and Margaret Hodge – both possible contenders for Labour’s nomination for London mayor – have been quick to complain about Ed Balls’ proposed mansion tax. Granted, it’s effectively a “London mansion tax” given the clustering of properties worth over £2m in the capital, but is it conceivable that a Labour London Mayor would not seek to be as redistributive as the party at large? To be fair, they are not alone in expressing doubts. Other Labour MPs and local authorities have made criticisms about the operation of a tax on valuable property, pointing out people can be asset rich but cash poor. However, the subliminal message seems to be that the move risks positioning Labour as anti-aspirational. But if a social democratic party doesn’t tax unearned wealth to fund the NHS, how does it raise revenue fairly in straitened times? Given the next election for London mayor takes place on the same day as elections to the Scottish Parliament in May 2016, could we see a Scottish Labour campaign calling for tax increases for higher earners, while a London campaign soft-pedals on millionaires? This is the real “new politics”. In our fragmenting system, it looks like the main parties will need distinct approaches and offers in different parts of the UK for different audiences. Not in a duplicitous way, but merely to reflect the fact they are effectively becoming local franchises. In his history of the Labour party, ‘Speak for Britain!’ the historian Martin Pugh points out that the early party was itself a collection of distinct regional and national groupings: The tactics that worked in Lancashire were less relevant in County Durham; Labour was not the same party in London as it was in Yorkshire; its advance in the West Midlands came later than in South Wales. Johann Lamont’s complaint that the national Labour party has treated Scotland like a “branch office” was telling. Indeed, she may be about to have the last laugh as Tip O’Neill’s famous dictum that “all politics is local” increasingly becomes a defining characteristic of British politics. After 25 years of top-down centralisation, what will the control freaks in Labour make of that? › The policy few people want remains irresistible: lowering the voting age Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut. Subscribe More Related articles Commons confidential: Away in Pret a Manger The hidden crisis in the National Health Service Why don’t we talk about the pain of friendship break ups?