No party is more adept at exploiting the gap between practice and rhetoric in Scottish society than Labour, and no Scottish politician is more authentically Labour than Gordon Brown. After a series of relatively underwhelming, policy-focused speeches, the former Prime Minister has arrived back in the independence debate with a thud.
Over the last few days alone, he’s had his new book, My Scotland, Our Britain, serialised in the Daily Record, he’s mobilised Labour’s grassroots against separation and he’s published an essay in the Guardian casti
Brown’s heightened presence in the campaign is designed to stop the flow of
Traditionally, Brown has struggled with “the national question”. In his introduction to The Red Paper on Scotland, published in 1975, h
During his 13 years in office Brown made various attem
With the referendum only three months away, Brown seems (again) to have re-evaluated his view of Scottish nationalism. In the Guardian, he identifies
Here, however, Brown’s positio
Having presided over the creation of a fiscally toothless Scottish parliament, Labour then encouraged an ever greater concentration of economic activity in London. Today, the capital accounts for a larger share of UK output
Then there’s Brown’s record on pay and workers’ rights. Labour may have introduced the minimum wage, but it did so at a disgracefully low level, ensuring Britain remains, in 2014, one of the lowest pay economies in the OECD. Indeed, the number of zero-hours contracts in Britain rose by tens of thousands during the last years of Labour government. This was in no small part due to the long-term decline of trade union representation among British workers, a problem aggravated by Labour’s refusal to repeal Thatcher-era anti-trade union laws.
So I find it difficult to take Brown seriously when he talks approvingly of “the social market” or tries to lump the SNP in with “anti-EU, anti-immigrant parties”. The financial crisis wasn’t that long ago. I, for one, haven’t forgotten about Brown’s attempts to protect “British jobs for British workers”.
As Brown himself seems to concede, it’s the structural issues that matter in this debate. We aren’t being asked to choose between competing identities. Brown obviously still believes Britain can be reclaimed for the left, for the welfare state, or for some amorphous “progressive vision”. He has had plenty of time, including more than a decade in power, to give us a glimpse of what that Britain might look like. We’re still waiting.