Labour is now a party of conservatives with a big C and a small C - Tommy Sheppard

Surely the Labour Party must have run out of promises to break. In all my time in politics, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a party say what it won’t do as much as Sir Keir Starmer’s.
Labour leader Keir Starmer is continuing  Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Tory policiesLabour leader Keir Starmer is continuing  Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Tory policies
Labour leader Keir Starmer is continuing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Tory policies

It is depressing and I take no pleasure from it. A once great social democratic party, which can take credit for huge achievements like founding the NHS, has been reduced to a centrist organisation determined to leave inequality and injustice pretty much as they are.

Labour is now a party of conservatives, with a big C and a small C. Unable, unwilling to contemplate the changes required by the twin crises of poverty and climate.

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At the last three elections I’ve found that my own views and those of my Labour opponent had a lot in common when it came to social and economic policy. So, my pitch to voters was that they could vote for me as a left of centre candidate and, in addition to a range of progressive policies at a UK level, I would also pursue the ambition of self-government for Scotland.

Tommy Sheppard MPTommy Sheppard MP
Tommy Sheppard MP

That’s changed. It now seems my Labour opponent and I will disagree on a range of quite fundamental social and economic policies. Assuming that is, that they argue for their UK party policy.

Some of this is really basic stuff. We all know massive investment is required to achieve a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. It’s what Joe Biden is doing in the US. Labour has ruled it out.

Speaking of fossil fuels, we also know we need to wean ourselves off them. Yet Labour says it will not slow down the phenomenal Tory expansion. Any new drilling licenses issued by Sunak before the next election will be honoured by Starmer. Even Rosebank, which is bigger than anything we have ever seen.

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We all see the grotesque increase in inequality in our society. Millions on the breadline, forced to decide between eating and heating. Lives ruined, human potential squandered on the altar of unregulated capitalism.

Yet at the same time, more billionaires than ever. Will Labour do anything about this? Not according to shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves who has ruled out any wealth taxes on the super-rich.

The two-child limit, which refuses families on social security support for a third child unless the mother can prove it was born as a result of rape, is the most inhumane of all the Tory attacks. It affects relatively few people. It is mainly a symbol of Tory contempt for the poor. It wouldn’t cost much to scrap it. But Labour won’t.

And now even something as routine as devolving drugs law to Scotland to allow a better, more targeted approach to the crisis has been ruled out by Scottish Labour. No change. Anywhere. All of these things are reserved to Westminster. All of them should be run from Scotland.

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That’s why, as well as continuing our journey toward a self-governing independent country, we will also be arguing for emergency powers from a new UK administration. If Starmer hasn’t the inclination to change things in the UK, at least give Scotland the power to get on with the job here.

Tommy Sheppard is MP for Edinburgh East and SNP constitutional affairs spokesperson

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