Is Scottish Labour’s new slogan a Better Together reject?

Kezia Dugdale's party has unveiled its new 'We're Stronger Together' slogan. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
Kezia Dugdale's party has unveiled its new 'We're Stronger Together' slogan. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
Share this article
0
Have your say

Modern politics has tended to steer clear of the catch-all slogans of the past - perhaps because technology makes them so easy to edit and lampoon.

But Scottish Labour’s latest offering - unveiled ahead of their spring conference later this month - looks like it came straight from the No campaign in the 2014 independence referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn's stance on voting for Article 50 has put him at odds with Scottish Labour. Picture: John Devlin

Jeremy Corbyn's stance on voting for Article 50 has put him at odds with Scottish Labour. Picture: John Devlin

“Together We’re Stronger” will be the rallying cry of Kezia Dugdale’s party as members assemble at Perth Concert Hall.

Conferences provide a glimpse into how a party views itself, and more importantly, how it wants to be viewed by the general public.

No matter how much they may deny it, our politicians put an awful lot of thought into their conference themes.

These slogans are on every piece of news about the party, and every letter is scrutinised and often focus-grouped.

The SNP’s catchy “It’s Time” slogan of 2007 was replaced two years later by the decidedly more clunky “We’ve got what it takes”. The latter was the subject of much debate among party staffers, and was soon quietly shelved.

Better Together reject?

Dugdale is ostensibly the star attraction in Perth, but her remarks are likely to be overshadowed in the evening bulletins by any remarks of UK leader Jeremy Corbyn.

With a clash on the horizon over divergent approaches to the triggering of Article 50 to leave the European Union, and whispers of Corbyn facing another leadership challenge, setting an example to the country of unity might not be the best idea.

Labour say that their hand has been forced. They don’t want to be talking about another independence referendum, but the SNP has put it firmly back on the table.

That’s not a complaint without merit. Nicola Sturgeon’s party have continued to make constitutional politics a high priority of their minority government.

But putting a slogan front and centre that only serves to remind voters of Labour’s role in the Better Together campaign of 2014 seems as big a step back as the First Minister re-opening Yes Scotland campaign offices.

Happy unionists v reluctant unionists

Labour have been continually dealt punishments by the Scottish election for their controversial shared platform with the Conservative Party.

The abortive leadership of Jim Murphy had Scottish Labour’s 2015 campaign starting off seeking the support of Yes voters, and ending it sending voters apocalyptic warnings that a second referendum was inevitable.

In May 2016, Scottish Labour’s shellacking by the Tories can be partly attributed toe their uneasy embrace of their anti-independence principles.

Ruth Davidson’s party was staunchly living up to their unionist name, proudly, almost obnoxiously draped in union livery.

Scottish Labour’s own unionism has always been more complex, more awkward, and so they were left between a rock and hard place between competing constitutional visions.

A massive gamble

In political terms, that meant borderline irrelevance. Could “We’re Stronger Together” really mean a catch-all plea to end divisiveness, as the press release suggests, or is it Labour trying to reclaim the mantle of opposition by firmly displaying their unionist credentials?

If it really is the former, then Scottish Labour risk looking like they are carping from the cheap seats as the third largest party in Holyrood.

If it is more Kezia Dugdale’s party firming up their opposition to an as-yet hypothetical independence referendum, the former behemoth which looked to have hit rock bottom so many times might have even further to fall.