Vow Plus? Voters Will See Through Such Shallow Posturing

First there was Devo Max, the brand of devolution everyone had heard of but whose secret ingredients were carefully guarded. Then there was The Vow, a commitment to new powers that was supposed to be bold and clear. Next came Home Rule, a nostalgic return to a reassuring old brand identity even if nobody could quite remember who still owned the copyright.

Now Gordon Brown has, apparently in all seriousness, launched The Vow Plus. Yes folks, it’s new and improved, with added goodness, because you’re worth it.

Honestly, this is really starting to get silly.

Given the promises which had been made by various people on the Better Together side in the final stages of the referendum, the issue of deeper devolution had to be dealt with. And even though the breakneck timescale which had been set out was absurd the Smith Commission did offer the political parties the chance to lay out their ideas and see what common ground might exist.

Given that Labour’s heels were dug in deeper than anyone else’s, it’s pretty astonishing to see them now try and take credit for devolution in areas like employment and welfare. These were exactly the areas where they had to be dragged kicking and screaming.

Indeed even Labour’s colleagues in the trade union movement seemed dismayed at their position, with the STUC setting out some very constructive ideas about “workplace devolution”, including employment law, the minimum wage, health and safety, equality and trade union law. If Labour had agreed, at least some of that lot would have made it into the Smith Report.

Even the newly rebranded position announced this week seems more than a little confused. The LibDems and Tories have a lot to answer for in their destructive and cruel welfare policies, but to blame the coalition policy of introducing Universal Credit for the limited progress on welfare devolution is absurd. It was Labour who were most rigidly opposed to new powers on welfare, and their own position at UK level is merely a three month pause on Universal Credit – the very policy Gordon Brown is now denouncing as a straitjacket.

I’m sure most voters are quite capable of seeing through the shallow posturing, on both sides of this debate, just as we all take commercial adverts with at least a pinch of salt. But it really does politics as a whole no credit to have the issues treated in this way. There can be little doubt that for Scotland to resist UK austerity policies and take our own economic path will take serious additional powers. But that can only happen on the basis of meaningful and detailed proposals, not cheap gimmicks and empty slogans.