A FORMAL ban on working with nationalist parties could be another own goal for Labour, north and south of the border.

Within hours of the rumour emerging that Keir Starmer wants to write in rules which would block deals with the SNP, or other parties like Plaid Cymru, into the party’s constitution, Labour had already started to row back on the claims.

It could still be in their manifesto for the upcoming General Election, and very likely will be.

READ MORE: Councils to establish if by-laws could allow abortion buffer zones in Scotland​

Starmer and his Scottish counterpart Anas Sarwar have repeatedly said there will be “no deals with the SNP” for months, as they focus on the ballot in 2024, instead of the independence referendum due to take place next year.

When Margaret Thatcher said the thing she was most proud of in her career was Tony Blair and the creation of New Labour, and her influence on bringing the left-wing party to the centre, Boris Johnson could easily make similar remarks about Starmer and bringing them over the line.

In recent months he has embraced Brexit, taken a hard line on law and order, and banned his ministers from taking to picket lines during one of the biggest pay disputes in living memory.

The National: Sam Tarry was sacked from Labour's front bench after appearing on a picket line during the summer's rail strikesSam Tarry was sacked from Labour's front bench after appearing on a picket line during the summer's rail strikes

Let’s not forget – Labour is supposed to be the party of the working class, as they’ve said repeatedly, it’s in the name.

Yet last week their MSPs teamed up with Tory politicians to pose in front of rubbish in Edinburgh and blame the Scottish Government, while standing beside the architects of austerity.

A former aide to Robin Cook has already pointed out that the policy shows that the party has replaced democratic socialism with Unionism as its guiding principle.

But why are they so desperate to distance themselves from all nationalists?

READ MORE: Scottish Family Party condemned for Nicola Sturgeon meme comparing abortion to Holocaust

It appears Labour believe their only route to power is to emulate the Blair years and that their targets are the floating voters who may have backed Johnson in 2019, and the belief that they can turn traditional blue seats red.

As an internal report from the party itself said last year – without a major resurgence in Scotland, they would need to take safe seats like North East Somerset, where Jacob Rees-Mogg finally got a seat as a Tory MP after two failed attempts elsewhere.

While Johnson may have pulled this off with the “red wall” at the last general election, Starmer doesn’t have the same draw as the outgoing PM.

The National: Starmer and Sarwar have both repeatedly said there will be no deals with the SNPStarmer and Sarwar have both repeatedly said there will be no deals with the SNP

In Scotland, Labour politicians will be bombarded with questions over why co-operation with the SNP has been ruled out, but they are happy to work with the Tories and LibDems at local authorities throughout the country at the next election. 

Scottish Labour may have made gains at the last council election but prior to 2017 when their support collapsed, 2022 was their best result since the 1970s, and that was largely down to a fall in support for the Scottish Tories, who were mired in the partygate row. 

READ MORE: Scotland bin strikes to continue as Unite rejects latest Cosla pay offer

And what about Wales? Labour is in formal coalition with Plaid Cymru, a Welsh nationalist party, and have managed to remain in power, will they unpick that one too?

Will they refuse to work with the SDLP, a socialist party which believes in a united Ireland?

Or is it just the SNP?

Starmer has ruled out allowing a Section 30 order for indyref2 if he becomes PM, and this latest move is to show voters what side he's on - it's the Union's. 

Labour risks losing progressive votes with this attempt to sway to the right, doubling down on muscular Unionism and aligning themselves with the Tories at local level.

This could swiftly backfire and cost Labour the next election if apathetic voters think that they’re just going to get more of the same.