THE Festival of Politics is a relatively new – and cringeworthy – addition to the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s surely also the most contrived. This red corduroy and ponytail carnival of narcissism provides a tidy emolument for professional pamphleteers whose private incomes permit them to flit in and out of dinner parties in Kelvinside and Giffnock and Strathbungo.

It also attracts flotillas of professional politicians eager to cut a renaissance dash, rambling on about their favourite books and films. It’s a down-at-heel version of Desert Island Discs but with none of the charm.

Scattered throughout the Fringe are other events where politicians strive to make themselves appear normal. Sometimes you’re left to wonder if maybe you’ve wandered into the comedy festival by mistake. We were treated to one such occurrence this week.

Angela Rayner is deputy leader of the Labour Party, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office and shadow secretary of state for the future of work. She is often regarded by her admirers as the woman who keeps Sir Keir Starmer honest.

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This is a polite way of saying that it’s her job to tell her boss each day that he was actually elected leader of the Labour Party and that Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition isn’t a junior cabinet post in the Conservative government.

Perhaps she’s so busy with her sprawling portfolio that she simply hasn’t had the time to acquaint herself with the salient features of the constitutional debate. Plus there is only one Scottish Labour MP at Westminster – that little ray of light called Ian Murray, the member for Morningside. Search parties have found little trace of Murray at Westminster in recent years. Perhaps Rayner has encountered similar difficulties locating Murray and soliciting him for advice on Scottish politics.

To be fair to Rayner, she’s one of the very few senior Labour politicians who doesn’t think socialism is a disciplinary offence. Sadly, like many of her colleagues across the entire Labour spectrum, she is wretchedly ignorant about the basics of the debate on Scottish independence. Here are some of the choicest one-liners from Monday’s matinee performance.

l“I don’t think the people of Scotland should leave behind the people of Ashton-under-Lyne.”

l“The poverty that we face is the poverty they face and we both need a Labour government in order to make the changes that we need to make, whether that’s in Scotland or in England.”

l“Leaving us to perpetual Conservatism at Westminster is not very nice, but actually having a Labour government could make all the difference.”

l“Scotland is absolutely key: it’s key to Manchester; it’s key to the whole of the United Kingdom.”

l“I’m against us going anywhere near a second referendum, if I’m honest. I think the Brexit referendum was enough for me.”

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The citizens of Ashton-Under-Lyne, a sort of Greater Manchester version of Paisley, must have been as surprised as the rest of us that they’d overnight been occupied by Scotland.

The old one about Manchester and other major English cities facing the same economic and social challenges as Scotland was often used by Labour members of Better Together in 2014. “Only by showing common cause with other working-class communities across the UK can we defeat the forces of Conservatism,” they all said.

This only works, though, if you don’t have a leader whose entire strategy since he was elected to the top post three years ago has been to track Tory policies and attitudes remorselessly and hope that his better dress sense will see him home in 2024.

Rayner's most delusional claim was another old and discredited theory – that, shorn of SNP MPs, it would be far more difficult to deliver a Labour Government at Westminster and lead to perpetual Tory rule. A cursory glance at the numbers of the last General Election would have told her that even if Labour had gained every seat in Scotland they still wouldn’t have got anywhere near this hard-right Conservative administration.

If the Blairite wing of the Labour group at Westminster, including Ian Murray and most of those now jostling for Starmer’s favour, hadn’t betrayed their party and actively helped Theresa May, they might conceivably have gained power.

It was clear, though, that the prospect of a reactionary Conservative government was more palatable to some of these Labour Party impostors than an administration led by Jeremy Corbyn. Rayner shouldn’t really need to look any further than this when considering the prospect of endless Conservative rule.

Indeed, there’s a feeling among some Tory activists not amenable to Liz Truss that they’d be quite relaxed about the prospect of her winning the Conservative leadership contest.

Angela Rayner is often regarded by her admirers as the woman who keeps Keir Starmer honest – she is failing to do so

They think this would make Starmer a racing certainty to win the 2024 UK election. But as he’s regarded as an ersatz Tory anyway, the feeling is that he could be trusted to mind the shop for a few years while the Tories sort themselves out.

Rayner inadvertently betrayed an arrogant disdain among the English elite at Westminster for Scotland and Scottish affairs. We’re more often accustomed to accusing the Tories of harbouring such attitudes but it’s clear that a similar perspective informs the UK Labour Party.

In Rayner’s words, Scotland only deserves her attention as a source of election fodder. The guff about “shared values” with England’s large working-class regions is as patronising to them as it is to us. Her boss has implacably hunted down anyone in the party expressing sympathy and common cause with Corbyn. Starmer thinks that joining a picket line to show solidarity with workers campaigning for a modest pay rise is behaviour unbecoming of his Labour Party. He instructs his members in the House of Lords to abstain from granting free school meals to pupils from families receiving Universal Credit.

He thought it fitting of a Labour leader to join in with the verbal abuse of his immediate predecessor by the most ardently right-wing Tories. He thinks taking Labour to the centre of politics offers the best hope of advocating for working-class communities, knowing full well that the centre is where all Tories like to see their Labour Party glove puppets.

Angela Rayner is right to express terror at the prospect of endless Tory rule, especially in communities like Manchester and Ashton-under-Lyne. She needs to know though, that her own party’s betrayals have played a significant part in this.

If Starmer does get the keys to Number 10 in 2024, who will know the difference anyway?