THERE are some days when you almost feel sorry for Anas Sarwar. There he is, only trying to make Scottish Labour electable again, trying to reverse the wipeout his party suffered in 2015. Perhaps he thinks he might even be making some progress when looking at the polls.

Anas might feel he has never had a better chance. His main opponents (the SNP, never the Tories) are experiencing a number of temporary difficulties. The SNP have been in government for 16 years. They are facing a press onslaught of now-familiar gargantuan proportions. Surely, surely, this is it ...

Then along comes Sir Keir Starmer (below) – almost the exact opposite of what Anas needs. He’s pro-hard Brexit in a nation where a clear majority wants to return to the EU.

The National: Sir Keir Starmer has refused to commit to further spending under a Labour government amid growing calls from unions for him to back more of their policy priorities (BBC/PA)

He’s so hard Brexit that he won’t even look at trying to restore freedom of movement when Scottish businesses can’t get the workforces they require and Scotland’s delicate and distinct demography suggests that is exactly what we need.

Sir Keir couldn’t care less that young people in “international” Scotland will continue to be marooned in a Brexit UK without the ability to live, work and love freely across a continent. Sir Keir also wants to continue to appear tough on immigration and continue the grotesque treatment of those fleeing violence and persecution by putting them on barges.

Scots tell Anas that the cost of living crisis is their number one priority. Anas knows that what he needs to do is to convince Scots that those at the very bottom will be looked after. But Sir Keir has other ideas. No “irresponsible” and “can’t be paid for” spending commitments from him.

Those at the sharp end of callous Tory policies such as the two-child benefit cap, the rape clause and the Bedroom Tax will have to wait till Sir Keir decides there are no more horses to scare. Anas prays that Sir Keir won’t say anything as ridiculous as “we’ll make the rape clause more fair than the Tories” before Sir Keir goes and does exactly that ...

Anas, being a proud Glaswegian, also knows the constitution matters. More than 50% of the city he represents want Scotland to be an independent nation. Maybe he’s thinking there might be room to try to offer some sort of incentive for Yes voters. Who knows, maybe even consider letting the Scottish people have that choice they voted for?

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But Anas knows not to even raise this with his boss as UK Labour have to be hard, fundamentalist Unionist and Sir Keir has said he will never work with the SNP. Ever.

If only Sir Keir could at least be consistent. But there he goes again flip-flopping on tuition fees and the devolution of employment law. Anas finally concludes: “Maybe I can encourage him to simply stay away from Scotland and anyway I’m Scottish Labour.”

Then he opens the latest email from UK Labour HQ. “Having distinct Scottish policies is not helping the general UK campaign,” it proclaims. “Sir Keir would like you to start to publicly reverse those positions that seem to be at odds with the general message of economic re-assurance that we need to transmit to our swing voters in red wall seats.”

The email sinisterly concludes: “As a good comrade. we know that you will do everything to oblige.”

Just to reinforce the point, those UK “comrades” are dispatched from London with lines for Anas to read out to assorted Scottish journalists.

Poor Anas, of course, doesn’t have the will, spirit or wherewithal to do his own thing so he simply accepts the diktat for the “common UK good” and, as instructed, commences the policy reversals of distinct Scottish Labour positions that his bosses demand.

Gender reform: “We didn’t really mean it. And anyway we didn’t know what we were voting for.”

Two-child benefit cap and bedroom tax: “Sir Keir genuinely wants to reverse them and we’ve been told we can continue opposing them as long as we don’t do anything about it.”

Hard Brexit: “Sir Keir says he’s going to make it work and that’s good enough for me.”

Anas deludes himself with the hope that maybe the Scottish people won’t notice. He is reassured that the press are fixated on the SNP with stories of campervans, burner phones and civil servants’ playdough. But in his heart of hearts he knows the Scottish people aren’t daft. They know cowardice and cravenness when they see it and they’re seeing it in bucket loads from Scottish Labour.

The thing is that Scottish Labour is a branch office and will always be a branch office. We know that because one of the previous regional branch managers told us as much.

Johann Lamont, without any prompting, gave the game away back in 2014 and Scottish Labour is in fact just a nameplate paid for by the UK party and expected to do as it’s told and to get in line when demanded.

In a perverse way, Keir Starmer is absolutely right to demand that Scottish Labour capitulate and do as he says. He needs to win all these seats back in the red wall that were lost in 2019.

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Internal polling from these seats will be telling him they want to be reassured on immigration, they want the culture wars to be prosecuted and they want to know that there will be no deviation from the Tory economic strategy.

For all the guff about there being “no route to power without Scotland” ... Scotland doesn’t matter at all. The impression that must be given is reassurance and economic competence.

“The change Scotland needs” is Scottish Labour’s slogan. It could just as easily be: “The change we are told Scotland needs.”

Feel sorry for Anas Sarwar? No. He deserves everything he gets.