There have been 29 general elections to the Dàil, Ireland’s parliament, since independence. Ireland’s Labour Party have won precisely none.
When socialism goes up against nationalism in a country where all civic politics is about the nation, then Labour doesn’t stand a chance.
What happened in Ireland – in fact Irish leader Eamon de Valera’s specific strategy – was to smother the Labour movement in the embrace of Fianna Fáil.
His nationalist party talked the language of social democracy with enough rhetoric to rob Labour of a distinctive voice, while never delivering the goods.
You find an echo of that approach in last week’s report on how wonderful the welfare system would be in a new Scotland, with none of it practically costed.
If the SNP win the Scottish referendum, they will do so by binding together a nationalist alliance. The party would be mad, their leaders unforgiven, if they allowed that political sheaf to unravel afterwards.
Anyone saying defeat in September will allow the Scottish Labour Party space to rise, phoenix like, as a force for government is just kidding.
Irish history shows how easily social justice can be crowded out in a nationalist arena. When it came to industrial relations, de Valera had a reputation, a strategy, for personally intervening to bring disputes to an end, all for the good of the Irish nation.
Oddly, this is not far short of the pitch often made by one Gerry Adams who consistently argues that Ireland has been caught in the pinch of two conservative parties since partition.
My only strong caveat is that in fact the prime determinant of Ireland’s post ideological politics is more likely the STV PR system, which shreds all policy based platforms.
But in Scotland there is a confusion in the public debate (and perhaps an unavoidable one) between ‘Form’ (critical for the Yes campaign) and ‘Content’ (those under the ‘No’ parties).