LABOUR leadership candidate Jess Phillips has issues, and one of them is with the Scottish Government. Yesterday, after a Twitter spat with Nicola Sturgeon over independence, she travelled “up there” as she called Scotland last week to give the nationalists a square go.

Ms Phillips’s blunt repudiation of a referendum came on the same day as, and in very similar terms to, Boris Johnson’s letter rejecting Ms Sturgeon’s request for a Section 30 Order.

It almost looked like a co-ordinated strike on the nationalist heartland. Both Mr Johnson and Ms Phillips say they want to bring the country together, not divide it – and anyway the Nats should be concentrating on education and health.

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Mr Johnson didn’t go so far as to ask Scots to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” on Brexit night, but nor was there any hint of federalism or more powers for Holyrood. That boat has sailed.

Ms Phillips too is from the branch of Labour thinking that equates nationalism with nativism and racism. She is actually a fairly conventional right-wing Labour politician with a Brummie gloss. “We want to bring people together, not divide them,” she said yesterday,”because our compassion doesn’t end at an imaginary line on a map”.

Well, what does end at that line on the map is Labour MPs – the party only has one left, Edinburgh South’s Ian Murray. He is standing for the deputy leadership and backing Ms Phillips for Labour leader. If the duo were to win I doubt if Labour’s fortunes would be greatly enhanced “up here”.

For a party that is so obsessed by identity, the one they don’t seem to recognise as legitimate is Scottishness – at least in its political manifestations. Ms Phillips dismisses Scottish nationalism with a contempt that would be entirely absent were she talking about Irish nationalism.

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Yet identity is the paramount issue in politics following Brexit. Labour is all for multiculturalism, but finds it hard in practice, even with racial identity. As the Labour leadership candidates lined up in all their glory yesterday, I was tempted to say, as Jon Snow of Channel 4 News said of that Brexit march last year: “I’ve never seen so many white faces”.

Only Lisa Nandy can legitimately claim ethnic descent from her father. Such a visual contrast to all those United Colours of Corbyn photo ops during the election.

A party which has made a religion of diversity seems set to hand the leadership to Sir Keir Starmer, a wealthy North London barrister, who looks the very image of “white male privilege” that Labour supporters on Twitter love to loathe.

For a party that lectures the media, business and academia on gender, the leadership is turning into an intersectional embarrassment. Labour has never had a woman leader, and doesn’t seem likely to get one this time. Four out of the five candidates to replace Jeremy Corbyn are female, but the straight white guy is ahead by a mile.

Mind you, Mr Starmer, as he would like us to call him, has been given a free pass by some feminists on the grounds that he is the “hot” ticket. According to commentators like Zoe Williams in the Guardian, Sir Keir bears a striking resemblance to Marc D’arcy, the austere-but-sexy human rights lawyer played by Colin Firth in the Bridget Jones’s Diary film franchise.

In the salons of North London, this apparently makes the Labour MP less pale, male and stale, and more pale, male and phooar. Mind you, I don’t think his looks will set many hearts a-throbbing in the pubs and clubs of Workington and Bolsover.

As Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir was largely responsible for turning Labour into the Remain Party before the General Election. He made clear he would never support even a Labour Brexit. That convinced tens of thousands of life-long Labour voters to turn to Mr Johnson on the grounds that only the Tories were listening to them.

But that’s all water under the bridge now. It’s time to “move on”. Forget Brexit. After all, Labour won the argument, didn’t they?

Aware of the Islington millionaire tag, Sir Keir has been trying to burnish his working class image. He is of relatively humble origins, stood on Wapping picket lines and has advised the National Union of Mineworkers. In the run-up to Monday’s ballot, the leadership hopefuls engaged in a a replay of the Monty Python northern bores sketch.

Lawyer Rebecca Long-Bailey (and yes there is a hyphen) has been massaging her CV to include a spell in NHS, employment when she wasn’t formally employed there.

Emily Thornberry has a sister who is a bus driver, which came as news to me. Though this is somewhat cancelled out, class-wise, by her being in possession of the title “Lady Nugee”, courtesy of her marriage to the Honourable Christopher Nugee, a High Court judge.

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Now, these things shouldn’t matter when deciding a party leadership. Labour should be choosing the candidate best able to lead the party to victory, on merit, rather than someone who fits a hackneyed image of proletarian virtue. Race should be irrelevant in a party that believes in equality.

But of course in the Labour Party of today it so obviously does matter. Labour has been hypnotised by identity politics and sees everything through racial and gender eyeglasses. It requires of other organisations that various minority and gender boxes are ticked. But when it comes to their own leader, well, it’s complicated. And when it comes to Scotland, it’s more complicated still.

Ms Phillips is essentially standing as the only leadership candidate who speaks the language of the working class. “I love the people I grew up among,” she says, “and I think that they can tell.” The implication is that other candidates don’t have this relationship with the voters.

Mind you, I’m not sure that applies to the 60 per cent of her constituents in Birmingham Yardley who voted for Brexit. Ms Phillips is another dedicated Remainer, who seems to think that the wishes of Labour voters only count if they agree with her.

Like many Labour MPs, Ms Phillips spends most of her time in the looking-glass world of Twitter. Who is the proliest of them all? She asks her 355,000 followers. Only you, Jess, only you. At least in England.

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