My favourite quote of the week was attributed to the distributor of SNP leaflets in Rutherglen: “I don’t support the SNP - I’m just getting paid to hand this s**** out. It’s a zero-hours contract as well.”

It was a succinct reminder that words should matter less in politics than deeds. Which is the better deal? Rhetoric about the wickedness of the current labour market or a government capable of reforming it? That is the kind of choice voters in Scotland as elsewhere will be required to address.

It is logical rather than ironic that those who most fear and loathe the prospect of a Labour government are also the most demanding in terms of commitments the party should make. They too know perfectly well that uncosted and undeliverable promises act as barriers to voters rather than enticements.

If it was otherwise, Jeremy Corbyn would have been Prime Minister (by now long gone) and Labour would not have ended up reduced to one seat in Scotland. While that is a blissful state of affairs for those now feigning concern for Labour’s “values”, it is mercifully not a catalogue of errors likely to be repeated.

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Words have become very cheap in Scottish politics and commitments are discarded without a backwards glance. It takes time for people to notice, but eventually the message gets through that it is outcomes which matter. In the exacting context of next year’s General Election, the one certainty is that Labour will not win via virtuous promises that their enemies in politics and media can spit peas through.

Every firm commitment must be carefully costed and considered. I have no doubt a few more will emerge as a General Election draws closer, having passed the tests on which credibility depends. At the margins, there is room for debate about degrees of caution. However, the golden rule is that creating hostages to fortune is a mug’s game, no matter how tempting the trap.

Our relationship with the European Union is an excellent case in point. The unco’ guid demand a commitment from Labour to rejoin. This fails the tests on all possible grounds. First, it is as undeliverable in a UK context as a Scottish one. Second, it would revive a pointless culture war over an undeliverable hypothesis. Third, it would get in the way of meaningful actions which will actually make critical differences.

At present, Sir Keir Starmer is doing exactly what he should be doing, which is to lay the ground for a substantial re-alignment with the EU in order to gradually reinstate sensible relationships and undo as much Brexit damage as possible. The ambition for an aspirant Labour government should be to create a climate over the next year, ready for that to delivered upon.

Because they carry the stigma of Brexit, including Rishi Sunak’s keen support, the Tories will never be trusted by former allies within the EU, even if they belatedly wanted to restore relationships. Nobody owes them anything, apart from would-be Brexit tribute acts in some EU countries. An incoming Labour government, led by a Prime Minister with the credential of having campaigned vigorously against Brexit, would be an entirely different proposition.

Tomorrow, Sir Keir is meeting President Macron in Paris as part of that building process. He is talking to other centre-left leaders in Europe about shared challenges of countering populist right-wing politics while addressing the big issues of the day: climate change, migration, cost of living … with the Ukraine war as an unwelcome backdrop. This is the serious stuff of laying foundations for a transition into government.

There was a whiff of what the alternative approach would bring. Sir Keir put forward perfectly sensible proposals on working more closely with EU partners to address the core challenge in relation to illegal migration, the role of people smuggling gangs. The Tories immediately converted this into a false narrative about accepting an EU migrants “quota” and the Daily Mail screamed: “Labour in shambles on migration”.

It was not an effective line of attack and it was ably rebutted. However, it confirmed that the jackals are lying in wait as soon as Labour starts putting flesh on the bones of any principle, regardless of common sense.

As even the most obtuse Brexiter may have noticed, immigration has gone up rather than down since Brexit while the abject failure to nail the criminal gangs is scarcely a good advertisement for non-co-operation with European partners. Sir Keir was not going to lose many votes by pointing this out and committing to pragmatic actions. But that will not stop the Tories from trying - or deter their media allies from distorting.

In Scotland, the focus of attack is on Labour’s reluctance to make commitments on the specifics of social security spending. Again, I’m not sure how effective this is when so many families are struggling to make ends meet and are equally in need of political hope.

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The most effective antidote to cherry-picking policies in order to claim betrayal is to point to the record of the last Labour government which lifted 900,000 children out of poverty without announcing it in advance. To some extent, Labour has to rely on trust that a radically different set of priorities and values will lead to radically different and better outcomes, just as in the past.

The biggest challenge is to remind a new generation of that history in the teeth of hostility and disinformation from those whose vested interest is in denying it.

Incidentally, since the reincarnation of the former First Minister as a limited company, telling Labour to “tax the better-off to pay for social security benefits” may carry its own jeopardy. Maybe there should be leaflets in Rutherglen reminding voters of the Institute for Fiscal Studies warning that “higher taxes will incentivise tax avoidance efforts such as converting income into dividends, to which Scottish tax rates do not apply”.

Claimants to high moral ground should always beware the inevitable collision between words and deeds.

Brian Wilson is a former Labour Party politician. He was MP for Cunninghame North from 1987 until 2005 and served as a Minister of State from 1997 to 2003.