WHEN Benjamin Disraeli said that the Church of England is “the Tory Party at prayer”, he could not have predicted that days after a ceremonial role in the coronation of King Charles, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, would make a rare intervention in the House of Lords condemning the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Bill, as it faced its first test in the upper chamber.

At least Welby had the ecumenical backbone to argue back against a deeply unchristian piece of legislation, while the Labour Party genuflected in the direction of the bill, not quite supporting it but hardly raising the standard of opposition either.

I have always been intrigued by Disraeli’s phrase – “The Tory Party at prayer” – mainly because of one of its screeching absences – the nation of Scotland.

If the Conservative Party are the political wing of the Church of England, what exactly are Douglas Ross and his band of followers, and how do they fit into a modern and increasingly secular Scotland?

And how does the Prime Minister, a Hindu schooled in free-market capitalism, reconcile his southeast Asian origins and personal wealth with evensong at Westminster Abbey?

When faced with the contradictions of religion, the Conservatives can always cling to Unionism, whether it’s the institutions of Westminster or the Crown, or at the rougher end of the market where a rump of anti-Catholic bigots fester around dwindling social clubs clinging to a bygone age.

When Rishi Sunak looks north, what does he really make of his northerly hinterlands – a distant stronghold or a royal pain in the ass?

Despite early-day promises of leading the whole of the UK, Sunak is retreating to the populous south of England and has left his loyal retainer, the barely visible Alister Jack, to enact old colonial rituals. Jack is a shameless imposter, defending the inner court, stamping on local fires and defending the indefensible, no matter how ludicrous it makes him look.

The Conservative Party’s horrendous local election results in their own backyard have been well documented, sending Labour into a tailspin of speculation – can they reach a majority with one more push or will they be forced to rely on some form of coalition?

We know that the outcome will largely ignore a rump of the Scottish electorate as partnership with the SNP has already been ruled out.

Labour’s jaundiced attitude to the SNP, and the room for shared centre-left political ideas, only emphasises the deep vein of Unionism that runs through Labour too.

Electoral success in England apart, last week must have been an uncomfortable time for the 30% or so of Labour members in Scotland who support independence. Their views on the constitution were very hastily body-bagged and day-by-day, many of their wider social values were publicly withdrawn too.

Labour’s week of electoral progress has been paralleled with unprecedented era of compromise, as they edge closer to the Conservative Party to advance their appeal in the semi-detached homes of the south.

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf summarised his views at Holyrood, saying: “We know that Keir Starmer is lurching to the right, they’re little more than a Tory tribute act.”

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Thus far, Starmer’s nervous attachment to the instincts of the Tory heartlands reads like a colossal betrayal of values. He has refused to repeal the Public Order Bill; refused to join the Church of England’s criticism of the Illegal Migration Bill; refused to end tuition fees within the English higher education sector; refused to end the benefits sanctions that impoverish the already poor. However you justify Labour’s electoral gameplay, it makes for an anodyne week for a party supposedly of the left.

It has been obvious for some time now that Starmer’s strategy for electoral success is to stay so close to the Tories that they are virtually wearing the same pyjamas. He knows that the Tories’ unpopularity will gift Labour votes, so why risk taking an alternative position on controversial subjects like immigration or Europe?

For Labour supporters, the lift in the polls will be encouraging but knocking on doors must be a soul-destroying endeavour. Activists like to have fire in their belly and a few big issues to champion along the way – being an agent of copy-cat politics and shallow compromise is not what gets the juices flowing.

Labour’s current position on Brexit is fatally compromised, leaving them looking weak in the face of a Conservative obsession. There seems to be little coming from Labour on that most precious of vales – the movement of labour.

Brexit has turned the Conservatives into a party of fanatics, no longer of Anglicans, and Brexit’s most vocal adherents are unlikely to be at prayer in a nave of quiet reflection. They are more likely to be foaming at the mouth about migrant children, defying the underpinning virtues of Christianity with every word.

It’s strange that the Labour Party are so resistant to reversing the clearly damaging impact that Brexit has had on Britain’s economy and its wider standing in the world.

There can only be one credible explanation – party self-interest and the wariness of straying too far from what they think is electorally safe Conservative ground in middle England.

It would be foolhardy to deny the substantial progress Labour made at the recent local elections in England, but it would be equally rash to assume it will last at this level until the next General Election.

One obvious reason is that power and the powerful arms of the media want a Conservative government that will protect them from higher taxation, firmer regulation and greater transparency.

Whatever flirtations they may currently be dangling in Starmer’s direction will be withdrawn when a General Election surfaces. No amount of Tory-lite positioning will save him from being thrown open to scrutiny, much as they did to Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. They didn’t even have to try with Jeremy Corbyn, he was an open wound of the media’s many knee-jerk dystopias and just too easy to unseat.

One of the quaintest elements of Keir Starmer’s successful local elections was the idea that it will similarly pan out across the UK. That is nearly impossible.

Firstly, a part of the pro-Labour vote was soft Conservatives giving their own side a bloody nose – many of them will drift back to type in a General Election. The LibDems succeeded in key local constituencies, but can they be relied on to burn through in a General Election?

Then there is Scotland and the matter of self-governance – an issue that cannot easily be predicted with reference to market towns in Shropshire.

One obvious point of difference is that in areas such as the north-east of Scotland where the Conservatives have the majority of their seats, it is the SNP who are the best-placed party to unseat them.

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Elsewhere in the old west central belt, where Labour once dominated, we cannot safely predict how easy it will be to recapture that ground. This is not like the old Red Wall seats of the north of England. These seats are almost all complicated by the constitutional factor and a very different kind of “local politics”.

And last but by no means least there is Dumfries and Galloway, the fiefdom of Alister Jack, the man that is unsure if Scotland even exists. There are few seats like it across the UK. Back in 2010, it was a Labour seat with a majority of 7499, then it flipped to the SNP in 2015 and now has a slim Tory majority of 1805.

What would it take to unseat Alister Jack in an area where Labour and the SNP have worked together in local coalition, and where activists from across Scotland could encouraged to put their shoulder to the wheel?