Jeremy Corbyn: A View from Scotland

The following was written by @AlienInAttic

  

Jeremy Corbyn has done a significant amount to restore some kind of credibility to the Labour Party after it had been destroyed by Blair and subsequent Labour leaders have failed in their attempts to recover. The Labour Party used to have a clear identity and provide clear opposition to the Tories and it now looks like there will finally be a legitimate opposition leader who will strongly oppose the Tories on key issues – the Labour party has found its soul.

I would have agreed with the opening statement above throughout the summer and still agree with it from an English political perspective but even Jeremy Corbyn has failed to understand what the Scottish Independence movement was all about and more importantly why so many people in Scotland, a large proportion of whom would never have voted for anyone other than Labour in the past, now feel that the Labour Party no longer represents the working class people of Scotland.

In order to understand Labour’s plight in Scotland, there are a number of things one needs to consider:

  

1. Jumping into bed with the Tories in the Better Together campaign highlighted exactly how similar the parties had become. Labour could have defended the Union in their own right by presenting a positive case for voting no to independence but they chose to work very closely with the Tories. For many people, with a little encouragement from the SNP, this was unacceptable!
 

2. Gordon Brown was the instigator of one of the biggest lies told during the referendum campaign, the infamous “vow”. A promise of Home Rule or something close to federalism. Nothing even close has been offered since the referendum and nothing even close was ever intended to be offered. An offer of a few additional powers to Holyrood was greeted with patronizing tweets from Labour politicians stating “vow delivered”, a direct insult to anyone that voted yes in the referendum – 45% of the electorate!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye4Ke5KGNwA

3. Following the referendum, Johann Lamont stepped down as leader of the Scottish Labour Party on the basis that it was little more than a Branch office of UK Labour (in not so many words!). Possibly the biggest mistake in Scottish Labour’s recent history was then made by appointing Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour leader. Jim Murphy was and still is a divisive, incompetent, arrogant, petulant Blairite and he appointed John McTernan as his chief of staff (all the same adjectives apply!). Again, this further alienated 45% of the electorate in Scotland.

  
 
4. The next phase of Labour self-destruction in Scotland came with Ed Milliband’s declaration that under no circumstances would he work with the SNP. It was either a majority Labour Government or nothing at all! He was bullied into that nonsense by the Tories and it was clear as day to many people in Scotland that Labour had become nothing more than red Tories. Ed Milliband was effectively discounting the democratic will of the Scottish people if they were to send 50+ SNP MP’s to Westminster. If he was trying to display strength to English voters, I reckon he failed. If he was trying to somehow force people in Scotland to elect Labour MP’s in Scotland, he failed miserably again. The SNP absolutely destroyed Labour in Scotland and it wasn’t even that difficult to do! Why? Labour lacked courage and conviction and were bullied by the Tory propaganda machine. It was unfortunate at best, pathetic at worst.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9g_WufSLeUE

It would take a very significant change in direction of the Labour party to win back voters in Scotland and many people in Scotland got right behind Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign as it was clear that Corbyn would offer proper opposition to the Tories in Westminster. Personally, I went out of my way on social media to put the case forward for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and had many arguments along the way. There was a glimmer of hope for Labour in Scotland and people were willing to embrace that glimmer of hope with open arms. Were the SNP shaking in their boots at the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn as next leader of the Labour Party? They should have been but they weren’t! Why? They could see exactly what was coming next and where the weaknesses in Corbyn and Labour in general exist when it comes to Scotland. So here is why Labour will still struggle in Scotland, even with Jeremy Corbyn as leader:

1. The Scottish Branch of the UK Labour party is filled with politicians of low caliber. Worse again, it is filled with politicians who have a deep lying hatred of the SNP and are blinded by the same. Every single argument you hear from the Scottish Branch of the Labour Party is directed at the SNP in some way rather than being a positive policy or vision to share with the electorate.

2. Jeremy Corbyn clearly has no idea what the Scottish Independence movement was about when he goes on T.V. and makes a patronizing comment like “Flags don’t build houses”. That kind of statement infuriates many people in Scotland because it comes back to the Scottish Branch of Labour’s childish behavior when it comes to being in opposition against the SNP. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the views of a large portion of the Scottish electorate and displays a certain level of arrogance.

http://news.stv.tv/scotland-decides/news/1329576-labour-jeremy-corbyn-says-flags-dont-build-houses-in-attack-on-snp-policy/

3. In the same interview, Jeremy Corbyn pulls out an old Scottish Labour classic and proceeds to lie about the privatization of the railways. Having defended Jeremy Corbyn throughout his campaign, even in the knowledge that he is a unionist at heart, I was quite frankly disappointed in him for believing the nonsense being fed to him by his Scottish Labour colleagues. As everyone knows, the railways were privatized by the UK Government in the 90’s and the power over the same is reserved to Westminster. It would be politically and legally impossible for the SNP to do anything with the railways. This was just another example of the mud-slinging that took place during the independence referendum campaign and again during the 2015 general election campaign.  

http://www.aviewfromtheattic.com/shrinking-the-state-l-privatisation-in-the-uk/

4. Jeremy Corbyn is a staunch unionist. I do not have any issue with that and it is his choice as to whether he believes the union is a positive or a negative for its constituent parts. However, Scotland has been trampled on for too long by Westminster and we are now in a position where you either (a) throw all your eggs into the one Corbyn basket and hope that he wins the next election and we never again have a Tory Government (or Blairite Labour Government); or (b) be realistic and acknowledge that we will always have cycles in British politics whereby the Tories will be in power and in the last two cycles they have destroyed the UK economy and destroyed key industries in the North of England, Wales and Scotland. Short term political gain over long term economic reality – that is where Jeremy Corbyn is falling short when you look at the future of Scotland as part of the UK.

  
5. I noted John McDonnell’s speech in which he asked the people of Scotland to “come back to the Labour Party”. This again completely misunderstands, or ignores, the fact that people in Scotland felt that the Labour Party left them and not the other way round! Mhairi Black’s maiden speech is a perfect explanation of the fall of Labour in Scotland

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZAmhB55_-k

Despite the fact Jeremy Corbyn has failed miserably to understand the political landscape in Scotland and in particular the Scottish independence movement, he will be a breath of fresh air for politics in the UK as a whole. Westminster needs to be shaken up and Labour need to work with the SNP to form a strong opposition to the current Tory Government. I genuinely believe Corbyn will make a positive impact on politics in Westminster and will shake things up for the better. He is surrounding himself with some great economic thinkers with ideas like People’s Quantitative Easing, focus on social housing, progressive taxation, etc. but he will struggle to get a majority, or even enough seats to form a coalition, in the 2020 General Election. For that reason, it is far too risky for the Scottish electorate to put all their eggs in the Corbyn basket. Some probably will and he will maintain the existing support for Labour in Scotland but it is unlikely he will reverse the trend of pro-independence support in Scotland.

In conclusion, I respect Jeremy Corbyn and I do agree with many of his ideas. However, his lack of understanding of Scotland and Scottish politics will likely be his downfall in Scotland. He has his work cut out with Scottish Labour and the honest politics he preaches about certainly does not apply to Scottish Labour. The sooner he realizes that the more chance he has of succeeding and making an impact for Labour in Scotland.

By @AlienInAttic

  

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13 thoughts on “Jeremy Corbyn: A View from Scotland

  1. Found this a really interesting read, and was fascinated by the authors perspective on Jeremy Corbyn. As someone who lives in England, however with many close friends in Scotland, I followed indyref keenly, and even supported it from an English perspective. My own experience of the movement was multi-faceted, having spoken with what you would describe as staunch nationalists – those to who there is simply no other way but self-determination of Scotland and freedom to manage her own affairs, regardless of whether we are or aren’t ‘Better Together.’ I personally believe the ‘Better Together’ talk is lamentable and the Scots don’t get a fair deal from Westminster, although that also goes for most of us in the deeper parts of Northern England. Which leads me into the second category of people, those who would under normal circumstances be happy with maximum devolution, or perhaps even far far less, but have grown entirely weary of the failures of the Westminster system to recognise them let alone represent their interests in any capacity. Again, this is something we in Northern England know only too well, where post Blair neo-New Labourism is entirely destitute of any kind of resonance and has moved so far from the ground they once held and the parties own former sense of values and purpose without the merest recognition from themselves, and which more than anything lead to the SNP sweeping up in the GE by effectively ‘out Labouring Labour’ without so much as breaking a sweat, whilst Labour played at being a branch of the Tory Party. Giving a choice between the Tories, and those playing at being Tories. It should come as no surprise that people will always vote in the real thing. Yet, apparently to the likes of Scottish Labour, it does. My own impression is however that there are many more who fall into this category of yes-voters who would not necessarily vote yes if infact it was to be proved we were ‘Better Together.’ Which is where I believe Labour’s ultimate mistake lay, in clasping the hands with the Tories, certainly in such a negative, rather than actually effectively using indyref as a springboard for wider social and economic change across Scotland and England, through a reversion back to a system of Keynesian anti-austerity policies which were inclusive of Scotland, and the rest of us not in England, but who could quite understand the frustration of many. Jeremy Corbyn will never win over the staunch nationalist hellbent on self-determination, but he must be seen to be atleast trying towards greater social and economic change.

    Your article is a fascinating insight though. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The author is writing from a unionist perspective, not English. Labour is a unionist party, it represents empirical socialism within the union.

    This may seem pedantic but actually is really important to the seperstists in wales and Scotland.

    As someone who strives for welsh independence, all policies of all unionist parties are secondary to their oppressive unionism.

    Scotland now has enough confidence that no unionist can really understand the desire to be free from the union. Corbyn cannot change a thing.

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  3. I didn’t explain very well.

    Corbyn does not appeal to the ‘english socialist’, he appeals to the unionist socialist who live in England.

    He has no appeal to dissolutionists in Scotland, because he is the cause of their subjugation.

    Scotland has and continues to move beyond unionism. Until Corbyn makes it clear he wants to end the union, he wont move many Scots back to labour.

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  4. Even if he had just said something like “its up to the people of Scotland if they choose independence but my aim is to create a better society for all countries and regions within the union in order to show by example that the union works for us all”. That would have been met with less disdain than some of the stuff he has said. Would it change peoples’ minds? Maybe a few but Corbyn will not be in Government forever and the risk of Tory or Blairite type Governments that very few in Scotland actually voted for is far to high so Independence is the only reasonable way for Scotland to thrive socially and economically.

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    1. Very accurate and I hope my poor expression didn’t come across as criticism.

      My main issue is why shouls corbyn bother with the scots? Apart from the electoral neccessisity. Surely labour can see Scotland has gone?

      Why do the dissolutionists always have to make the case? If corbyn is a true force for change in labour, he would go away for a weekend with one question for the party to discuss. Why are the English so afraid of independence? This is where labours future is and where corbyn is needed most.

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  5. To be honest, I suspect your article is being a little unfair to Corbyn. For one thing, I have a hard time agreeing with the assertion that he is a Unionist, given that back in the ’90s he was openly trying to start a dialogue with Sinn Fein while the UK government was attempting the same thing in secret. Everything I heard about him when he was my MP and everything I’ve read about him since is that he is utterly devoted to representative democracy – sometimes almost to a fault. In a hypothetical Corbyn-led Labour government I’d have every reason to expect that he’d respect the will of the Scottish people in an independence referendum. If I were to hazard a guess as to why he’d criticise the SNP, I reckon it has more to do with his being a social democrat of the old school – which comes with an inherent suspicion of nationalism in general – than it does any views he may hold on Scottish independence. Of course, he does arguably have a point – and if the SNP successfully uses its new-found power to prioritise building houses over waving flags, that can only be a good thing for all concerned, no?

    As far as Labour’s disastrous involvement in “Better Together” goes, my view is that the Tories engineered a slick and devious trap (with Lynton Crosby and Rupert Murdoch’s fingerprints all over it) intended to draw Labour into a no-win scenario which the Blairites in particular walked straight into – and dragged Ed Miliband in with them in the process. The crux of the matter was the practical effect that an independent Scotland would eventually have on the balance of power in Westminster. Labour have always historically relied on their traditionally strong presence in terms of Scottish constituency seats, and it’s therefore understandable why the thought of losing that would make them nervous (and as an English lefty, please forgive my hoping for a “Nae” result to fend off the prospect of perpetual Tory rule in England!).

    The upshot of this was that you had the nominally strict Unionist Tories in a position where they would actually benefit politically from an “Aye” result but were ideologically bound to campaign against, and a Labour Party (who, let’s be fair, kicked off the devolution process in the first place) – which by nature should have been at least neutral – being compelled to back the “Nae” campaign because its ability to be a genuine threat to the Tories in Westminster was at stake. This Bizarro World scenario also ensured that if the Tories (who wrote off everything north of the Watford Gap decades ago) reneged on any of the promises they made during the campaign, it would be Labour who would take the blame in the eyes of the Scottish electorate and be punished for it politically. Miliband’s team were so busy chasing their tails to keep the party factions happy that they never saw it coming and walked blindly into the pit – Crosby (and I’m sure this was primarily his brainchild) played them like the proverbial fiddle. The Tories reneged on their promises almost immediately leading to a surge in SNP support at Labour’s expense prior to the general election, and then Murdoch provided the coup de grâce by giving the SNP his full-throated support in Scotland while using his English papers to scare the bejeezus out of undecided voters with the threat of an SNP/Labour boogeyman coalition bent on harming English interests.

    The best thing the SNP can do to dispel that image over the next 4-and-a-bit years is to prove that it’s possible to do the right thing for their people – I suspect they’ll never have a better chance than this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very interesting reply and I agree with most, if not all of it. I believe Corbyn is stuck between a rock and a hard place with Scotland but time will tell whether he has an impact. Re Northern Ireland, I think his support for a united Ireland was based on what was happening in Northern Ireland and the oppression imposed by the British Establishment. I guess he sees the situation in Scotland differently because Scotland’s recent history hasn’t been as violent as Northern Ireland. I would love to sit down and chat with him about his views on both to be honest – I’m intrigued!

      Great point about the Tory trap but I suspect there are some people within Scottish Labour that have more in common with Tories, e.g. John McTernan. Very interesting point though!

      Also, I understand the English fear of being stuck with Tories without Scotland but the corresponding view in Scotland has always been that Scotland has never voted in a Tory majority and still gets stuck with Tory Governments. If we could rely on our English friends to do the right thing maybe Scottish Independence wouldn’t be as popular :o) It is a difficult situation though as nobody in Scotland wants people to suffer in England – just frustrated so many Tory supporters in England.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem – cheers for taking the time to read it!

        I reckon only time will tell as far as Scotland’s political trajectory goes – barring a significant catastrophe in which the Tories form a figurative circular firing squad amongst themselves (I live in hope…), as I said above we’ve got a shade over four years of this before we start the run-up to the next GE, and an awful lot is dependent on how the SNP performs with the mandate it has. Thinking about the “Flags don’t build houses” comment after I posted yesterday, it occurred to me that it may not have been intended as patronising so much as a challenge to the SNP to put their money where their mouth is – because it’s one thing to win a populist electoral victory on an “anti-austerity” platform, but it’s entirely another thing to translate that into policy and action – and doing so will be made harder because there is currently a majority (albeit a slim one) in Westminster which has austerity as a central plank of policy. While of a different party, I’m certain that Corbyn is more than politically astute enough to know that if the promised social policies are a success in Scotland, then in four years he’ll be able to point to that as an positive example of how an alternative to full-throttle neoliberalism can make people’s lives better.

        For the record, I’ve never subscribed to the idea that most of the centre-right figures in the Labour Party are sympathetic to Tory values as such (though there’s always a few), otherwise you’d have seen a lot more defections of MPs in swing seats in the wake of New Labour’s star waning. What I’d instead be prepared to bet money on is that there is a generation or two of Labour MPs (including Blair’s) who arrived in the late ’80s and early ’90s and were subsequently emotionally traumatised for life by experiencing the merciless onslaught of the press towards the end of the 1992 GE cycle – which turned a significant Labour opinion poll lead into yet another Tory majority in a matter of days. The “received wisdom” from that, and a notion that Murdoch and his ilk were happy to propagate (“It Woz The Sun Wot Won It”), was that you were never going to win a UK General Election without the backing of the press and big business. In terms of the destabilising effect it must have had, having that happen at the start of your political career was possibly somewhat akin to wandering into your parents’ room as a kid and finding them both hard at it in bondage gear. It certainly caused Blair to concede far more policy ground than he had to when he met with Murdoch in 1997 to ensure his support. That mentality certainly affected a chunk of every subsequent generation of Labour MPs, and I’m sure that there are some genuine careerists after the standard Tory career path – namely flitting between politics and well-paid directorships depending on how the political winds are blowing – in the mix now as well. Anyway, the short, capsule version of the above is that some Labour MPs, even if they aren’t fellow travellers with the Tories and big business ideologically, have clearly internalised the idea that not cosying up to those interests is a barrier to power, and compromise is the only option.

        Case in point – I’m no fan of Mandelson, but his infamous statement regarding New Labour being relaxed about people becoming filthy rich is nevertheless selectively quoted. Almost every example I read deletes the very important second part of the statement, which was “as long as they pay their taxes”. As disillusioned as I was with Labour under Blair, it still gets my goat somewhat when people talk about there being barely a cigarette paper’s thickness between the Tories and New Labour. In a practical sense this was true a lot of the time, but that off-hand comment about tax shows that in philosophical terms it could be a pretty thick Rizla at times!

        “Also, I understand the English fear of being stuck with Tories without Scotland but the corresponding view in Scotland has always been that Scotland has never voted in a Tory majority and still gets stuck with Tory Governments. If we could rely on our English friends to do the right thing maybe Scottish Independence wouldn’t be as popular…”

        OK, so let’s deconstruct that a bit. Starting from the premise that the recent GE result was the outcome of a “perfect storm” which happened to go almost entirely in the Tories’ favour and may therefore (and I hope to the heavens I’m right about this) be considered a one-off, on the evidence it’s something of a fallacy that England as a whole leans Tory – in particular the Tory gains from the LibDems probably had less to do with an increase in Tory support as it did LD voters disenchanted with the coalition either switching to Labour or staying home, with the normally second-placed Tory candidate coming first as a result. It’d be closer to the truth to state that the Tories’ power base is restricted to the outer London boroughs and a few scattered areas across England with its nexus in the Home Counties. They strengthened their grip on other areas in the Thatcher years with a shameless zeal for gerrymandering (and social engineering where they could get away with it), but it is still possible to loosen that grip as more people fall foul of their policies. They’ll pay lip service to the Midlands and the North, but when it comes down to it there simply isn’t enough infrastructure there to make it worthwhile for their paymasters to pursue anything more than a token level of investment – and when it comes down to it, above all else they are in thrall to the banking sector; which demands an almost laser-like focus on serving the needs of the City of London (where they work) and the Home Counties (by-and-large where they live). Five years’ neglect of the other areas as happened during the Thatcher/Major years could potentially motivate a lot of Tory voters to stay home (an oft-overlooked aspect of the 1997 result). This last point is particularly important, because while Scottish people have undoubtedly been sidelined and neglected by the Tory governments they were “saddled” with in the last few decades, the same is true of a lot of English people outside of the Tory strongholds – and if I were to have come up with a “Nae” campaign from the left perspective, it is that common experience I’d have put front and centre.

        Modern Tory philosophy still borrows a lot from old Imperial doctrine, and one of the prime tenets of that was “divide and conquer” – i.e. by setting two or more groups opposed to you against each other, they weaken themselves and hand you the initiative. Casting this situation in a Scottish vs. English light very much plays into their hands – I’m fairly certain that it’s not about a failure of English progressives to “do the right thing” as it is a consequence of the Tories having spent the ’80s aggressively rigging the electoral and constituency system within England in their favour (to say nothing of how they ripped the heart and spirit out of the Labour-leaning industrial areas) and it still makes my blood boil that Blair set aside electoral reform policy when he had the chance to fix things. In short, if English progressives are going to be successful in getting the Tories out of power then we’ll need your help. Scottish independence may free you from the Tories, but the way I read it at this time Scottish people are still fairly evenly split on the subject, coming as it does with other consequences. On top of that there’s the fact that a majority Tory government in Westminster will never provide an opportunity for independence in the foreseeable future, wedded as they are to Unionism (and no longer able to use Labour as patsies when they break referendum campaign promises). If you (and a majority of Scots) really want an independent Scotland, then you’re going to need our help too.

        Therefore, my proposal would be to ignore the “let’s you and him fight” temptation and find some common ground, because even if the Tories have alienated a big chunk of the electorate by 2020, they fight dirty and will have undoubtedly rigged more electoral factors in their favour. It’s almost certain that we’re going to need a coalition, as Labour won’t be winning big chunks of Scotland back in a hurry unless the SNP really screw up, and this means both of those parties (along with the remaining LDs and Greens) are going to have to direct our fire away from each other and at the Tories. My dream scenario if that were to work would be to have meaningful electoral reform passed as a matter of urgency; restoring some degree of balance and sanity to the electoral system – badly needed in England in particular, and as an added bonus the matter of Scottish independence could be argued entirely on the merits as opposed to a “nuclear option” to be rid of the Tories!

        Liked by 1 person

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