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proportion of whom would never have voted for anyone other than Labour in the past, now feel that the Labour Party no longer represents the working class people of Scotland.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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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