Scotland has been the glaring and conspicuous omission in the predictions of doom and disaster being offered by a parade of New Labour voices in the event that Jeremy Corbyn ‘dares’ win the Labour leadership election. In fact so glaring is this omission you would think that Scotland had vanished from the map.
The reason Scotland has been so conspicuously absent from the shared analysis of doom being proffered is of course because Labour’s dire predicament north of the border utterly refutes it.
For it is in Scotland, specifically in former Labour heartlands, that the appellation Red Tories is now firmly attached to the party and its members and supporters. From once holding a position north of the border so dominant it was said that Labour’s vote was weighed rather than counted, it is now a brave Labour canvasser who dares chap a door in a typically Scottish working class community, knowing they are more likely to receive verbal abuse than a smile.
And little wonder, as Labour in Scotland is currently a pale shadow of the party it was, a consequence of Blair and his New Labour project driving a stake through the heart of its founding principles in an abject surrender to Thatcherite free market nostrums. Welfare reform, PFI, a minimum wage which became entrenched as a de facto maximum wage, deregulation of the banks, failure to deal with the housing crisis, and crippling inequality – this is New Labour’s legacy in Scotland, and this is without even mentioning Iraq.
The consequence in 2014 was a referendum on independence that came perilously close to ending the union, followed by a general election in May of this year that saw Labour decimated, leaving them with just one MP at Westminster where just five years earlier they had 41. With the SNP taking 56 out of Scotland’s total of 59 constituency seats, the over-used word ‘historic’ not only applied to Labour’s decline in fortunes and the SNP’s corresponding surge in support, it was an understatement.
Ed Miliband found himself caught between two competing nationalisms as a result of the Tories’ successful ploy of whipping up fear in England of Sturgeon and the SNP pulling the strings at Westminster in the event of a Labour minority government coming to pass.
A rise in English nationalist sentiment followed, benefiting the Tories and also UKIP, both of whom took votes from Labour south of the border. This is why the idea that Labour’s defeat under Miliband was due to it being too left wing is completely fallacious.
On the contrary in ceding ground to the Tories on the causes of the financial crash, Ed Miliband found himself struggling to combat their attacks on Labour’s economic record, forced to emphasise the importance of bringing down the deficit via cuts, albeit less draconian than those of his opponent, while to his left he came under pressure to resist the rise in support in Scotland for the SNP with their astute positioning on anti austerity, forcing him here to emphasise more progressive policies on tax, investment, and wealth redistribution.
A mixed message and the lack of a clear and convincing direction of travel was the result, leaving Labour mired in the worst of both worlds with the disastrous denoument there for all to see.
Jim Murphy’s leadership of Scottish Labour was an additional factor in its demise. The party had already made the terrible decision to join with the Tories in the Better Together campaign against independence and afterwards desperately needed a leader who could restore a semblance of credibility among thousands of former Labour supporters who had voted Yes in order to break from Westminster.
That leader was not Jim Murphy, who at once embarked on a woeful rebranding of Scottish Labour as Scottish first and Labour second, completely or conveniently misreading the support for independence as a resurgence of Scottish nationalism as an end in itself rather than a means to an end.
This is where Jeremy Corbyn comes in. He is real Labour in the 21st century, leading a movement committed to shifting the priority of the party and a future Labour government away from the rich, big business, and the City of London over to the needs of ordinary working people, those who’ve been forced to pay the price of an economic crisis caused by the greed and excess of the banks and financial sector and not by the spending of the last Labour government on welfare and public services.
Corbyn also calls for the scrapping of Trident, with the billions saved to be spent on investment in manufacturing, housing, and improving public services. In addition he advocates an end to the scourge of poverty pay, foodbanks, and an exploitative private rental housing market. And he stands for a foreign policy underpinned by diplomacy and the universal application of international law rather than might is right.
In so doing he will reverse the trend of separating working people across the UK on the basis of nationality and instead unite them on the basis of class, making a Labour Party led by him the antidote to Scottish independence.
Socialism or barbarism. Too many people and communities across the UK already know what barbarism looks like. Given the growing and unstoppable momentum of Corbyn’s campaign, they are more than ready for a little socialism.