The Corbyn connection

Three summers ago, remember the air of excitement across Scotland? Heady heightened political confidence rose in the belief that another Scotland was possible. People felt that this might be the time for a true alternative to austerity imposed by successive Tory and Labour governments. 45% of us voted Yes to Independence as a vehicle we hoped could deliver that change.

Something similar is happening with Corbyn’s rise that the most hardened Blairite, died in the wool Tory or lifelong Scottish nationalist cannot deny. Another world is again possible. And this time not just in Scotland or for Scots. The chant of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ might still have a mostly English accent, but it is catching, and Scots are joining in.

If ever a PM had a weakening ‘win’’ it was the Theresa May. The general election called to deliver a ‘strong stable’ hard Brexit mandate is now propped up by DUP confidence and supply’. May found her own magic money tree to buy the support of a party weakened in Assembly elections by accusations of corruption at the highest level. Even with DUP buy-off, it might only take seven Tory dissenters to bring the whole house of cards down.

When Corbyn calls out the juxtaposition of Grenfell’s burnt-out tower of poverty, homelessness, unnecessary death caused by cuts, surrounded by uncaring extreme wealth and vacant properties of the rich, it is not mere rhetoric. He is no spin-politician but the real deal. We are Corbyn and he speaks our truth. ‘For the many not the few’ has been reclaimed from the faux morality of Tony Blair’s speech writers of twenty years ago.

With humanity, with strength and commitment to an alternative, Corbyn reaches out to the victims and survivors of terror in Manchester and London and the victims who paid with their homes and their lives for public sector neglect. Another world is again possible. Young people revelling in hedonistic Glastonbury singing ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ is only the tip of the iceberg.

The 2017 Labour manifesto is a crystal clear programme for an alternative to austerity. Labour’s costed commitments to invest in infrastructure, rebuild public services, social security, housing and end pay restraint remains sharp compared to the blurry SNP manifesto mildly listing things on which it would ‘press the UK government’. Whilst the SNP sought to fan the embers of the Remain camp to the independence cause, Corbyn has been resolute that Brexit, indeed, means Brexit, and seeking the best deal.

There is something deeply troubling and counter-democratic to a liberal elite seeking to rerun referendums over and over until the people finally capitulate. That Sturgeon has now thrown indyref2 into the longer grass, perhaps some of the dogs will come to heel for a while and we can focus on class over nation.

A bewildered Welsh sister asked ‘Scotland, what’s with the Tory thing?’ Who would have thought that a growing momentum of unity on the left for a Corbyn government might be hindered by a dozen Tory gains in Scotland? Corbyn has revolutionised Labour in England and Wales. In Scotland the party is trapped in its own 2014 nightmare. Neither the Scottish leadership nor the Party machine has even had a Corbyn makeover. With a few notable exceptions, the Scottish Labour beast is the same one that served Jim Murphy as leader. Its 2017 election strategy scored a complete own goal. Scottish Labour remained at odds with those that wanted to support Jeremy Corbyn. His attempts to engage those who voted Yes to independence in 2014 displayed an understanding that was either absent or ignored by those in charge in Scotland. He said he would talk to the Scottish Government about Indy Ref 2, Kezia said Scottish Labour would never do that. This leaves too many people still saying they support for Corbyn in England but not here.

Scottish Labour’s entire energy seemed determined to keep the debate away from progressive policies and on to attacking independence, or defending the Union. ‘Stronger Together’ was used more prevalently in Scotland than ‘For the many’. While it is necessary to debate and expose contradictions and limits of SNP anti- austerity rhetoric, Scottish Labour’s obsession with independence and the SNP let the Tories off the hook.

Peak SNP is over. The supersonic 2014 SNP surge was never one that could be sustained. Winning 56 of 59 MPs in 2015 was remarkable, and no one, if they were honest even in their own ranks would expect or want that to be sustained. Now the myth of no Tories in Scotland is busted. There have always been Tories in Scotland and a Tory vote. There is little evidence of Labour voters tactically voting Tory to undermine SNP. The percentage swings from SNP to Tory sit at around 13%, but there is also an upturn in the Labour vote in the same seats. The gains made by Tories are in natural and previous Tory territory. Tory voters have voted tactically for years either to keep Labour out by voting SNP or this time to burst the SNP indy bubble. The Tories feel emboldened and this is dangerous. Let us remember, if Scotland hadn’t voted those additional 12 Tories in, then there would be no Con-DUP. Labour, SNP and others would have found common ground.

I voted ‘yes’ in 2014, ‘remain’ in 2016 and Corbyn in 2017. Everything has changed. It is time to look forward. We, the Scots left must prepare to work together as never before in class solidarity over national identity.

Lynn Henderson is a national officer for the PCS union with responsibility for Scotland and the vice-chair of the Jimmy Reid Foundation