Several weeks into his leadership of the Labour Party, it is still far too early to assess what impact, if any, Jeremy Corbyn has made on all but one person in Scotland.
While south of the border, lefties were chanting ‘Jez we can’ and getting understandably excited by Corbyn’s new vision for Labour, there was less excitement up here. His demands for an end to austerity, and promises to scrap Trident may have sounded mould-shattering for the people of England, but were hardly ground-breaking policies for voters in Scotland. After all, these are the very same policies on which we voted back in May, to give the SNP its landslide. So why vote Labour, particularly since the new leader barely gave Scotland a mention in his first speech to the party conference ?
In fact, Corbyn’s victory only affects one person, constituting shaking things up big style for Kezia Dugdale. I don’t know whether or not she has passed her driving test, but less than a month into her own job as leader of Scottish Labour, she has already had to perform numerous U-turns, pulled off several emergency stops, done a number of five-point turns and reversed around a couple of corners. And that’s only a few weeks after taking the car out of the garage, so who knows what state it will be in by the time it’s MOT is due next May. Also, given that the ‘car’ in question is a 1997 Ford Mondeo, with a ‘new’ Labour sticker on the rear window, she’s had to do a fairly swift trade-in.
Having swept to power in Scotland against the heavyweight opposition of Ken McIntosh, or “the other bloke” as Ed Miliband knows him, Kez immediately set out her stall as to what kind of Labour Party she wanted to see in Scotland. She was very open about her enthusiasm for addressing the deficit (in other words, austerity) and her support of a multi-lateral deterrent (i.e. Trident) as well as making it very clear that she was not going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Indeed, she was at pains to point out the doomsday scenario which could unfold in the unlikely event of him being elected. An unlikely event which, of course, came to pass. Cue red faces all round, or a distinctly-pale-pink face in Kezia’s case.
She, of course, was not alone in predicting ‘The End of The Civilization as We Know It’ in the event of a Corbyn victory. Indeed, it was with a faint glow of nostalgia that I read the scare stories in the Daily Mail and The Express. It was like being back in the summer of 2014 once again, as the right-wing press once again were predicting financial ruin, terrorist attacks and the freezing-over of Hell, merely substituting the word ‘Corbyn’ for the word. ‘Yes’.
Corbyn has been criticised for not wearing a tie, being a teetotaller, not singing the national anthem, having trousers that don’t match his jacket, riding a bicycle and being vegetarian. And worst of all for appointing a vegan as shadow minister for agriculture. The last of these would appear quite far-sighted, now that we are told that sausages and bacon could be as dangerous as smoking or asbestos.
In the space of a few days, veggies and vegans have gone from being nutters and cranks to being ahead of the curve. Furthermore, as a vegetarian himself, it is highly unlikely that he took part in the kind of obscene student rituals as David Cameron did.
My one reservation about the man, on watching his speech to the Labour Party conference, is that he totally lacks the ability to tell a joke. But is that important? Boris Johnston can tell jokes, but we all cringe at the thought of him ending up as Prime Minister. I tell jokes for a living, but I wouldn’t want me running the country.
Furthermore, Corbyn obviously has a sense of humour. Otherwise, he would not have appointed Lord Mike Watson to his shadow cabinet, ten years after his expulsion from the party, after he was jailed for fire-raising in 2005. It’s possible Jez took one look across the dispatch box at the government, and thought ‘What I need here is a convicted arsonist’.
However, my main disappointment so far in Corbyn has been his performance in Parliament, and in particular his lacklustre showings at Prime Minister’s Questions, where he reads out questions sent in by the public.
Rather than the gladiatorial verbal jousting of PMQ’s of old, it has the feel of Cameron taking part in a question-and-answer session with his local vicar at a coffee morning in the church hall. I know we are told that the general public are turned off by yaboo politics. However, with a government such as we have now, I think most people are looking for a Leader of the Opposition who is willing to shout “Ya!! Boo!!” at this Prime Minister.
Vladimir McTavish’, Keir McAllister and Mark Nelson will be appearing in The Stand Comedy Club’s monthly satirical show ‘So That Was November?’ at the Edinburgh Stand on Wednesday 18 Nov and the Glasgow Stand on Monday 23, both shows start 8.30pm.