Mike Cowley

Scotland's Corbyn surge

Mike Cowley
Scotland's Corbyn surge

ALL OF US ARE STILL TAKING STOCK but there are developments we can now point to with confidence. They are out of the bottle, and they will not be returning anytime soon. The Scottish Labour Party’s (SLP) partial rehabilitation in Scotland is a consequence of that most marvellous of political facts, the ‘Corbyn bounce.’ Prime Minister May has been exposed as the worst exemplar of entitled Tory hubris ever to slither back into Number 10, by the looks of things on the back of DUP largesse. But the big story of this election campaign is the re-emergence of class politics in the UK Labour Party and in the country at large.

A media whose powers of political slander have been shown to be on the wane will want us to look the other way, but the traction socialist ideas and campaigning can secure even in the face of internal sabotage, ruthless media hostility and received wisdom, has defied the cynics. Jeremy Corbyn, defamed at every turn by a pliant, attack dog media, has demonstrated the kind of courage and principle May attempted to accrue to herself by dissembling, evasion and spin. She failed, while Corbyn’s patient detailing of a transformative manifesto resonated with a public whose taste for confected, complacent politicking has at last found its limits.

In Scotland, the Tories are celebrating the return of a clutch of MPs who will now serve to shore up May’s numbers at Westminster. The myth of Scottish exceptionalism is dead. Elements of the Scottish electorate have proven every bit as susceptible to the snake oil prescriptions of the unregulated economy as anyone else. Yes, Davidson successfully played off the constitutional myopia of the SNP, offering her own version of nationalist sentiment in their slipstream. But her MPs will now assume their places behind the Tory front bench as fresh recruits to austerity ideology.

The SNP’s previously unassailable hegemony is over. Their bubble is deflating at pace. A record in office which has seen educational inequalities widen, in-work poverty explode and our social care system teeter on the brink of collapse, has been found out. Their intrinsic ideological conservatism was not sufficient to resist the inevitable rallying of a Tory Party whose retreat up north was never fully complete.

The Scottish Nationalists’ most treasured fantasies - of a land of socialist commoners assailed by perfidious Albion and its Red Tory lackeys - has been uncovered as the fanciful, ahistorical fairy tale it always was. Many of their voters absconded to the Tories. Leftleaning nationalists must now decide where their political priorities lie.

Scottish Labour did well because the UK Party did well. Kezia Dugdale must now embrace, unequivocally, the entrenched trajectory of the UK party or the SLP’s new found momentum will quickly stall. We can now clearly see the red shoots of recovery. However unless Kezia endorses the socialist direction of the UK Party, the SNP’s narrative of a disconnected SLP still clinging to the wreckage of triangulated unionism will stymie a full recuperation.

Her focus on stopping Indyref 2 threatened to trap the Party in the morass of constitutionalist politics. A welcome commitment to federalism failed to accentuate the redistributive potential central to any socialist programme of devolving power.

If we are to build on the successes, the SLP must now recognise that it was Corbyn and the galvanising impact of a radical manifesto that salvaged our reputation, not the reheated unionism of a debate which has now moved on. When compared with England and Wales, our rehabilitation was limited. A clear commitment to the values embodied by the national party can complete our recovery.

Campaign For Socialism(CfS)/Momentum activists can be proud of our efforts. Our endorsed candidates pushed the SNP in every constituency, though only one, Danielle Rowley, ultimately prevailed. But the creativity and energy we brought to local campaigns have established credentials we can now take back to our branches. We have carved out a permanent role. Our politics and energies have resuscitated a party which was until recently on its knees.

Whether in our Scottish Executive, Policy Forum or selection successes, CFS/ Momentum advances created the space for a left politics to take root. Scottish Labour Young Socialists are bursting with ideas, vision and drive. CFS/Momentum can claim credit for pulling the Party back from the precipice Better Together deposited us on. Finally, we are emerging from beneath the shadows of the saltire and union jack.

Adapting to the new terrain will again require patient and comradely commitment. But the SLP, if it can confirm an approach consistent with that established by Corbyn and his fantastic team, now has the opportunity to make its proper contribution to the future election of a socialist Labour government.

» With thanks to Stephen Low and Matthew Jones  

Co-convenor Edinburgh CFS/Momentum, and Edinburgh North and Leith CLP executive