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Corbyn would put clear red water between Labour and the SNP

Scottish compilationScottish Labour is on its knees after May, but let’s be honest, our problems have been a long time in the making. For many Scottish Labour members it feels as if we are in a perpetual leadership campaign. The candidates’ faces change but the message is almost always the same – Scottish Labour needs to change and I am the change candidate.

With a few notable exceptions, the majority of the answers are about party organisation. We were told that part of the reason for our defeat in 2011 was because our CLPs were based around Westminster boundaries. That MPs and MEPs should be allowed to stand for Scottish Labour leader, as long as they agreed to stand for the Scottish Parliament next time around, because the issue shouldn’t be which parliament our leader sits in but rather who is best to lead the party.

And our response to the rise in SNP membership and support for independence was to drape ourselves in a saltire and call ourselves ‘patriots’, a move that was always going to fail.

May’s result shows that the changes we have made to the party’s organisation have not made an ounce of difference to our electoral prospects. The problem with tinkering with the organisation of the party is that, quite frankly, ordinary voters couldn’t care less how party structures work. They are more interested in what a party has to say and what it offers them and their families.

Somewhere down the line Labour simply stopped speaking to the hopes of the Scottish people. We became too obsessed with the SNP’s failings (and there are many) rather than talking up our own Labour values and how we would put them into practice in government to better the lives of ordinary Scots. We lost our way, and people stopped listening.

Our long-term problems were merely compounded by last year’s referendum. By taking part in the Better Together campaign we presented the SNP with a free platform to steal our clothes and make our social justice mantra their own. They were able to attack us as working “side by side with the Tories against Scotland”. They spoke of Westminster not as a place but as a type of politics which is outdated, regressive, impossible to reform and, most importantly, doesn’t represent Scotland. All the while we were unable, or unwilling, to defend our record in government or present a positive Labour movement case for the UK.

There were late attempts, primarily through the Labour No campaign, to talk up Labour values – of solidarity with our neighbours in the rest of the UK and how a UK Labour government in 2015 would start delivering social justice again, not only for Scotland for the whole of the UK. Unfortunately, too many traditional Labour voters by this time had deserted our cause, sold on the SNP’s message that only through independence could social justice be delivered in Scotland. And they didn’t simply return to Labour after a No vote as we had hoped.

Although I have no time for nationalism as an ideology I think I understand what drove so many traditional Labour voters to vote Yes – it was a feeling of hope. And it’s been a long time since Scottish Labour was able to convince them that it is us who offered them it.

That’s why Jeremy Corbyn is the best choice for Scottish Labour members.

Jeremy isn’t offering to move the deck chairs on a sinking ship, he is looking to change the ship. He’s about repair, refit and relaunch. He gets that, in order to win voters back to our cause, we must change our offer not our internal structures. He is setting out a vision and policy agenda which is giving people hope that social justice can be delivered at a UK level again.

He is making it clear that there is an alternative to austerity – an alternative that puts people first. A moral and ethical way of making sure that we have a prosperous economy but not at the cost of the low paid, young or disabled. Where the folly of privatisation is challenged and we have a debate again about public ownership. He offers an economy that works for the many and a society (and welfare state) that cares for everyone. He represents the best of the Labour movement, offering to change how the system works, not simply manage the current one a bit more fairly than our opponents.

And importantly, for us in Scotland, he offers to put clear red water between us and the SNP. A chance to finally put to bed the myth that the SNP are Scotland’s party of social justice.

Scottish Labour members should be excited by the buzz surrounding the Corbyn campaign and embrace it, and clearly lots are doing so with almost 2000 signed up to attend his rallies in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow this week.

This is our chance to rebuild our party, become a movement for social justice again and start winning back votes from the SNP. As a Labour councillor and candidate at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections I’m excited about standing on a platform that offers hope of change not only in Scotland but across the UK. It’s our best chance of winning constituency seats next year.

Joe Cullinane is a coucillor for Kilwinning in North Ayrshire and Labour candidate for Cunninghame South in next year’s Holyrood elections

This article first appeared at Labour Hame

Image: Jeremy Corbyn on tour in Scotland this week


  1. Robert says:

    New labour or socialism, hell of a choice is it not..

    Me I’m all for socialism.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      I particularly enjoyed, ” “side by side with the Tories against Scotland, (and everyone else,)”. They spoke of Westminster not as a place but as a type of politics which is outdated, regressive, impossible to reform and, most importantly, doesn’t represent Scotland,” (or anyone else.)

      Sums up in a single paragraph pretty much everything that’s gone wrong with Labor, (post Blair,) and why a Labor party led, (no really don’t laugh,) by a multi millionaire property speculator, (what bloody stupid idea in the first place,) got annihilated at the polls.

  2. Bazza says:

    The SNP stole Labour’s clothes in Scotland because in Scotland the Labour Party there wrapped itself in the Neo-Liberal straight jacket and tragically still seems to imprison themselves but the grassroots can be reinvigorated if Jeremy Corbyn wins.
    I feel no real animosity towards the SNP – they seem to offer some progressive policies but essentially they are social democrats – offering crumbs to the working class and progressive middle class and ultimately want narrow independencec-as the World experiences the third stage capitalism – globalisation -.perhaps going against the tide of history.
    But hopefuly if Jeremy wins, they will be up against us as democratic socialists, and we will take them on with ideas.
    Social democrats v genuine democratic socialists.
    A battle of ideas which I think we can win.

  3. James Martin says:

    Joe Cullinane is absolutely right, but I ask again, why did the left of the Party in Scotland not stand a socialist candidate who could have been boosted massively by Corbyn but now leaving Scottish members and supporters to have to make a terrible choice (if you can use that word) between Dugdale and Macintosh, neither of who has any answers to the questions raised in this article? I think Corbyn can do a lot to rebuild support for Labour in Scotland if he wins the UK Party leadership race, but there is only so much you can do from outside.

    1. Robert says:

      The left decided not to go for it again they lost once and chickened out the second time, shows I think how poor the left has become.

  4. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    The people I know who live in Scotland all seem pretty sanguine about the SNP, (obviously socialist stuff like free prescriptions and free higher education have had nothing whatsoever to do with that,) but looking south to the growing poverty, destitution and exploitation that are becoming a way of life for whole swaths of our own population, most of them seem to consider that the SNP aren’t really so bad if you compare them to the Tories.

    What most of them have say about Blair and the British Labor party wouldn’t bear repeating in print; not even in a column as generally relaxed about the appropriate use of expletive as this one is.

  5. mark hogson says:

    The bankruptcy of UK politics is shown in the notion that the SNP is particularly left wing. Many of their ideas and their odd love affair with the likes of Trump show their have an unpleasantly close affiliation with dodgy money.
    There are serious problems with the NHS, infrastructure projects for the railway (now part owned by state owned Dutch), trams, general building projects, many in a terrible state of mismanagement; even education is now starting to lag.
    Why is it that none of these problems are ever discussed, let alone challenged? the SNP are ripe to be challenged but they can’t be challenged from London while London is seen to be dragging more money and power away from the provinces.
    If the London govt can pass a law outlawing overspending (whatever that might mean), an effective opposition must be able to put in place laws that take the money back out of the city and restore it to the provinces; ever since 1980, the UK has ‘grown’ primary through the disenfranchisement and definancing of the rest of the nations that make up the UK.

  6. Chris says:

    The SNP are racists, their victory was a tragedy

    1. swatantra says:

      A bit strong there! They are not ‘racists’; they only have a difference of opinion with the English who regard them as 2nd class citizens and a butt for their jokes ie ‘an Englishman, Irishman Welshman and Scotsman were sat in a pub one day … etc ‘

      1. swatantra says:

        The SNP are a ‘People’s Party’, they are an heterogenous amalgam and in time we will see the 53 MPs falling out as their individual views become more crystallised, rather like the Lib Dems did.

    2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      I think it would be more accurate to described us having what might better be described as, “a history,” to know us, (the British,) is not necessarily always to love us and our treatment of Scots historically, has been almost as brutal and calous as our treatment of the Irish, something not easily or lightly forgotten.

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