Traditionally a Labour stronghold, Dundee long held the traditions of worker’s rights. The city’s constituencies, both East and West, have been represented by Labour for decades. This all changed in May however as Labour paid the price for losing touch with the core message that for so long saw it hold the moniker of ‘Scotland’s Party’. The erosion of trade unionism and industry at the hands of Margaret Thatcher caused significant damage to the city. Initially, Tony Blair was seen as a chance to reverse Thatcher’s free market ideology. However, Scotland grew tired of being overlooked. In the eyes of many, Labour are now unrecognisable when compared to the likes of Kier Hardie and Clement Attlee’s social welfare driven politics. Or even to the pre 97′ Tony Blair.
Tonight was an entirely different story. Dundee University’s Dalhousie building was filled to capacity. The people were eager to hear from the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award winner, MP for Islington North and quite possibly the next party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
There was a respectful hush over the room as Corbyn entered. It was clear that for many in attendance, Corbyn is exactly what they have yearned for from Labour.
He has certainly been making the headlines lately for various reasons. The state press have tried their utmost to tarnish his campaign at every turn. The Telegraph even going as far as publishing an article called;
‘How you can help Jeremy Corbyn win – And destroy the Labour Party’.
So does Corbyn really think he is ‘unelectable’ ? As Alistair Campbell has stated.
‘I’m making no predictions’
Says a deeply earnest Corbyn.
He begins by reflecting on what has been an amazing six weeks of campaigning. Corbyn explains he is especially grateful to those who had no regrets in making sure there would be no absence of a lengthy policy debate. A round of applause would follow when Corbyn made his feelings clear on the role of the parliamentary Labour party.
‘We are honoured to represent our constituencies, honoured to be put there by ordinary members of the Labour Party and Trade Unions. But we are part of the Labour movement, we are not the entirety of the Labour movement. We should not be gatekeepers of the democracy of the Labour movement either.’
In an amusing and symbolic point, Jeremy Corbyn assured Dundee,
‘We have accepted no money whatsoever from any corporate sources….I have to say also, we haven’t been offered any either’.
The 32 year Commons veteran lays out his thoughts on the major issues that have affected the UK. He askes the audience questions regarding the financial crash in 2008.
‘Was it caused by the alleged high levels of spending from that Labour Government? Was it caused by the stupendous levels of pay that Firefighters are drawing out of the fire service? Those billionaire nurses in every A and E department?’
It is worthwhile remembering at this point that the Labour spending plans up to the crash were backed pound for pound by the Conservatives. As the laughter in the room fades out, we are given his insight.
‘A lack of regulation of our banking system. A sub prime mortgage crises in the USA. It was caused by excessive prophet taking by banks.’
This may all sound like common knowledge to the politically enthused, but keep in mind that it was Blair’s Labour that deregulated the city of London.
The chairman of the Stop the War Coalition expressed his dislike of the ‘Bonus culture’ where bankers earning upwards of £800,000 annually are given hundreds of thousands in bonuses, while those who ‘sweep the streets’ are threatened if they don’t do their job.
One of the areas Labour struggled with during the election campaign was presenting a clear economic direction. The anti racism organisation ‘Liberation’ chairman, offered a comparison between the recent strategy and his vision.
‘Do you control the economy from a basis of keeping the structures as they are? With grotesque levels of inequality that exist all over the UK? Or is the function of the economy to ensure there is sufficient funding for the public services we need?’
His suggestion is the establishment of a national investment bank. This, Corybn claims, will help to fund infrastructure improvements, a housing programme and will invest in technology and engineering.
The recent welfare cap means large families will only receive benefits for the first two children, meaning a third child and beyond will receive nothing. The Universal Right of the Child Declaration was signed under Thatcher and she even attended the unveiling of a stone in Hyde park commemorating the signing.
‘Maybe Ian Duncan Smith should go and sit on the stone and reflect on what he is responsible for.’
He assures Dundee that keeping the NHS intact is of paramount importance, calling it, ‘The greatest achievement in the history of our country’. In March of this year, David Cameron signed off hundreds of millions of pounds worth of NHS contracts to eleven private firms. A stretch of staff and utilities has created a competition between hospitals that Corbyn considers very damaging. So how do we address the high levels of health inequality?
‘Not by leaving health care to the market and reducing the NHS to a service of last resort, rather than a service of first port of call.’
The Scottish National Party campaigned vehemently against NHS privatisation but during the election campaign were unable to achieve the backing of Labour. Ed Miliband’s point blank refusal to do any sort of deal with the SNP, was seen by many in Scotland as a betrayal of the principles Labour used to advocate so strongly. When Corbyn is asked about the prospect of Scottish independence, he is for the first time in the evening met with a divide in the room. He says the decision is to be made by the Scottish people, the Scottish Government and the UK parliament.
‘The Scottish Government has considerable powers over the welfare system. I hope those will be used to oppose the Tory welfare proposals. I think they will be.’
Corbyn says he absolutely would work with the SNP to oppose trident and that the basis of his campaign is centred crucially around opposing trident and austerity.
There are major hurdles for Jeremy Corbyn to leap over in the coming months and becoming leader is only the first. Jeremy Corbyn is received very well tonight but Labour are still very much in Scotland’s bad books. So much was made of the SNP’s desire to ‘break up the country’ , leading up to May 5th that the core message was obstructed. It is clear stoping the SNP is not a priority of Corbyn’s but if he is to be the leader the party needs, it needn’t be Labour’s either.