The Conservatives have infiltrated Labour

blue-labour

Liam Muir

Labour’s actions over the past eighteen months have led me to three possible conclusions. (1)They think the only path to a more equal and prosperous society is with a Labour majority Government (2)The party is full of sociopathic careerists, more interested in their own individual gain than the overall well being of the electorate whose votes they beg for every five years or (3)They are unaware UK citizens have internet access. I’m not willing to rule out any of them until Labour give me good reason to.

After the General Election, most Labour voters would probably have deemed the best course of action to be to incase Ed Miliband in concrete and dump him in the river Thames. In the run up to May 5th, political historian Tariq Ali, when asked how much of Ed Miliband’s Prime Ministerial campaign had drawn from his Marxist Father’s works, said, ‘Ralph Miliband would be spinning in his grave’. Some are of the opinion that Ed couldn’t distance himself enough from ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’, as the Daily Mail referred to him in 2013. Others think we needed him to be ‘Red Ed’. The problem was that he never actually seemed to make his own mind up. Corbyn faces a similar dilemma today concerning the division within the party. Stewart Hosie MP put it best recently when he said,

The Labour Party are leading him [Corbyn], he is not leading the Labour Party’.

Miliband tip-toed, tongue tied, stumbling off the Question Time stage as if Nigel Farage had sneakily tied his shoe laces together. A tactical error was made during the campaign when labour continually insisted on campaigning for a majority. It didn’t matter how much more socially progressive the SNP’s manifesto was or how appealing Sturgeon was to the English electorate, Labour hid behind Scotland’s national question with blind faith in the hope that Scotland would vote Labour to avoid the Tories.

When we really break down just what Labour’s campaign tactics in Scotland were, it is really little wonder they lost 40 MPs. We were being asked to put aside the numerous problems we had with Labour’s manifesto, pro Trident, pro austerity etc just so a Conservative Party, bearing a striking resemblance to Labour, could be avoided. After 5 years out of Government, all Labour could muster was a plea to vote for the lesser of two evils. Pathetic.

Osbourne’s failure to hit his target of eliminating the public sector deficit by 2015 and actually increasing our debt was apparently not enough ammunition for Miliband.

So what do we have on offer from Labour today then? That is a frustratingly difficult question to answer at this point. If Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Scotland in early October did anything, it surely only reaffirmed our fears. Regardless of how progressive his politics are, he is as out of touch with Scottish voters as the rest of his party. Someone should have told him that appearing on the same platform as Kezia Dugdale is the Kiss of Death. Mind you, he probably should have already known that.

In a piece I wrote on Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Dundee for The Scots Perspective in August(https://thescotsperspective.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/jeremy-corbyn-visits-dundee-2/), I made the point that the SNP need not be the enemy of Labour in the fight against Conservative rule.

They didn’t understand this during the election campaign. The SNP said they were willing to offer some kind of vote by vote agreement with Labour to ‘lock’ the Conservatives out of Downing Street. How did Labour respond? Nothing short of political suicide as Miliband actually said on live television that he would be willing to let Cameron back in to Number 10 rather than form an anti-Tory alliance. I understand they had anxieties about England’s fear of the SNP but if that really were the case, it would have helped if Labour didn’t aid the Tories in their quest to vilify Sturgeon’s party at every turn.

They don’t understand this today either. Corbyn’s factually inaccurate comments on the SNP’s supposed privatisation of Scotrail and Caledonian Macbrayne, did him no favours whatsoever. Whether or not he was uneducated or just uninterested, you wouldn’t blame Scots for taking these comments as more political dirty tactics from a party who has already been written in to Scotland’s bad books in permanent marker.

Even if Corbyn had his facts straight when criticising the SNP, it still comes across as the ‘SNP bad’ mantra Labour have been spouting since the Scottish Parliament became operational in May of 1999. You only have to look at the subsequent election results in Holyrood to know that has never worked. Corbyn should have already known that too. Uneducated or uninterested? Labour’s Failure to grasp that victory in Scotland is unachievable is a set back for the anti-austerity movement.

Most recently, John McDonnell drew more unwanted attention to Labour’s hectic division when he publicly announced at the Labour party conference that they would back George Osbourne’s Fiscal Charter despite telling ‘Scotland’ that the SNP are not anti austerity and that Labour are the ‘true anti-austerity party’. They then made a perplexing U-turn by announcing that they were actually not going to back the charter after all due to “growing reaction” to spending cuts since his announcement. Growing Reaction? No Shit Sherlock! Finally, when 20 Labour MPs abstained from the Commons vote, showing public defiance of their new leader, the bill was passed.

It’s no huge shock.

We knew Corbyn was not representative of the parliamentary Labour party but it is a sizeable task to undo the Conservatives’ infiltration of Labour. It can only be a good thing that Labour did at least ‘change their mind’, but its the flipping and flopping Scotland has largely grown tired of.

Unless things change fairly drastically, a Labour majority in 2020 is unlikely. For the sake of the fight against the Conservatives class warfare (cutting inheritance tax and working tax credit simultaneously and so on), I hope Labour realise that their insistence on a majority Government has to end. Its time they thought about what is more important. Getting as many of their pals elected as possible or getting the Tories out. I fully accept if Corbyn is going to be an advocate for Labour’s transformation, it is going to take time. Cohesion is a necessity for any party, however, it’s like former US president George W Bush once said,

‘If you don’t stand for anything, you don’t stand for anything’.

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Lessons in Scotland for Jeremy Corbyn: We are not a region.

corbyn Kezia

Siobhan Tolland

Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact Jeremy Corbyn is mixing it up down south. He is trying to initiate progressive change, and we have to support that, especially against an attempt of the right wing (in and outside of the Labour party) to oust him. We should support any progressive against this scheming. Christ even the Unions stabbed him in the back over Trident. ‘Kill millions with weapons of mass destruction. Must save jobs, must save jobs!’ Continue reading

Groups, Crowds and Cliques

Photo credit: lewishdreamer, Flickr

Photo credit: lewishdreamer, Flickr

Pat Wylie

Where there are groups, there are group dynamics.

After thirty years as a left-wing backbencher, an outrider in parliamentary Labour politics, Jeremy Corbyn recently became Labour leader with the support of an overwhelming 66 per cent of those who voted. I welcome Corbyn’s leadership. Perhaps now Labour will return to being the party that promotes secure employment and universal human rights. Perhaps this symbolises a revival of the left in England and thus a narrowing of the gap between the political cultures at Westminster and at Holyrood. Perhaps not; Corbyn’s support appears to have come from trade unions and ordinary people rather than from many of his fellow Labour MPs. In any case, what does Corbyn’s victory tell us about group dynamics and group thinking?

Corbyn first became an MP in 1983, at the same time as Tony Blair. Many Labour MPs of his generation went on to form protective cliques around Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and each other, hitching their own careers to New Labour. Within a few years, this generation of MPs came to dominate the Labour party, reforming the party from the top and giving the general impression that there was “no going back” to anything resembling left-wing socialism.

Throughout the period 1983 to 2015, Corbyn was given no additional responsibilities within parliament, nor did he gain the media platform or public recognition afforded to other left-wing Labour figures such as Tony Benn, or controversialists such as George Galloway and Dennis Skinner. Corbyn’s hitherto low profile will have played some part in his recent success; he is an untainted outsider, who didn’t compromise and had the strength to resist the charismatic power of New Labour.

And so it goes in work and life. Not everyone will attain a position of great prominence, nor high salary; not everyone’s career ends with a flourishing up-tick as we reach our later years. In contrast to Corbyn, the nondescript recent lives of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Alastair Campbell illustrate the pitfalls of a career that peaks early. At one point or another, most of us will belong to an “in-crowd”, held in high regard by others and getting away with our mistakes. Most of us have also experienced an “out-crowd”, far from power and not expecting to be thanked for our efforts.

“Group-think” prevails in most white-collar workplaces, not just in government. It happens whenever crucial decisions are made by a number of close colleagues with the same priorities and vested interests. The good news is that these things tend to change over time. To take one example from social work and public services, today’s out-crowds are those who stood by and did nothing while young people were being sexually exploited in Rotherham, Rochdale, near celebrities, and in many other places besides. The tide is still rising and there remain many people who have yet to be held accountable for their negligence or active participation in the sexual abuse of children. But the group-thinkers who said nothing could be done have been undone by their own complacency; a new generation is determined to act to prevent these injustices in future.

I can think of two crumbs of comfort to the phenomenon of in-crowds and out-crowds. Firstly, times change and lots of people get their comeuppance at one time or another. Secondly, there is more to life than winning and leading. The recent flurry of publicity around Alex Ferguson’s new book, Leading, seems to revolve around the premise that life can only really be enjoyed if one spends it in a state of perennial “victory”, leading one’s team to ever greater triumph in perennial competition against others. Suffice to say, life doesn’t work like this and many leaders and winners probably wish that they hadn’t bothered to make the compromises and sacrifices necessary to reach “the top”.

Power should only be held by those who don’t desire it. Good luck, Jeremy.

Jeremy Corbyn Elected As Labour Leader

corbyn

Chris Napier 

Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of the Labour party with 251,417 votes (59.5%) in the first round of voting while Tom Watson has been elected as deputy leader with 50.7% in the third round of votes. For full results of the Labour leadership election, see here.

The decisive nature of Corbyn’s victory and the selection of a relatively left wing deputy leader alongside him is an earthquake to the Labour party and the whole of UK politics.   It gives both men a considerable mandate to redirect the Labour party as a progressive, anti-austerity alternative to the neoliberal agenda of the Conservatives.

Corbyn will naturally face resistance from the entrenched centre-right wing of the Labour party which commands the loyalty of most MPs due to the selection processes favoured during the New Labour years. Indeed, the resistance has already started as Shadow health secretary Jaimie Reed resigned his position in the shadow cabinet immediately after the result of the leadership election was announced.

However with such a decisive result, the Labour party must respect the democratic will of its membership and supporters and rally behind Corbyn, presenting a united front in support of his policies and in opposition to the Conservatives.

Corbyn’s first task will be in constructing his Shadow Cabinet, with many established Labour figures having supposedly stated they will not serve under his leadership and the eventual composition of that Shadow Cabinet will be a significant weathervane as to how Labour will proceed.

It is undoubted that Corbyn is inexperienced in front line politics, having been a career backbencher, constituency MP and activist over duration of his lengthy political career and it would be advantageous to have a little more front bench experience alongside him. That said, Corbyn won the leadership on the basis of his honesty, passion and good old fashioned Labour policies, in direct contrast to the ‘greater experience’ and slick presentation of the other candidates.

Perhaps Labour and indeed, Britain as a whole is ready for a change in style and substance from our politicians.   Jeremy Corbyn offers a chance at that change and has been handed the mandate to at least attempt it.

What do you think about the result of the Labour leadership election?  Join the debate and let us know!

Is there a plural for Apocalypse? The Propaganda Campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP and well nearly everyone.

Zombie Telegraph

Image from an article on SNP/Labour pact from the Telegraph, April 2015.

Siobhan Tolland

Giles: “It’s the end of the world”
Xander and Willow: Again?” – ‘Doomed’, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

You got to love the Daily Mail, seriously. It is this complete fiction wrapped up in the idea of a newspaper. As old and greasy as the rotten fish wrapped up in it. And yet, there are 1.6 million people buying that thing. I’d rather have a deep fried mars bar quite frankly, it’s probably healthier and is less stereotyped. It is seriously not good for your health.

But, having an interest in propaganda, the Daily Mail is fascinating because its gross exaggeration and neglect for any facts is just an exaggeration of mainstream journalism these days. Look at their latest offering on Corbyn: ‘the thousand days that destroyed Britain.’ A dystopian future, with pictures of London set ablaze. A bankrupt economy, references to madness, and even Communist China. The apocalypse is coming and Corbyn is its nuclear warhead (though to be fair, for the Daily Mail nuclear weapons are as dangerous as a kid’s teddy bear).

It does make me wonder how many apocalypses are possible these days. We had the same apocalyptic vision during the referendum and a repeat of that during the general election. Where is Buffy when you need her? The Daily Mail is right, though. The world is going to shit, but not in the way they tell us.

The Daily Mail’s dystopian fantasy sums up the nature of political propaganda these days: it’s just more exaggerated. Those of us who looked even cursorily at the media during the referendum saw that. The supermarkets will close down, prices will rise, the economy will collapse, oil will destroy you, yir pensions! Salmond and the SNP were, and still are, vilified as dictators.

None of this information was based in fact and Prof. John Robertson notes the distinct lack of objective ‘evidence’ in much of the media. It is the issemination of fictional stories disguised as truth. The YES campaign didn’t lose the referendum because it lost the arguments. It lost the propaganda war. Indeed, when faced with the facts people moved to voting YES. But facts are not relevant. Propaganda is.

A very common form of propaganda is the repetition of positive or negative images of people, countries or political parties. Imagery is powerful. It evokes the senses, creates a strong emotional attachment to a the subject and helps consolidate strong feeling about a certain issue.

This strategy allows objects to be branded in the same way advertising brands.  Why do people start smoking? They know it gives them cancer. But James Dean with that cigarette in his mouth is soooo very cool. It is iconic. By producing short and fast moving images of things enter into the audience’s mind almost without us thinking about it. And it stays there.

Branding in propaganda is equally effective. I am mindful of a media researcher who studied the referendum. He began by thinking that Salmond was ‘arrogant’, he explained, but his research showed that his impression was not founded in anything solid. His impression was subconsciously guided by the repeated media branding of Salmond. Branding avoids facts and information. It gives us an impression and a feeling about a product that has no basis in fact.

Political propaganda works in a similar way to advertising then. It is not a factual report of events or people, but an image that initiates a feeling that seeps into our consciousness and stays there. And if you repeat it often enough, it becomes truth.  Like advertising it works in short, pithy bits of information such as headlines, pictures and bill posters. Exploring in detail is discouraged because the subconscious intake of the image is the aim, not learning about the topic.

Repeated images facilitate this branding. This is seen in how people on benefits or immigrants are viewed these days. Notions of ‘laziness’, ‘scrounging’ or ‘parasites’ pervade the media until the image sticks. The meme that does the regular rounds on social media is a case in point. Illegal immigrants and foreigners get more benefits than pensioners. The FACT that illegal immigrants get no benefits because they are illegal is not relevant. The image of them scrounging is key.

We also saw this with the SNP and Scotland during the general election. Sturgeon’s popularity with the English electorate was met with a barrage of images of Scotland and the SNP as one of aggression, terrorism, dictatorships and as a Neanderthal invasive force. We Scots knew there was no truth in these, but the constant imagery of this became more and more embedded within an English audience. Truth has no bearing, the image is all that matters.

‘SNP bad!’ is a constant mantra repeated across the media and the imagery of dictatorships is a popular theme that surrounds Scotland and the SNP. The Daily Mail, the Telegraph and even the Guardian presented the SNP with images of Putin’s Russia and only recently BBC’s Nick Robinson gave the same imagery to YES campaigners.

The Mugabe imagery of the SNP is also strong. This is persistent references to the Mugabe style ‘land grab’ that stretches across the government and media through Cameron’s step father as well as the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Commentator  and the BBC to name but a few. Dictatorship imagery is very popular with Scottish Labour revelling in this by their persistent reference to Scotland now being a one party state.

For those who are taking an interest in Corbyn will be experiencing a de ja vu of this imagery. How is the media branding him? Well, it’s a repeat of the imagery used against YES, the SNP and Scotland over the last year. Like the SNP, images of famous dictators and terrorists are surrounding Jeremy Corbyn.
He is linked with holocaust denier Paul Risen and Read Selah: an attempt to associate him as anti-Semite and racist. The Telegraph presented an image of Corbyn with Gerry Adams, with the clear IRA associations.

The repetition of imagery is actually somewhat embarrassing. As with the SNP, Corbyn is persistently imagined with Putin and Mugabe. International Business Times, the Telegraph and the BBC all took mileage from his interview with RT and propounded images of Corbyn in bed with the Russians.

They even brought the good old Mugabe reference that showed so little imagination that it was almost a cut and paste job: delete Salmond/ Sturgeon/ SNP and paste Corbyn. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail like this image a lot. Ruthless dictators and invasive forces surround Corbyn the way they surround the SNP.

I think the more dramatic and negative the imagery and the more repeated that imagery becomes, the more the state feels threatened. You can tell how scared the state is by the viciousness of the propaganda. We saw this with Corbyn. When he wasn’t taken seriously there was a jokey fly squatting type propaganda that flicked him away as they tried to deal with more important issues. Now he is a serious contender, the hyperbole is almost fantastical. It was the same during the referendum and the General Election.

Propaganda is seductive though. Imagery is easy to understand and because it taps into our senses and emotions, we can get caught up in the image so very completely. There is a reason poets use it so intensely.

But propaganda is deeply manipulative and its very function here is to retain established power: the neo liberal economic structure. I keep lamenting the loss of evidence based politics and journalism. It has little place in the modern state. My rule of thumb now is to assume articles are fiction unless I can prove otherwise. I fail in that a lot.

For the Daily Mail article see:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3207363/Prime-Minister-Corbyn-1-000-days-destroyed-Britain-brilliant-imagining-Corbyn-premiership-reveals-Tories-gloat-Labour-s-woe-careful-wish-for.html

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If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles.  If you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture. Aand if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page.

Turn left, Kezia!

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Louise Wilson

For the first time in a long while, Scottish Labour is facing the potential of being further to the right than the party at UK level. Kezia Dugdale, a Lothians MSP, won the leadership election this weekend in a campaign that was hugely overshadowed by what is happening at the UK level. She won on a centrist platform, beating off only rival and fellow centrist, Ken Macintosh.

In the run-up to the announcement, both Scottish Labour leadership candidates made assurances that they would be willing to work with Jeremy Corbyn should he be elected leader. Neither appeared particularly enamoured by his politics – though Ken Macintosh did fumble an attempt to draw parallels between his campaign and Corbyn’s – but said they would respect the result. Good, it’s nice to see they recognise democracy.

It has been argued that a Corbyn win would play into the hands of Scottish people, considered as they are as more left-wing than their rUK counterparts. It could positively impact the revival of Scottish Labour in the run up to the 2016 elections, making many of those who have turned away from the party for being too right-wing reconsider. Indeed, for voters such as myself, it may convince some to opt for the Labour candidate in the constituency race where the preferred party (Green for myself) isn’t an option.

However, the Scottish faction of the party is separate enough to build some of its own policy – at least in relation to devolved issues. Herein lies the potential problem. With Kezia Dugdale at the helm, the party might not make a turn for the left in the way that UK Labour might. Whilst a Corbyn-fronted party may back renationalisation of the railways and energy sector, oppose austerity cuts being pushed through by the UK Government and campaign for the removal of Trident, Scottish Labour might not.

The party may do better in the Scottish elections if they do decide to align themselves with Corbyn (assuming he does win). But for some this might be seen as a risk, particularly in light of the talent in the SNP communications department who could quite easily turn a positive move on its head – something along the lines of “they’re copying out policies”. However, if Labour ever hopes to recover in Scotland it has to do something. If Kezia Dugdale allows the party to stagnate, sticking to the same message Labour has relied on for decades, even Corbyn might not be able to save it.

Parallels have been drawn between the left that has come out of the woodwork to support Corbyn and dominance of left-wing ideology in Scotland since the referendum. Indeed, whether you like the SNP or not, one must observe the incredible fact that they made such major gains in the election from a leftist platform. Until now, this seemed an impossibility for rUK – but the unexpected support for Corbyn has made many in Scotland sit up and realise not everyone in Labour stands so close to the Conservatives. Liz Kendall, dubbed the Tory-lite candidate, is expected to come fourth by quite a considerable margin.

But the new Scottish leader should be a warning that not all is fixed. Whilst Kezia Dugdale doesn’t have as many New Labour tendencies as her predecessor, Jim Murphy, she is far enough from Corbyn to make a distinct difference in policy ideas. It is worth noting the new deputy leader, Alex Rowley, is considered on the left of the party – having spoken out against some of Labour’s policies recently, even resigning from the Shadow Cabinet in protest. Dugdale would be wise to take to advice from Rowley if she wants to see her party recover. Let us hope she doesn’t draw a line in the sand between Scottish Labour and ‘Corbynomics’.
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If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles.  If you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture. Aand if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page.

 

Roundtable – Would Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour leadership be good for Scotland?

investment

Every Sunday we’ll be asking our pool of contributors a topical question and presenting their responses, with the aim of fostering debate around an issue.  This week our question is…

“Would Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour leadership be good for Scotland?”

Of course, we’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on the issue, so please feel free to join the debate or even join our team of contributors!

Pat Wylie – I am not a Labourologist. I doubt that many, beyond a small number of party insiders, are capable of predicting how Labour might respond in any situation, especially the unexpected one of a left wing candidate seizing the party leadership. I will have a go at answering first, what might happen to Labour in the event of Corbyn becoming leader; after that it might be possible to speculate on what it means for Scotland.

Two commonly known realities about Labour are, first, that Scottish Labour is riven by factions and infighting, and second, many of Labour’s politicians, especially in London, have lost faith in socialism and are predisposed to seek the political centre ground. If Corbyn becomes leader, he will therefore need to unite the party by setting a clear political agenda, and he will need to placate or dismiss the career politicians who fear the wrath of the media and of the property-owning classes. The question is – can Corbyn achieve this without causing an immutable schism in the party?

My gut feeling is that the odds are against a Labour revival, even under a good left wing leader. The seeds of Labour’s downfall were sown in the 1980s and 90s, when the party hierarchy decided that socialism was a dirty word. Achieving unity between the party’s different factions has never been easy, but it is harder in an increasingly divided party which seeks to govern a society riven by both poverty and pockets of extreme wealth. In millennial Britain, it can feel as if there is no centre ground, such is the prevalence of inequality. A euphoric process of renewal is required to rejuvenate Labour, and the country; there might be high profile resignations and defections by some within Labour to other parties, but this is what Labour needs if it is to avoid the same ultimate fate as the Lib Dems.

So what would a Corbyn victory mean for Scotland? I will try not to use the terms ‘Scotland’ and ‘the left’ interchangeably, though as a left wing Scot I do conflate the two at times. I think that a Corbyn victory would be good for the left: it would be good for the equality project, and it would certainly give hope to millions of us, particularly those who experience poverty or who know and care about those who do.

In Scotland, the cause of independence was championed by the left, especially since 2010; just as the case for devolution once was. A resurgence of the left in England, symbolised by but not limited to Corbyn becoming Labour leader, should give the left in Scotland, and the independence movement, pause for thought. I am a lefty first and a Scot second, therefore I would rest my desire to see an independent Scotland if I saw a true, root-and-branch reform of politics down south. I don’t see it just yet, but a reformed, left-leaning Labour party would represent an important step towards a Britain I could believe in.

Siobhan Tolland – I cannot see how Corbyn can have any negative effect on Scotland. Any leader of a political party within the UK who has a humanitarian approach can only have a positive effect for those who are vulnerable, whether that be Scottish or English. And an anti-austerity approach can only be good.

Corbyn’s potential success needs to be seen in a short and long-term basis, because his impact on Scotland is likely to be different at different points of our political future.

In the short term, over the next course of parliament, it would be very feasible for the SNP to create a positive working opposition with labour against the Conservatives and the austerity agenda. The SNP and Labour would have more than enough in common to create that. In addition to this, what we are witnessing, through Corbyn, is the beginnings of a mass movement that is based on similar ideals to the Independence movement in Scotland. An enshrining of a welfare state, an end to austerity, a commitment to a nuclear free future and a rethinking of our current global aggression.

I think it is recognised (within Scotland anyway) that Scotland is a separate nation, with a separate identity and now a distinctly separate political culture. Any relationship between Scotland’s progressive movement and the English one developing would not be considered as a UK-wide movement but as a coalition of movements between Scotland and England. As a healthy, progressive partnership. That is very possible.

In the short-term then, a good working relationship with Labour would be beneficial for Scotland as well as our English and Welsh neighbours because we would be fighting against the right wing agenda. Whether Corbyn wins the leadership or not, I see that movement still existing and working with the Scottish progressives.

Where the difficulty might be in this is the Labour Party’s vicious Unionist baggage. The Labour Party sought to undermine, destroy and vilify a progressive movement that was and is articulated through a discourse of self-determination. Corbyn’s most recent statement on Scottish independence is his preference to keep the ‘autonomy’ we have now. Clearly this is not enough for most Scots. However, I believe, through Corbyn, we would have a more constructive debate with Labour on the issue of independence. Corbyn’s reiteration of a discussion of issues over name calling allows for this, regardless of politics.

Under Corbyn, the Labour party would be initiating a political clean slate. Corbyn would have to start again with Scotland. In my opinion, he would need to extend a hand of friendship and offer an apology to Scotland for Labour working with the Tories against us, vilifying us and deliberately obstructing a progressive movement within Scotland.

That act, in my opinion, would allow us to initiate our own clean slate in how we work with Labour. Even three months ago I would have seen any working relationship with Labour as impossible. However Corbyn, and the movement gathering around him, does initiate a new chapter in English progressive politics. As a similar movement in Scotland, we have to recognise this and allow some forgiveness so we can work together against the onslaught of right wing ideology. Against that struggle, at this moment, dividing politics into Unionist and Pro-Independence would be ignoring the urgent issues at hand.

In the medium to longer-term, however, we do need to negotiate the issue of independence. Because an independence referendum is inevitable, the only real question is when. Corbyn’s belief in our right to hold this is immediately better than the position we are in now, where Cameron dismisses the possibility of it.

Labour’s relationship to the next referendum is key. I think it would be clear that Corbyn’s Labour is unlikely to support independence, which is a shame but probably the reality. The best we might hope for would be either a neutral position or a position of Devo max (proper devo max not the perniciously anaemic one we have been given). Under Corbyn, we can safely assume that Labour would never work with the Tories again, however. They would likely be mounting their own campaign.

What they would be able to provide, however, would be a positive vision of a United Kingdom. That does seem strange even as I write this, but Corbyn’s positive vision for Labour could be easily transferred into a Unionist argument. This would be even more the case if they won the 2020 election on a Corbynist platform.
At the same time the reason for the aggressive pro-Unionist campaign was because of a strong Neo-liberalist politics that needed oil to shore up a financially bankrupt UK. Corbyn challenges that, along with the notions of Empire, power and racial superiority. So, effectively, the right wing defence of the Union could be fragmented. A healthy, fair and equal economy and society in England might reduce the desperate need to stand in the way of Scotland’s departure. A labour victory may increase the fragmentation of the Neo-Liberal Unionist discourse.

Whether we vote for Independence under these circumstances remains to be seen. For my personal perspective, I am not a nationalist and independence, for me, is not the be all and end all for us going forward. I became involved in YES because I saw it as the only way we could build a progressive society.

If that progressive society is possible within the UK, does that change my opinion? Surprisingly it doesn’t. I think Scotland has reached a point where self-determination seems inevitable. I think it is the genuinely healthy option for us regardless of what is happening in England. It might just mean the divorce is less acrimonious. It would also mean a much more healthy and productive relationship with our English and Welsh friends.

Anna Crow – I feel that it is very important to look beyond political party affiliation alone and seek a deeper sense of someone’s values and what they stand for as a person. Jeremy Corbyn’s words and actions including his response to the new government’s budget, his long-term voting record, decades of activist involvement and his very minimal expenses claims stand up well to this scrutiny.

Many of us recognise the common values and beliefs we share with Jeremy Corbyn. We can see that he is no superficially charismatic career politician surrounded by a team of focus groups and spin doctors. He does not strike any of us as someone who is on a campaign to impress the public for his own political power gains. It is the evidence of his unwavering principled values that impress us.

He is someone who does not conform to the tribalistic mentality that is so dominant in politics; someone who votes based on his own values and beliefs with consideration for his own constituents rather than doing what the party whips will try to tell him to do. We need more elected members of government like this, those who are open to working productively with those from other groups but will take a clear stand on important areas of disagreement.

I believe there is the potential for significant and positive change in UK politics with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour party leader. If there is any hope of the deep-seated problems within the Labour party getting sorted out he is the best person to be at the helm to address this productively. There is also much needing to be done in creating an ethos of better communication and cooperation between different parties, particularly between Labour and the SNP, with a focus on the common good for the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK.

I do not see him as someone who would block a second independence referendum, were he given the opportunity. If anything, in that situation a much more well-rounded, honest and positive case for remaining within the union may be presented – enabling a more informed and democratic decision to be made by the people of Scotland.
I therefore believe election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour party leader is in the best interests of Scotland.

Christopher Napier – Corbyn winning the Labour leadership will do one of two things.

He will either revitalise Labour – and the left as a whole – as a genuine opposition to the Conservative government and the neoliberal consensus OR he will be fail to do so, whether that’s by being brought down by internal forces or badly beaten at the ballot box.

If he revitalises Labour and either wins the 2020 election or regains a significant amount of ground against the Conservatives, he could initiate some genuine progressive change in the UK (or at least drive the conversation in that direction) which would make things better in Scotland and potentially deflate much of the case for independence – after all, if we can have a more equalitarian, progressive country without the turmoil and uncertainty of separation, then why bother?

If he fails, then Labour are effectively done as a progressive force, we’re doomed to a generation of Conservative rule and that is undoubtedly A Bad Thing. However, the failings of the UK establishment and having right wing governments imposed by corporate interests and the English shires will be laid bare for all to see, we’ll start to see the mid-term effects of austerity in the stagnating economy and the case for independence will be made conclusively – whether Westminster approves or not.

Some folks might be wary of Corbyn’s unionist stance, but this is to be expected from an old-school English socialist and his commitment to progressive values and democracy make him a far more appealing partner or at worst a far more constructive and reasonable opponent for proponents of independence.

Effectively, a Corbyn win is an accelerator which will either improve the political balance in the UK or make it undeniably clear that such balance cannot be achieved and both scenarios are in the long term, good for Scotland.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
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If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles and if you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture and if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page.

The Value of Opposition

parliament

Chris Napier

It goes without saying that most of the attention paid to parliament tends to be concentrated on the party (or coalition) in power because they are the ones capable of getting things done, changing laws, changing lives and in theory representing the majority of the nation’s voters.

However, like many things which are not appreciated until they are gone, the value of a functional opposition in a parliamentary democracy is often overlooked.

Parliament is not supposed to merely rubber stamp government policies but to dynamically debate, refine and reform them before being enacted into legislation by a vote.

A strong opposition can pressure a government into changing or at least mitigating their policy, they can press the government on details which expose unwelcome facets of their legislation and they can offer a genuine alternative to the populace, making elections a vital process by which the general public can choose between distinct political ideologies.

On the other hand, a weak opposition effectively leaves the government with free reign to do whatever they like, fails to pick holes in dubious legislation and reduces elections to a formality which results in voter disengagement, low turnout and a degradation of the whole concept of representative democracy.

In both the UK and Scottish parliaments, Labour are the second largest party and thus form the backbone of what should be the opposition* but the party’s inability to process the reasons for their fall from government over the last eight years, their ongoing leadership turmoil and seeming loss of identity has left them unable to perform that task.

* Indeed in Westminster, the Labour leader is the formal Leader of the Opposition, while Holyrood’s less adversarial format means that no such official analogue exists in the Scottish lexicon.

In both parliaments, Labour stand too close to the party in government, not wanting to seem too different lest they be deemed ‘unelectable’ while attempting to distinguish themselves from their opponents on evidently disingenuous ideological terms.

In Westminster, Labour feel they cannot oppose the right wing austerity agenda lest they be seen as economically irresponsible – effectively accepting the Conservative narrative rather than challenging it and offering an alternative. Since long before the recent general election they have repeatedly voted with the government or abstained on major votes, effectively negating their worth as an opposition – and in my eyes, making themselves unelectable in the process. After all, if you want a neoliberal, corporate sponsored government, why would you vote for the equivocating, vanilla version when the full throated Conservative version was right there?

In Holyrood, Labour suffer from being diametrically opposed to the SNP on one issue (independence), at odds on a few issues (notably how to deal with the ongoing financial crisis & austerity) and on most others, their manifestos could be copied and pasted from one another. This leaves them unable to tackle the SNP on most policy areas as they would not suggest wildly different approaches, they cannot wholeheartedly campaign for austerity knowing the mood of the Scottish electorate and are left picking at the edges and harping on about the SNP’s obsession with independence.

This leaves the SNP, with only 56 MPs to the Conservatives 330 as the main functional opposition in Westminster and they have set about doing their best despite the 6-1 odds (which are even worse when you consider that Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the DUP are as likely to vote with the Conservatives as oppose them.)

What makes this even more frustrating is that the majorities enjoyed by the governing parties in the both parliaments are laughably small, meaning that a strong opposition would be ideally placed to affect government policy and take advantage of any dissension in the government ranks.

It is necessary in the name of democracy that the Conservatives and SNP are confronted by a strong opposition in both parliaments, either by Labour rediscovering their principles or by increased representation at the next election for parties who are actually willing to provide that opposition.

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If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles and if you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture and if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page.