Socialist Worker

Can Corbyn revive hope for Labour in Scotland?

Tour heads north after successors in England and Wales—but the Scottish Labour leadership is a problem, writes Nick Clark

Issue No. 2568

Corbyn met supporters in Lancashire last week

Corbyn met supporters in Lancashire last week (Pic: Pendle Labour)


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was set to hold a series of rallies across Scotland this week as part of his summer tour of marginal constituencies.

His tour will target seats held by the Scottish National Party (SNP). Its rise all but wiped out Labour in Scotland at the general election in 2015, though it lost some ground this June.

Corbyn said his message to supporters in Scotland was that “we need to confront the powerful interests that benefit from a system which makes life for most people more difficult, poorer and more unstable.”

The tour of Scotland follows a series of rallies across England and Wales aimed at replicating the huge events during this year’s general election.

Mass rallies for Corbyn during the general election put the mobilisation of tens of thousands of ordinary people at the heart of Labour’s campaign.

They gave Labour’s campaign a sense of revolt against austerity, the Tories and the wealthy elite—and succeeded in winning big gains against the Tories.

Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people turned out to each of Corbyn’s rallies last week.

He spoke to over 1,000 people at rallies in Carlisle in Cumbria, Southport in Merseyside, Pendle in Lancashire and Bangor in Wales.

Corbyn has said Labour is on a “permanent campaign footing” to keep the pressure on Theresa May’s weak Tory government.

Unseat

Labour left group Momentum has launched an “Unseat” campaign of mass canvassing in areas held by high profile Tories such as Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd.

Burnley socialist Keith Chadwick told Socialist Worker that “local activists got a huge lift from Corbyn’s visit to Pendle, and can’t wait for the next general election to kick out the standing Tory MP Andrew Stephenson”.

But Corbyn faces a tougher challenge in Scotland, where the SNP posed as a left wing alternative to Labour after the Scottish independence referendum of 2014.

Labour wrongly sided with the Tories in defence of the British state, in a referendum where for many independence represented an alternative to Westminster austerity.

The SNP’s leader in Westminster Ian Blackford said last month that his party wanted to rebuild the case for independence. He vowed to “promote fairness and equality” as an alternative to “harmful” Tory polices.

But the SNP government in Scotland has implemented austerity. There were signs that the shine was coming off the SNP at the last general election when it lost 21 seats, six of them to Labour.

Corbyn attacked the SNP government as an “austerity conveyor belt”. Yet Labour-controlled councils, such as the one that governed in Glasgow until this year, have also passed on vicious cuts.

And Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale spent the general election campaign attacking the SNP government over independence rather than campaigning on Corbyn’s radical manifesto.

Nevertheless there are signs that Corbyn’s left wing message is finding a welcome with growing numbers in Scotland—despite Dugdale.

But becoming an alternative to both the Tories and the SNP would be easier if Labour backed independence and committed to ending austerity by halting council cuts.


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