Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke to around 2,000 people at rallies and mass meetings in Glasgow yesterday, Thursday.
Some 1,500 people turned out to see Corbyn speak at Glasgow Central Mosque last night. Around 500 people saw him speak alongside Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale at a meeting at Glasgow’s Drygate venue earlier that evening.
Such big turnouts for a Labour politician would have seemed far-fetched in Scotland until Corbyn became leader. Support for Labour plummeted in Scotland after the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
Labour wrongly sided with the Tories in defence of the British state in a referendum where for many people independence represented an alternative to Westminster austerity and a chance for a different set of political priorities.
Corbyn gave a speech at the mosque that showed Labour could also offer an alternative to austerity—and win back support.
“Our offer which we put at the general election was for the many, not the few,” he said. “It was a manifesto that quite openly talks about the redistribution of wealth and power in our society.
“Homelessness is not inevitable, poverty is not inevitable, discrimination is not inevitable. It is about what we do. Do we tax those who can afford it, those very big businesses and very rich people, so that our children can be better off?”
Corbyn also talked about tackling the rise in racism and Islamophobic attacks on mosques, as well as his support for the Palestinians. He got huge cheers and two standing ovations.
Anas Sarwar, a Labour member of the Scottish parliament, also got a big cheer when he suggested Labour could become a radical alternative to the Scottish National Party (SNP) and independence.
“I don’t believe that everybody who voted Yes to independence in 2014 is a nationalist,” he said. “Many of those people who voted Yes did so because they believed it was the only change or hope on offer.”
He added, “There is now a faster, better, safer, bolder form of change on offer. And that is a radical Labour government across the UK led by Jeremy Corbyn.”
Results in the general election earlier this year certainly showed that Corbyn’s Labour could win back support from the SNP.
The SNP lost 21 seats, six of them to Labour. It had almost wiped Labour out in Scotland just two years earlier at the 2015 general election, posing as a left wing alternative.
But it has continued to implement cuts through the Scottish government while blaming Westminster.
Yet it's right to back independence. And there are still plenty of Yes voters who abandoned Labour that would be unlikely to return if Labour refuses to at least accept the Scottish parliament's right to call another referendum.
And many people in Scotland are still angry at the Scottish Labour councils that have also passed on cuts.
Labour also fails to call for the scrapping of Trident.
Labour councillor Frank McAveety, who until May this year led Glasgow City Council, got a polite but muted reception from the audience.
The council carried out swingeing cuts to services while he was leader, leading Labour to lose control in this year’s local elections—the first time since 1980.
The events in Glasgow were part of a tour of Scottish seats. It also includes an event in the Western Isles on Wednesday, a rally against the closure of a jobcentre in Coatbridge on Friday, and an anti-racist carnival in Govanhill on Sunday. These follow a series of rallies in England and Wales.
Corbyn didn’t mention council cuts or independence during his speech at the mosque. But austerity and independence are two central issues in Scotland.
Corbyn has shown that with a radical vision Labour can become an alternative to the Tories and the SNP.
But independence has to be part of that radical vision—and Labour has to show it is committed to fightng austerity by ending council cuts and opposing Trident.