Cor­bynista’s set to con­quer (but how long will he last? )

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Femail -

FOR any­one who has ever cared about the Labour Party these are dis­tress­ing times – again. Those who fought to keep Mil­i­tant out in the 1980s. Who re­built the party in the 90s when it ap­peared Labour might never win an elec­tion again.

Peo­ple who then sup­ported a govern­ment that did bring rad­i­cal change to this coun­try when they fi­nally did.

All of that seems to be for noth­ing in the era of Jeremy Cor­byn. For the Corbynistas that his­tory is not one to in­spire pride – it is one to be re­vised and re­viled.

The lat­est front for re­vi­sion is in Scot­land as the Scot­tish Labour Party has an­other snort in its ad­dic­tion to lead­er­ship con­tests.

This one will be dif­fer­ent. The win­ning can­di­date is likely to be the one who ap­peals most to peo­ple who are not cur­rently Labour Party mem­bers but rather those who hate its his­tory.

The last time Scot­tish Labour Party mem­bers voted in a lead­er­ship con­test it was when Owen Smith chal­lenged Mr Cor­byn to lead the UK party. They voted for Mr Smith.

That un­com­fort­able truth has led to some dis­turb­ing rule changes set from the top.

Tra­di­tion­ally in most in­ter­nal party elec­tions an early ‘freeze date’ was set giv­ing vot­ing rights only to peo­ple who were mem­bers when the elec­tion was called. It was a sen­si­ble pol­icy to stop can­di­dates try­ing to sign up new mem­bers just to vote for them. This time the op­po­site is true. Can­di­dates have un­til midOc­to­ber to sign up sup­port­ers. Since the ex­ist­ing mem­ber­ship voted to get rid of Mr Cor­byn it is dif­fi­cult not to con­clude that these un­usual rules are in place to make sure his pre­ferred can­di­date Richard Leonard wins.

Oh, and you can buy a vote in this con­test for just £12 – £1 a month – which makes it sound even more like a clos­ing down sale. Trade union mem­bers who pay the po­lit­i­cal levy don’t have to pay any­thing more.

The new rules make Mr Leonard the favourite.

His op­po­nent Anas Sar­war’s cam­paign has got off to a dif­fi­cult start. His lack of a clear mes­sage other than be­ing a ‘mod­er­ate’ has meant some have la­belled him with a term that has be­come some­thing of a swear word in the party – ‘Blairite’.

The fact that he is wealthy, went to pri­vate school and that the fam­ily firm he owns shares in doesn’t recog­nise trade unions, have all been used to try to dis­qual­ify him.

His air of self-con­fi­dence for some sug­gests a sense of entitlement.

CORBYNISTAS aim to have com­plete con­trol of the Scot­tish Labour Party and run it from Lon­don. Mr Cor­byn has sent one of his bright­est lieu­tenants to run Mr Leonard’s cam­paign. The mes­sage is clear – his vic­tory will be the death of an au­ton­o­mous Scot­tish party. It will be lucky to re­main a branch of­fice.

But that doesn’t mean the party will stop ty­ing it­self in con­sti­tu­tional knots. The lat­est opinion poll pub­lished this week in the Scot­tish Daily Mail sug­gested that, while the SNP would win the next Scot­tish elec­tion if it were held now, they would not have a ma­jor­ity within Holy­rood for a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

Labour would come sec­ond in terms of seats.

That has led some within the party to sug­gest they try to form a coali­tion with the SNP.

Now, I am all in favour of break­ing down the bit­ter sec­tar­i­an­ism of Scot­tish pol­i­tics. It can hap­pen.

The SNP, for ex­am­ple, while they like to de­monise the Tories, were happy to do deals with them for four years af­ter the 2007 elec­tion.

But the idea that Labour can gain from a coali­tion with the SNP – or that the SNP would want one – makes no sense.

Firstly, they would both have to set out their po­si­tion on a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum be­fore the elec­tion.

If Labour say they are in favour it can only dam­age them. If Indyref2 is a voter’s prime mo­ti­va­tion, why would they vote for any­one other than the SNP?

If you are a pro-Union Labour sup­porter, why would you not change your vote to stop it?

Labour have tried the ‘mibbes aye, mibbes naw’ ap­proach to an­other ref­er­en­dum be­fore – and that am­biva­lence saw them come third in three suc­ces­sive na­tional elec­tions.

And if they res­o­lutely op­pose one, how could Nicola Stur­geon or her suc­ces­sor tell her party faith­ful that they have gone into coali­tion with their long-term foes and given up the rea­son they ex­ist?

The last time the Scot­tish Labour Party was on the win­ning side in a Scot­tish vote was the ref­er­en­dum of 2014. They should stick to that win­ning po­si­tion.

RATHER than dither on that they should have a de­bate about a phe­nom­e­non that is reg­u­larly re­ported by their own troops out on the street try­ing to win votes. Talk­ing to peo­ple who say they were tra­di­tional Labour vot­ers but voted ‘yes’ in 2014. They then voted SNP in one or two of the sub­se­quent na­tional elec­tions but are now dis­il­lu­sioned with Nicola Stur­geon.

Yet in­stead of re­turn­ing to Labour they are now vot­ing Tory.

Those are the peo­ple that the can­di­dates to lead the Scot­tish Labour Party should be talk­ing about rather than dis­cussing al­liances with the SNP who have dis­il­lu­sioned them. Get­ting those vot­ers back might mean Labour has a chance of win­ning again.

This lead­er­ship cam­paign prom­ises to be bit­ter – some­thing that will alien­ate more and more vot­ers who ques­tion the Labour Party’s rel­e­vance.

Rather than reach­ing out to the coun­try, old wounds are be­ing re­opened and new ones cre­ated as hatch­ets are buried in each other.

Right now I would ex­pect the Cor­byn-fu­elled Richard Leonard to win.

But if I was an Anas Sar­war sup­porter I would not de­spair.

With four years un­til the next Scot­tish elec­tion, there is still a good chance he will lead Labour into it.

FAVOURITE: Richard Leonard yes­ter­day – but he may yet lose out to ri­val Anas Sar­war

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.