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