Published on 2 Sep 2015

Could straight-talking Jezza Corbyn take on the SNP?

Once upon a time there was The Most Effective Politician in the UK. You couldn’t vote for them south of the border, and she herself wasn’t even on the ballot paper, but the few would doubt the import of the 56 seats that Nicola Sturgeon’s party won out of a possible 59. Despite losing last year’s independence referendum, the SNP had been piling on the punters, seen membership rocketing, and The Queen of the Selfie was filling venues in Glasgow normally reserved for stadium rock or, er, One Direction.

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Well, the Direction have split and a nation mourns. No split in the SNP of course as they introduce their recipe for Scotland in Holyrood this very week. Of course the possibility of the desired big split is ever on the cards with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Still, we await, in that cryptic phrase the SNP keep repeating, “a change in circumstances” that will bring on another Indyref.

Of course, in London austerity triumphed. But in Edinburgh, there is for the first time a “But.” There is a change in circumstances alright. Another Most Effective Politician in the UK has arrived on the scene. From carping about his own party’s leadership to likely party leader. Jeremy Corbyn spent years opposing the Blair-Brown project through thin and thinner on the fringes.

There he was apparently winding down a long career as backbench awkward-squad playmaker. And with that, of course, comes just a whiff of National Treasure status — untainted of course by power or practicalities. Then, Jezza, a late and almost accidental entrant to the Labour leadership race, somehow produced a Sturgeonator performance.

If one more commentator says “breath of fresh air” about Jeremy Corbyn then I will…dunno really – but it is getting wearing. But it is also true. It is what rather a lot of ordinary people feel.

The central issue for the SNP is that Jezza is now talking of reclaiming some of the key Labour clothes the SNP stole in those Labour central belt heartlands and beyond. Unlike the SNP, still relatively new as a major force in British politics, Jezza has talked the talk and walked the walk man and boy and in that he may well have potent appeal in areas of Scotland where they defected from what they saw as the Blair-Brown ‘sell-out’ in industrial numbers, for the Sturgeonator’s prospectus.

Like Nicola Sturgeon, Jeremy Corbyn has the simple effortless knack of being himself and answering questions directly, simply and with confidence.

He gives off a refreshing air of: here’s what you get and if you don’t like it go elsewhere because I am not that bothered.

Much has been made of his supposedly scruffy attire, but set against the reclaim of traditional Labour values which Corbyn personifies, the presentational aspects probably don’t matter.

He is working the halls, and the queues around the halls, like nobody has since Sturgeon began the election campaign and ended up being the biggest story of the election north or south of the border. That should give the SNP pause for thought.

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It should spur Sturgeon’s party to deliver. Because how fickle was the rush to the SNP from Labour in its heartlands? We don’t really know and won’t know until a Corbyn leadership – should that happen – exists to re-energise Scottish Labour — who themselves have new leadership under Kezia Dugdale.

No longer will Trident be the preserve of the nats for instance, their very own political soft-play area. That symbolic debate-shift alone is a sign of the new territory we could be going into. Unambiguous anti-austerity too – the centrepiece of the SNP campaign for their landslide, will no longer be quite theirs alone at Westminster. (Plus admittedly Caroline Lucas).

The SNP won an almost frighteningly large landslide because they campaigned not about independence but on the Labour turf of opposing cuts and bolstering welfare – or what was once Labour turf.

Mr Corbyn, like a latterday cross-border reiver in reverse, may soon be heading north to Glasgow, Dundee and beyond the Yes citadels, to start raiding the SNP for the Labour ideology the nationalists looted so cannily.

Neither, of course, have triumphed at a General Election — one can’t and the other hasn’t even yet been made party leader. But still two of the Most Effective Politicians in the UK will be fighting it out for the Left – and possibly more. Should it happen – The Sturgeonator v Jezza, the stillettoes v the vest – it should be quite a scrap.

All of Scotland as all of England will be the better for it. Because what Jezza promises whether you agree with him or not, is a new debate and a kiss good bye to the cloying stodge of centre this and centre that which many voters feel has passed off as British ‘politics’ for a generation.

The SNP rekindled that debate one side of the frontier – real choice, real potential change. Jeremy Corbyn is now doing this down south — and his raiders could soon be heading north.

If he should win – they have eight months to take the traditional labour challenge to the SNP across Scotland. It could be quite a race to watch.

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6 reader comments

  1. Andrew Dundas says:

    Your essay supposes that electors carefully assess the offers of potential political leaders. In fact, and as I’m sure you appreciate, electors’ decisions reflect their own self-image.
    On the other hand, the real job of politicians is to put together coalitions that would support their several policy programmes. They do that by trading their own policy priorities for the priorities of others.
    The SNP can do that sort of trading with politicians of all stripes because they only have one objective, which is to promote the constitutional separation of Scotland from the UK. Anything else is fully negotiable. Any deceit is acceptable.
    But Jeremy Corbyn is a horse of a different colour. He has a long list of priorities and he cares little for the compromises political leaders must seek and accept. Will he trade the desertion of British citizens trapped in a separate Scotland for SNP support for his whole left agenda?
    We don’t know whether he could stomach such deceit and duplicity.

  2. CWH says:

    It is a long time since Labour opposed cuts and bolstered welfare as you at least acknowledge and it may still be a long time before they ever come back to that turf.

    As to Mr Corbyn raiding the former Labour heartlands – just think Kezia Dugdale and you realise it will take more than just a few visits to come anywhere close to reclaiming the branch office in Scotland?

  3. RolftheGanger says:

    The article is wishful thinking.
    Nothing can save the Blairite dominated rump of Labour in the Scottish Branch Office.
    Here is the reality of the current poll:
    The party poll ratings are even more stunning

    SNP: 55%
    Labour: 21%
    Tories: 12%
    Lib Dems: 7%
    Greens: 3%

    Leadership ratings:

    Sturgeon: +42%
    Dugdale: -3%
    Corbyn: -11%
    Cameron: -44%

    Who would have thought that Dugdale would be less unpopular than Corbyn.

  4. N Mackenzie says:

    On the assumption that Corbyn wins, the SNP will not be unhappy for two reasons. (1) they have something in common politically & can work together in Westminster (2) The “opposition” in Scotland is “led” by Kezia Dugdale whose only comment (she has yet to lay a policy) is anti Corbyn.

  5. Kathleen says:

    If Corbyn can get us back to core Labour values maybe the SNP might not be in such a hurry to leave the UK.

  6. JohnMcDonaldish says:

    Err, just a bit of wishful thinking here. Corbyn is riding a wave not of his making and will land the leadership with little experience of leadership and none of government. The exact opposite of Sturgeon and the SNP.
    As for resurrecting a moribund Labour Party in Scotland. Hmmm, he hardly mentioned Scotland when visiting north of the border other than to repeat the mantra SNPBAD.

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