9 October 2015

Jeremy Corbyn won’t rescue ruined Scottish Labour


Ah, say Corbyn sympathisers, just watch what happens in Scotland at the 2016 devolved elections. That’s where the fightback will begin. The Scots are lefties, aren’t they? They’ll love Corbyn’s nationalising, disarming, welfarist, republican schtick, surely?

That is delusional thinking based on a misunderstanding of why Scottish Labour landed up with only one Westminster MP and miles behind the SNP at Holyrood. Corbyn won’t win back Scotland for Labour because he will be regarded as a joke with no reach, no purchase and no connection in a country where the ability to “stick up for Scotland” is the defining quality required by voters. When that became the central question in Scottish politics, and the SNP mastered the art of building a broad coalition, Scottish Labour was doomed. Labour made it worse by giving the SNP the opportunity to take devolved power in Edinburgh and then keeping on giving.

Scotland is Left, in the sense that statist attitudes, and a suspicion of profit, are more apparent than in England, particularly among middle-class professionals. This is amplified by a political class that suffers from an incurable moral superiority complex, leaving its members convinced that Scotland is just nicer, kinder and more caring (despite the disgrace of an education system that fails the poorest). But the electorate is a mixed bag, with plenty of voters who would identify as Tory or pro-market in England backing the Nationalists because they are perceived as sticking up for Scotland. It helps too that they have produced in Salmond and Sturgeon convincing media-savvy leaders.

To hold its broad coalition together – and to foster the impression of reasonableness – the SNP’s leaders have even been very nice to the Queen and Prince Charles, even though the instincts of many party activists are solidly republican. The Nationalist leadership are good at politics. Corbyn, who cannot even snub the Queen properly, or make up his mind about what he is trying to do about the privy council, is an amateur in comparison.

A poll  by TNS, published this week, shows the extent of Labour’s ruin. For voting intentions in the constituency section at Holyrood, the SNP is on 56% and Labour is 21%.

That is after Corbyn has been all over the TV for months and Labour’s well-meaning new Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale has had acres of publicity north of the border. And the SNP still has a 35 point lead. Yes, a 35 point lead.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX