Tommy Sheppard on Yes/Leave voters & the threat of Corbyn
Below are two excerpts from Tommy Sheppard’s Thomas Muir lecture entitled: How we win the next referendum.
Tommy has some ideas on how to win back the pro-indy Brexiteers. Like us, he thinks that EFTA may be a solution.
To many SNP supporters who voted Leave, this was a bridge too far, and rather than risk their vote being claimed as a mandate against Brexit they simply stayed at home.
Some, particularly in areas with the largest Brexit votes, such as the north-east, might well have lent their vote to other parties in protest at what they perceived as the SNP’s Europhilia.
Given that the Tories were the most Eurosceptic, it seems likely they were the main beneficiaries of this shift. Now, these SNP leavers still believe in independence, so the question is how to get them back.
There are good reasons for not liking the EU: the Common Fisheries Policy; the constraints on member states’ borrowing; the lack of democratic accountability.
And there are bad ones: xenophobia and resistance to international co-operation.
I am very pro the European Union. As a socialist, I believe firmly that restraining capitalism and limiting corporations’ ability to exploit workers, consumers and the environment is a damn sight better than letting them do what they want.
But the EU could be better and we would do well to develop a critical narrative that looks at how we would like the EU to develop – contributing to an agenda for change in Europe along with other progressive parties.
Most of all, we need to be clear that an independent Scotland would seek a relationship with the EU that is palpably in the interests of the people who live here.
Whenever we get the chance, it should be the objective of an independent Scottish government to negotiate a deal with the EU which is best for Scotland. That doesn’t mean membership at all costs; it may well mean a hybrid relationship such as that enjoyed by Norway.
Whatever the deal, it should then be put to the people of Scotland for confirmation in a further referendum. Independence means having the ability to decide things for ourselves, whether that be how our health service is organised or the agreements we have with other countries.
The main concern for all of us who seek self-government should not be whether we are in the EU but who decides whether we are in the EU – the people of Scotland, or someone else. For now, that decision is being taken by someone else, and against the express wishes of people in Scotland. The case for independence is that it removes the democratic deficit required by the UK in this as in so many other areas.
He suggests that Corbyn has some limitation and he offers some advice on how to combat the Corbyn effect.
I know several people who told me that they voted Yes in 2014, and voted for me in 2015, but this time they voted Labour because they wanted to endorse, and I guess, associate with the message he was putting out.
And, of course, given that the SNP spent most of the campaign saying the election was not about independence anyway then, from their point of view, where was the harm in lending their vote to Jeremy?
The ironies of this are manifest. For starters, the Labour victories in Scotland for the most part replaced left-wing SNP MPs who were well disposed to Corbyn in the House of Commons with right-wing Labour ones who are not. A few more Corbyn sympathisers were taken out by Tories in seats where the Scottish Labour leadership’s exhortation to vote for anyone but the SNP saw Labour voters do just that. But perhaps the most interesting thing is, given Labour has leaked support from the right to the Tories while at the same gaining support from SNP and Green voters on the left, the cohort of Labour supporters in Scotland has never been more open to the prospect of independence.
If the Scottish Labour leadership respond to this by allowing a genuine debate inside the party and allowing those who support independence the right to organise, we would be in for a very interesting time indeed.
This is something the wider Yes movement should keep a close eye on.
How should the SNP respond to Corbyn’s Labour Party?
Firstly, we should work together where we agree on things. There may well be opportunities in the new arithmetic of the Westminster Parliament where we can combine with others to defeat the Tories. Of course we should take them.
Secondly, we should point out the limitations of Corbynism – and they are many – when it comes to change in the UK. He does not support constitutional or electoral reform; despite his personal history he cannot get his party to review, never mind stop, our expanding nuclear weapons programme; and his proposals for the welfare state were a lot more modest than what we were arguing. In short, Corbyn’s Labour isn’t half as radical as it thinks it is.
Moreover, the main limitation is that despite amassing a lot of goodwill among the electorate, swaying legions of floating left and liberal voters, and genuinely activating a new layer on erstwhile no voters – he still didn’t win.
But the main way we tackle Corbynism is to accentuate our own uniqueness – and that is the case for independence.
You can check out his full speech here.
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