The SNP is far more radical than Corbyn’s Labour
It is understandable that many on the Scottish left are drawn to Jeremy Corbyn.
I noticed the trend on social media and within my social group in the run up to GE2017. At that time, I wrote a blog urging Lefties not to vote for Corbyn. People must have been conflicted as it was one of the most read blogs in the history of this site.
The debate blew up again over the weekend when Cat Boyd, one of the strongest voices on the left, told Sunday Politics Scotland she had voted for Labour.
The clip was short and the channel didn’t give her enough air time to express her reasoning. From reading many of her previous articles and hearing her speak, I don’t doubt that her vote wasn’t completely well thought out and rational.
That said, I still think progressive Scottish Lefties voting for Corbyn over the SNP are committing a fundamental tactical error.
I’ll get to that error shortly but first I’d like to acknowledge something about the radical credentials of both parties.
In most areas, neither of them is particularly radical. Sure, you can cherry pick information to bolster whatever argument you want to make.
I could point out that the Labour manifesto was pro-trident, anti-independence, committed to Tory welfare cuts and committed to a hard Brexit. The latter, if you believe the economists, could lead a massive fall in UK GDP, resulting in austerity on a scale that would make even IDS blush.
Still, as I said, you can play the same game with SNP policy, and make them look more right wing than Labour. You could point out that thay have been relatively centrist over their 10 year spell in power. Why don’t they raise Income Tax at Holyrood? Why haven’t they reformed Local Government or changed the Council Tax System?
In the days after the 2014 independence referendum, I argued that we should get on with using Holyrood powers to set a progressive Scotland apart from the UK. To show people the potential of independence. Like many on the pro-indy left, I have been severely disappointed by the SNP’s failure to do so. That game of Radical Top Trumps isn’t going to get us anywhere though.
There is one fundamental reason to choose the SNP over Labour.
History shows us that the problem with voting for change is that you seldom get what you hoped for. I have seen numerous leaders come to power on tidal waves of hope and surges of endless possibility. Sooner or later their swell dissipates as their ideologies are thrust against the staunch rigidity of an antiquated and corrupt political system.
If Corbyn had come to power in June he might have achieved great things but the system would have ensured those things fell far short of what he promised. And if he had been lucky enough to last a few years, he would have eventually been replaced by the Tories and the cycle of UK politics would have continued.
If you really care about making the UK/Scotland a more progressive, fair and radical society, your prime goal should be to change the system. Otherwise, you are just plugging a hole in a sinking ship. The system we have offers little choice and is too open to manipulation by powerful people and organisations with vested interests. That is the nub of the issue but our system won’t change unless it is threatened. It is in this fundamental area that the SNP are far more useful to progressives than Labour.
Corbyn may well be a rebel, but he is an establishment rebel who has spent 34 years within the Westminster system.
Changing it is not his priority whereas the whole raison d’être of the SNP is to tear that system down. The SNP is a threat to the survival of the establishment whereas Corbyn is just a parasite the establishment might have to suffer for a few years before they get their paws back on the levers of power.
It should be noted that I can’t say with certainty that Corbyn wouldn’t have changed the system.
Afterall, the Labour manifesto contained a commitment to hold a constitutional convention. Yet forgive me for being sceptical about the outcome of that process without it being accompanied by a tangible threat to the survival of the union. The establishment will only change as much as it needs to in order to remain in power. It will give as little as it can get away with. You only need to compare Gordon Brown’s VOW proposals to the recommendations of the Smith Commission to understand the dynamic at play.
They promised us the world when it looked like we might bring down the UK but they failed to deliver when they thought the referendum had quashed the threat.
While much SNP policy is not as radical as I’d like it to be, it is dangerous for the Scottish left to smother the threat the SNP carry. That threat is the most useful tool we have if we actually want to meaningfully change things in the long term.
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