The Labour Party’s in such a ‘burnt out shell’ that 14000 people joined it today. The political elite is in total disarray it is reduced to puerile abuse. The Times yesterday said that Labour had elected ‘Caligula’s Horse’. The Telegraph today headlines “Corbyn has just appointed a Nutjob’. The STV’s poor Stephen Daisley was hyper-ventilating: “The Labour Party is now in the hands of the extremists. Its leader is an extremist. A majority of its members and registered supporters are extremists. It is an extremist party.” Cameron was reduced – in comments Lord Robertson would be proud of – of declaring that “The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security.” The Sun announced that Jeremy Corbyn was to ‘appoint a Minister for Jews’.
What’s inconvenient amongst the smears and (understandable) dismay of the routed Blair sect, is the overwhelming and unprecedented backing Corbyn has been given. Corbyn swept to victory with 59.5 percent of the vote, with tens of thousands of people joining the party. The heir to Blair candidate Liz Kendall received 4.5 percent. Democracy’s a bummer.
Despite the media glare and the shrill apocalyptic white noise of the rejected right, Corbyn has cobbled together a Shadow Cabinet with some stability amid the mayhem. He’s brought Andy Burnham in as shadow home secretary and Hilary Benn remains shadow foreign secretary. Diane Abbot is shadow international development secretary. Angela Eagle, the new shadow business secretary, was also named shadow first secretary of state. There’s innovation too with the appointment of the first Minister for Mental Health. The list of people you’ve never heard of resigning from jobs they haven’t been offered is hilariously repeated by a pliant media. As if the world will stop rotating without the giant talents of Jamie Reed and Emma Reynolds.
People don’t like it when politicians don’t play by the rules. The press pack gets nervy. Commentators just about fainted because he turned down the Andrew Marr Show, instead opting to take a breather and get his act together. People called it a ‘stunt’ that he went to a refugee rally. Someone tweeted saying “he’ll need to be clear why he can talk to Hamas but not to Sky News.”
He really won’t.
As Mark Steel put it: “What an outrage. Corbyn says he’ll follow policies he said he supported and that got him elected. Does he know NOTHING about politics?”
Red White and Blue Labour are in meltdown and its cheerleaders in the broadcast media are throwing their dummies out of the pram. They haven’t the balls for an actual coup so instead they’ll plot and leak and smear from the backbenches and to their media confidants.
The other great straw man being put about is ‘Corbyn can’t win a general election’. Who knows? A week ago we were all parroting Daily Mail style hate about ‘immigrants’, now we’ve woken up to ourselves and are holding vigils of solidarity. The political debate is in turmoil, and the managers, spin doctors and professional politicians hate what they can’t control. Myths and lies about who we are are being smashed and re-formed. As Zoe Wiliams wrote: “This conception of the nation, as a solid body of mainly centrist people, who all think broadly the same things, and are just waiting for someone photogenic to come along and articulate it, is fallacious.”
The empty gesture politics of Blair and Cameron is drowning in a pool of its own superficiality. Gloss is dead.
Meanwhile Corbyn’s team will be planning solid policy proposals on areas with huge public support, like public ownership of rail, improved social housing and a defence of the NHS. Far from these policies being barking mad fringe ideas, they are likely to gain widespread sympathy.
What does any of this matter in Scotland?
There’s four ways that this is significant for Scottish politics. The SNP, Greens and Labour can unite on an anti-austerity agenda to stand up to the Tories. No more will we be in the throes of Harriet Harman style roll-over-and-die politics of abstention. This approach may win concessions but is unlikely to defeat an emboldened Conservative government. But it will throw into sharp relief the reality of the Austerity Union.
Second the question now facing a nervous Kezia Dugdale is: Will Scottish Labour follow Corbyn and back scrapping trident? Despite unconvincing protestations that “I’m the boss in Scotland”, she really isn’t, particularly on reserved matters. The very real prospect of a new sanity dawning on UK Labour will provide Dugdale’s remnant Labour offering floundering in the run up to Holyrood where they face continued demolition.
Thirdly, as Corbyn’s Labour looks for friends in Westminster they’ll find them more in the SNP and Green parties than they will in their own. That’s a breeding ground for trade-offs and deals on the constitution. It’s easy to characterise Corbyn as a ‘Unionist’ and he is, but he’s also torn up the political rule book and there’s a moment to grasp. I suspect Angus Robertson, Alex Salmond and the new tranche of MPs to be making some appointments as we speak. The language of ‘self-determination’ is the key to this and there is an open door as Labour try to resurrect themselves and are open to fresh thinking.
Fourth, Corbyn and Tom Watson’s experience and analysis of the media will chime with many in the Yes campaign. His unorthodox approach to (and barely concealed hatred of) the media will be immediately recognised by those of us who experienced Project Fear. The British media and the Murdoch Empire remains an enemy of democracy, north and south of the border. In a speech last year, Tom Watson – a key supporter of the Hacked Off campaign – accused the press of operating “like a mafia, intimidating here, bribing there, terminating careers when it suits them and rewarding their most loyal toadies.”
The Corbyn phenomenon is part of a far wider disillusionment with political elites across the world from Podemos in Spain, to Syrizain Greece, Bernie Sanders in the US, the SNP and the Icelandic Pirate Party all expressing a buoyant rejection of the status quo and the old failed narrative of scapegoating blame culture and economic failure. We can sense it as that and see common ground at Westminster as a new political landscape emerges while giving no ground on our ultimate goal of independence.