- Christopher Tobin
Clause Corbyn: The SNP and Greens reacting to ‘New Old Labour’
Photograph: Flickr / Garry Knight
Jeremy Corbyn’s victory was unprecedented and it was phenomenal. A truely democratic mandate to lead. An expression of solidarity between the grassroots and leftist underdog backbenchers, who now rule the roost at the behest of the party’s establishment. Corbyn’s victory has proven what the success of the SNP arguably already has – that people have a stomach for change. Or at least, perceived change.
The SNP dominates the political landscape of Scotland. Where UKIP promised an earthquake and gave rain, the SNP shone over all forecasts. It will not find such smooth sailing in 2020. It would be ridiculous to argue that all SNP votes came from a belief that Labour was a failing tool in bringing about socialism. Regardless of the arguments made, the party finds its feet in nationalism. To forego decades of tribal like loyalism to Labour and invest in a new movement took its toll on Scottish voters, the expression of commitment to Scotland and being Scottish through vote isn’t something Labour can take on lightly. Even if Corbyn is proven to be the reincarnation of Sir Walter Scott and makes wine from Irn-Bru, by no means can Labour tap into the nationalist spirit. Labour must show that SNP isn’t an anti-austerity party or progressive by any means. The party must show that the Nationalists have privatised public utilities, amongst other things. Labour must show that it is the truly radical, truly progressive party that many Scottish voters want the SNP to be and have wanted Labour to be since Blair.
Whilst the SNP can make promises of grandeur, these are empty. It is easy for the party to promise when they have no power to fulfil anything. Labour can fulfil all the pledges that it makes in Scotland, and the leadership there and here must show that. Labour failed in Scotland because despite having a leftist manifesto, more left than the SNP’s one, its tongue was bit as not to hurt chances in middle England. The SNP will hark on about Trident, but overall the result of Corbynmania will be a swing to the tartan. The SNP will embrace nationalism. It will campaign for the hearts and the guts and not for the minds. Rather than fooling voters not only in Scotland, but across the UK that it is a relic of a bygone age where people were put before profit. It will stand for Scotland, and only Scotland. It is a fight not about policy, but about Westminster, and the result will be fierce.
Corbyn’s election has helped the Greens immensely, but has also hurt their electoral chances. If the Greens weren’t electable in 2015, they’re pretty stuffed for 2020. Their radical, anti- austerity, anti-establishment agenda, which was so inspiring and galvanising amongst young voters will be quashed by Labour's message. Rather than dwindle into the shadows, the Greens must, just as the SNP will, fall on their other leg – environmentalism. With a mandate of public support that doesn’t have to come from votes on a ballot paper, the party can be an effective pressure group in pushing the public and Corbyn on environmentalist issues. I am one of the many young voters who became a Green member in disillusionment with Labour, and then left to elect Corbyn. This wasn’t an expression of loss of belief in their message at all, but rather the exact opposite. I left to vote for Jeremy and I wholeheartedly agreed with the Greens 2015 manifesto. The Green executive admirably and honestly have shown great delight at Corbyn’s victory with leader Natalie Bennett remarking on a “new era” of politics, the end of “greed is good”. The Greens can still be a force for good, but must accept their un-electability.
It is this key difference of one party committed to tribalism, and one totally against it that separates the SNP and the Greens so radically, and will so drastically change their strategy to Corbyn. Whilst the Nationalists will likely build their whole 2020 campaign around Corbynmania, the Greens will most likely ignore and embrace it. Labour has an incredible opportunity to show that it is a truly electable, progressive, party, and if it does, a socialist government in five years’ time isn’t unforeseeable by any means.