Just when you thought that politics couldn’t get any more exciting, the Labour Party comes along and decides on a course of internal combustion. The fratricide surrounding their leadership election is approaching unbelievable and those of us in the SNP have just been observing events in slack jawed amazement.
The Corbyn phenomenon is almost as dramatic as it was unpredicted. I don’t think anyone expected much from the UK Labour leadership contest, as the usual assorted Blairite centrists started to throw their hats into the ring. But the Labour membership is restless and they do not want ‘business as usual’. Their approach has been in response to the bland Blairite managerialism, mixed up with general anti-establishment politics. It is going to be some ride in the next few months, if as predicted, Jeremy Corbyn triumphs.
The big question is what happens next? What will be the response from the Labour leadership and most importantly what is the UK establishment likely to do?
In the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) there are only about 20 or so MPs who have declared support for Jeremy, with the rest bitterly hostile to his agenda. I don’t think there will be a split or large scale departures. The lesson of that remains forlornly marooned in the diminished ranks of the Liberal Democrats. Labour MPs will not make that mistake again.
More likely, the PLP will indulge in ‘hostile accommodation’ until they can securely dispatch of him at a time of their choosing. There will be a campaign of subtle undermining of his leadership. The PLP will gleefully present any evidence of failure with setbacks brutally exposed to try and convince the wider Labour membership of the dreadful mistake they have made and wait for the clamour to have the Blairite ‘consensus’ reinstalled again. This is a risky strategy as Labour members are just as likely to blame the MPs for any failure, and who knows, some of Jeremy’s approaches just might become popular.
That brings us to the establishment’s response. Thus far, the establishment has been conflicted in its response to the Corbyn phenomena. It has been a bit shocked at its emergence and the potential threat it presents to everything they currently enjoy. On the other hand, it has taken the view that Corbynism could never prevail and has encouraged it, hoping that the current establishment party of choice – the Tories – will become unassailable. In Scotland we got a glimpse of the establishment response when it felt that their vital interests were threatened by Scottish independence. This will be as nothing compared to the fury that will be directed at Jeremy Corbyn if there was a sense he was to prevail.
We in the SNP should carefully negotiate the new environment we will find ourselves in. At the end of the last Parliament we became the de-facto opposition and we should continue to assert ourselves as such. We will work with all who propose a progressive agenda and we will always support the interests of the Scottish people.