Tuesday, 29 September 2015


Gavin Newlands: Instead of “new politics”, Corbyn's anti-SNP dogma continues a decades-old tradition


JEREMY Corbyn emphatically won the Labour Party leadership contest just over a fortnight ago, despite the best efforts of his parliamentary colleagues.

In fact, just a matter of weeks before his victory he was regarded by those same colleagues as one of the few remnants of the "loony left" of Labour's past.

Corbyn was swept to victory on a wave of disillusionment with the traditional and archaic Westminster model of politics. His ticket was clear: “new politics”, anti-austerity and anti-Trident.

I believed that this could be a break with the past and that this was a Labour leader who the SNP could work with to oppose the Tories.

After all, whilst he was a backbencher, Corbyn voted with the SNP group at Westminster more than any other Labour MP.

However, yesterday on the Andrew Marr Show – after only two weeks of being the leader of the Labour Party – Corbyn appeared to adopt the anti-SNP rhetoric and soundbites of Labour leaders of the past.

He, rather bizarrely, claimed that the SNP had privatised both ScotRail and Caledonian MacBrayne – and went on to say that that “flags don’t build houses” and the SNP was not anti-austerity.

First of all, the railways in Scotland were privatised in 1993 after John Major’s Tory government passed the Railways Act.

This legislation, of course, predates the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and the election of the SNP Scottish Government – but Corbyn should know that as he had been an MP for 10 years when the Act was debated and passed in the House of Commons.

Caledonian MacBrayne is, contrary to the new Labour leader’s accusations on the Andrew Marr Show, a public organisation owned by the Scottish Government. CalMac cannot, in any way, be described as being “privatised”.

Nevertheless, the new Labour leader is right about one thing: flags certainly do not build houses. However, neither does the Labour Party.

The SNP has delivered 4,500 new council houses in Scotland since 2007 – compared to the six that Labour completed during their last term in government – despite swinging cuts to the Scottish Government’s budget.

Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, have been believed to be radical backbench MPs frustrated with New Labour’s flirtation with neo-liberalism and the party’s lurch to the right.

It is therefore surprising to hear the new Shadow Chancellor, who now holds the power to change tack, commit a future Labour government to the Tory’s fiscal policy.

Unfortunately, Jeremy Corbyn’s “new politics” didn’t last long. In fact, it has taken Jeremy just a fortnight to realise that winning a leadership contest is one thing. Changing and driving through a new policy agenda is quite another.

Corbyn's impotence in this area was laid bare this weekend when his attempt to secure a debate on Labour’s position on Trident failed to make it on to his party's conference agenda.

Labour leaders appear to make a perpetual promise of a “new politics” that is radically different to the Westminster status quo during elections, referenda and leadership contests – but fail to fulfil their promise.

Instead, the anti-SNP dogma that has engulfed the Labour Party for decades continues. This time we really thought it might be different, but as ever, Labour flatter to deceive and it's a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

If it were ever in doubt, the 56-strong SNP group at Westminster is the real opposition to this Tory government and their ideologically-driven agenda.

Gavin Newlands is SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North

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