The appearance of the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on the Andrew Marr Show at the weekend signalled the end of his kiddy-on-honeymoon with nationalist bloggers and commentators, many of whom seem to have been impatiently waiting for their opportunity to declare him another evil unionist/Red Tory before tossing him into the sea.
The media furore around Corbyn has been relentless and depressing: he supports terrorism, he’s probably a homophobe despite his spotless record on LGBT rights, he wants the world to end in a flurry of beards and pigeons, HE DOESN’T BUTTON UP HIS SHIRT! I’m remiss to join in on the Corbyn bashing because I know the only reason he’s being attacked is that he dares to occupy a political space somewhere to the left of Hitler. That’s inexcusable in the eyes of the media and they will doubtless continue to go out of their way to discredit him, in a manner eerily reminiscent of their treatment of the Yes campaign.
I don’t deny having a soft spot for Jezza, he’s an old commie at the end of the day. Whether he succeeds or fails, it’s a positive development that a Labour leader opposes austerity, supports workers in struggle and puts forward an alternative to continuing on the rightwards lurch which has taken his party to the brink of extinction. But his performance on Sunday demonstrated a fundamental problem for a party seeking to win back Scottish seats – Corbyn doesn’t have a scooby about Scotland.
The kindest thing I can say is that he appears to have been very badly briefed, he certainly came out with a few howlers about the SNP’s record including declaring they were, “…also privatising CalMac, also were behind the privatisation of Scotrail” before concluding that, “flags don’t build houses.” Except, the SNP didn’t privatise CalMac or the railways – and neither union jacks nor Scottish Labour have built many houses lately.
On the CalMac issue, it’s a total riddy for Scottish Labour, who went through exactly the same tendering process when they were in power (at the alleged behest of the EU) to now be criticising the SNP. It’s certainly the case that the SNP could have more fully explored the Teckal Exemption which allows publicly run companies to operate services without the need for a tendering process and Scotland’s ferry services do run the risk of being privatised, even if CalMac will remain a publicly owned operation. The SNP could be making a much bigger noise, stating their belief that our public services should remain public, yet the only noise we’ll hear is “RED TORIES OUT” because Corbyn got his facts wrong.
Far from it all being the SNP’s fault, the railways were privatised in 1993 by the Tories, prior to the existence of the Scottish Parliament. What the SNP chose to do was not delay the recent tendering process for Scotrail, which the RMT asked be put back until after the full extent of the powers (or lack thereof) which would be contained in the Scotland Bill were finalised. This allowed Dutch firm Abellio to win a 10 year contract despite the fact Holyrood may be given powers to renationalise the railways in a few years time. Our rail network may be privately owned for longer than otherwise would have been the case had the SNP made different political choices. We could and should be asking why this happened but instead Corbyn sprattled shite which was very easy for the SNP to rebuke.If Jezza wants to get a taste of what’s he’s missed out on these last few years, I’d suggest he takes a gander at the Scottish Government’s White Paper on Independence, particularly the section on Transport. It doesn’t even contain a firm commitment to bring Scotland’s rail network back into public ownership, preferring a wooly reference to being able to decide, “the best ownership model for rail and track for the benefit of the people of Scotland.” He could simply have asked the SNP to match his commitment to a publicly owned rail network.
Or perhaps Corbyn could be trying to figure out what’s going on in relation to one area of transport policy which is already devolved – bus services. It’s a small wonder the SNP have been allowed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories when it comes to opposing the regulation of the busses for so long. The SNP membership voted for a resolution which committed them to re-regulating the bus network at their 2007 Conference yet the pledge didn’t appear in the 2007 manifesto published a few months later. What happened in between? Brian Souter (who just so happens to own loads of busses) donated £500,000 to the party.
On a similar note, the main transport priority for the SNP these days seems to be the devolution of Air Passenger Duty, a nice bung for the airline bosses who made vaguely positive noises about independence during the referendum campaign. Will Scottish Labour oppose this tax cut? Not likely when Kezia Dugdale has already declared the next Holyrood manifesto will be their most pro-business ever.
Jeremy Corbyn could have had so much ammunition if his aim was to hold the SNP to account for their transport polices – but instead, he just lied and made himself look like a dafty. That he was clearly briefed by Scottish Labour’s leadership is beyond infuriating; I’m rarely surprised when an English lefty doesn’t have a fucking clue about Scotland but Scottish Labour are running out of excuses. Given that Corbyn won’t be getting the Scottish leadership on board his soon-to-be renationalised train any time soon, he would be well advised to steer clear of their ongoing train wreck.
As Labour in Scotland continue to tumble further and further off the rails, there’s a danger the SNP will continue to be given a free ride.
Corbyn was in Westminster when rails were privitised by the Tories and knew perfectly well it was a lie. In fact, he later refused to withdraw the false accusation when challenged on it in a ‘fine’ bit of political doublespeak. As far as that the Scottish government should wait years for a POSSIBLE change in the law, that strikes me as a silly position to take. There are certainly criticisms that could be made about buses in Scotland, but I suppose that didn’t sound dramatic enough for Mr. Corbyn, because I don’t think you can blame what he knows are outright lies on Labour in Scotland, though heaven knows they don’t mind doing the same. What we see is in the SNP is what happens when a government is not held to account by a COMPETENT opposition; they aren’t forced to address weaknesses. Corbyn is doing nothing to improve that situation with what are vacuous and down-right silly lies.
Do you know what would have happened had ScotGov halted the tendering process for ScotRail? Who would have run ScotRail after the deal with First expired? I can’t find the RMT’s position on this, and it seems key to their argument that the tendering process could have been delayed.
With the information I can find, it seems that the contract ScotGov negotiated (with a five year break clause) makes sense: it’s commercially attractive for a private operator to want to take it on, but short term enough to facilitate prompt nationalisation once the relevant powers were devolved (and with the Scotland Bill currently only at committee stage that could be a long way off).
The whole Corby Saga is something that makes me generally uneasy.
The general theme of his policies seem attractive, but he obviously doesn’t really know a lot about up here. There’s the added issue that Corbyn has to bring a rebellious party to heel if he wants any of his policies to materialise, something that’ll be difficult to do for a former rebel himself.
This just brings into sharp focus the disconnect and weird limbo status of scottish labour- Am I voting for a party led by Kez or Korby if I vote labour? does it depend on the election? What policies do they share? what policies MUST they share?
I’d like to echo Tomlin above on account of opposition. I used to fantasise about a world with PR, where parties were held to account on any silly shit or backdoor deals, but I’m not sure this would really solve the problem.
I think people get polarised by major issues, and will naturally gravitate to one big banner, and other people will gravitate to the biggest not-that-banner. Add into the mix the inevitable media circus and what you end up with is parties not really holding each other to account, but just constantly shitting all over each other for whatever purple reason.
tl;dr, i dunno lol
The thing about Calmac and Serco though is that the SNP *did* have a legal out to say they weren’t going to put essential services out to tender – and the ferry services to the islands are essential. For the people who live there, Calmac’s their only way off the island, if they can’t afford to fly and don’t have a boat.
Now certainly, Corbyn should have said “privatising Calmac services” (the low-profit ones which are just essential, not touristy) rather than “privatising Calmac”. He could also have name-checked Serco.
But it’s the people jumping on him for misspeaking who have decided to give the SNP a free pass to hand Calmac services over to Serco, not Corbyn…