Neal Lawson: Corbyn is wrong – we must not rule out a deal with the SNP

Neal Lawson


It has been reported that during his visit to Scotland this week Jeremy Corbyn will rule out a progressive alliance type deal with the SNP. The story, published in The Herald, is just a report so let’s try and head it off with a call for some sanity.

The bottom line is this – as things stand, Labour does not have a cat in hell’s chance of wining the next election alone. Look at the polls, add in boundary changes and mix in an Arron Banks’ super-charged UKIP and the prognosis is poor. The best Labour can hope for is a deal, worked out in advance, that combines Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru to squeeze the Tory vote through a combination of deals and tactical voting.  We can and will rehearse the details of this at another time.  But to rule out such a deal now makes absolutely no sense what so ever.

Of course the dynamics of a Labour leadership campaign says play to thee tribal gallery – perhaps things are closer than they look from the outside?  Or perhaps Jeremy is just an old Labour tribalist – like the old Labour tribalists on the right of the Labour party? Its Labour or nothing.

If he makes this move it puts Jeremy at odds with key Shadow Cabinet allies – Clive Lewis has called for a progressive alliance (PA) and Dave Anderson, the shadow Scotland Secretary, recently said Labour should not rule this out. From the SNP side, former MSP Kenny MacAskill called on his party to have a discussions with Labour. And the backdrop is a Scottish Labour party that’s still going backwards and a context in which there is hardly any chance of a successful second independence referendum anytime in the foreseeable future.

And, even more importantly, all those people who have flocked to Labour want a different kind of politics – they are not tribal and see the strength of a pluralist approach. The tribal husk of the Labour Party in Scotland is trying to box the rest of the party into an electoral corner. It should be resisted.

Sadly, Jeremy is developing form on this. On a recent visit to Brighton he said he wanted to beat Caroline Lucas in the Pavilion seat, a desire to squash one of the most radical and popular voices in British politics.

The term “building a cage for your own victory” was invented for this scenario. Yes Jeremy might play to the tribal Labour gallery and win by a bigger margin – but he will have made it so much more difficult to defeat the Tories and usher in the new politics we so desperately need.

Of course talk up Labour in Scotland – just don’t shoot yourself in the foot at the same time. It would be as sectarian as it is stupid. Jeremy should keep his options open and show himself to be a real political leader.  This time last year he was saying the exact opposite when he said a deal with the SNP was possible. The party and the country needs to go forwards, not backwards.    

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