SNP squeezed: Labour stakes claim to future victories

21 June 2017

THE RETURN of two party politics in England was mirrored to a more limited extent in Scotland, with both Labour and the Tories gaining at the expense of the Scottish National Party, who shed a third of their seats, including those held by former leader Alex Salmond and deputy leader Angus Robertson.

The big winner was the Scottish Conservatives, who gained a dozen seats, including reclaiming the SNP stronghold in the North East – home of the original Tartan Tories. Under their dynamic leader Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tories contrast favourably with Theresa May, and Davidson is sure to exploit her newfound prestige for all its worth in the coming battles over Brexit and the deal with the DUP.

But perhaps Labour have even more reason to feel satisfied with their six seats given the nadir the Scottish party had sunk to under Blairite Jim Murphy and his successor Kezia Dugdale. Labour came second in 25 seats, ensuring Scotland will play a central role in the next election. Dugdale has modulated her anti-Corbyn stance, but doubtless few will be convinced of her sincerity.

With several big SNP majorities in Glasgow reduced to narrow marginals, another General Election campaign waged on a full blooded left wing programme could recover Labour’s position. Thanks to our electoral system, Labour got 11.8 per cent of the seats, but with 27.1 per cent of the vote will be confident that the Corbyn turn has set the party on the road to recovery.

The result dealt a fatal blow to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to use a second independence referendum as leverage in the Brexit negotiations. Though the SNP remains the largest party, with Theresa May’s government likely to soften its stance on Brexit, the SNP could find themselves squeezed as voters choose the certainty of class and unionism over the superficial attractions of Scottish nationalism.

With independence off the agenda and workers rallying to the pedestrian but reliable social-democracy served up by Corbyn’s Labour, the nationalist left groups ought to reflect seriously on why their “Scottish road to socialism” has led to a dead end.

Finally, those south of the border who wanted to abandon Scotland to the nationalists and form an electoral alliance with this thoroughly bourgeois party ought to be feeling a bit foolish. Sticking to principles – working class independence – pays in the long run and as we have seen, during times of political turbulence, even during the short run. Our task now is to recover working class Scotland for a militant left wing Labour Party and government.

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