CfS Winter Bulletin 2016

By Mike Cowley, CfS Executive Member

Whether it is the Scottish parliamentary elections in May, the London Mayoral contest or the European referendum, there are those both within and without the Labour Party determined to anticipate results so disappointing as to offer a pretext for challenging not only Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but the very legitimacy of the politics which swept him to power on an unprecedented mandate late last year. As the Tory government seeks to dismantle every last brick in the post war social democratic edifice, the defeated remnants of the LP right continue to favour personal vitriol over principled opposition, and briefing the capitalist press over organising in their constituencies. 

The amplified expectations of new members, some of whom are returning from periods of inactivity, many more of whom are joining a political Party for the first time, appear not to have been considered in the nooks and crannies of the PLP’s Westminster redoubts. Young people and lapsed members persisted in regarding the LP as the only plausible vehicle for transformative politics in the UK, and an enduring socialist left was there to welcome their arrival. It is our collective vision that exposes the timidity of those for whom Keir Hardie’s confronting of class privilege ought only to be regarded as an artefact of our movement’s curated history.  

The Party’s instrumental role in the reversal of Tax Credit cuts, the highlighting of the UK’s corrupt web of global relations with human rights abusers from China to Saudi Arabia, the targeting of Tory housing policy and the long awaited national debate on the delusions of Trident renewal; all of these, plus a galvanising result in the Oldham West by-election, ought to have provided sufficient evidence that Corbyn’s tenure may well confound his most ardent critics. Instead, the Labour leader has been obliged to fight on multiple fronts to articulate his hopes above the clamour of both friend and foe.  

In Scotland, the SNP’s sustained electoral hegemony presents the SLP with very different political terrain to that faced by Comrades elsewhere in the UK. Despite privatisation, escalating NHS waiting lists, a looming national strike in the Further Education sector, growing inequalities in both income and wealth and the recent closure of the Forth Rd Bridge, Nicola Sturgeon remains the ultimate Teflon politician, buttressed by a flimsy but thus far resilient refrain of Westminster perfidy. But as the contradictions mount, the Nationalists may find it increasingly less plausible to lay the blame for Scotland’s social and economic ills at London’s door, and though May’s elections loom sooner than either Kezia or Jeremy would have preferred, nonetheless the CFS and our sister organisation Momentum can look forward to the Holyrood chambers reverberating to the voices of newly elected socialist MSPs determined to expose the nationalist Emperors concealed behind threadbare social democratic credentials.  

Beyond May, Kezia must continue to distinguish the SLP from a government for whom all policy must first be refracted through the deadening prism of constitutional ambition. On the TU Bill, TTIP, Trident, social housing, the Living Wage, local government cuts, education, health and social care, SLP policy is emerging from the shadow of the Better Together fiasco. By confidently and consistently presenting a redistributive alternative to the national grievances of a Scottish government in thrall to the Mandarins of the neo liberal EU, the SLP can begin to shift the terms of debate from borders and nation towards a reckoning with class power in Scotland and the UK. 

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