Diary of a Corbyn foot soldier
By Michael Murray
Facebook: Michael Murray London – a commentary/digest of political news for busy people.
A dictionary definition of “foot soldier” “…a dedicated low level follower.”
In this issue:
“The silly season comes to a halt
Traditionally, August is known as the “silly season” because people and organizations wind down and take holidays, deserved or not. And, thus, news is comprised of silly, or sillier, stories than usual. The news item that left me scratching my head was the one that reported a huge increase in head lice – due the practice of mobile phone “selfies.”
For this Corbyn foot soldier August has been a welcome break from electioneering and, dare I admit, meetings bloody meetings. But not for Jeremy Corbyn. Early August he announced a round-Britain tour of marginal constituencies – in anticipation of another general election in the near future.
I followed his progress, scantily reported in the main stream media, from the comfort of my armchair. Frankly, I had thought Jeremy was pushing his luck after, admittedly, a phenomenal reversal of political fortunes occasioned by the June election results. But there on the laptop screen was evidence to the contrary. Huge crowds of supporters turned out for him, often despite inclement weather, along the south coast, from Hastings as far as Cornwall; up the country through the big cities – and the little towns with names new to me.
All occasioned, not only by Jeremy’s tremendous energy, but by all the local party machines and activists up and down the country getting involved, as well appearances at the rallies of party shadow ministers, MPs and other elder Labour “statesmen,” notably John Prescott. Not bad – for the silly season. And still up on YouTube: google Corbyn’s Summer Campaign, or Corbyn in Cornwall, or Stockport or Milton Keynes to mention three out of dozens.
None of those meetings could be put down to just novelty value or mere curiosity – though those were no doubt a factor, especially in the seaside holiday towns. Something significant was working its way through the body politic. “Corbyn mobbed on visit to Wales,” wrote Wales OnLine 19 Aug. Corbyn’s marginal constituencies has “raked in the coverage and crowds,” according to the Guardian, 28 August. And this time in Wales there was no repeat of reported Welsh Labour Party shunning of Corbyn in the run-up to the last General Election.
Corbyn got a similar response in Scotland. A Guardian headline (23 August), of an article by Ewen McAskill, read: “Labour is coming back in Scotland.” In Stornaway the venue had to be changed to a larger one to facilitate the huge turnout. Labour ex Minister, now Chair of Harris Tweed, Brian Wilson, a heavyweight critic of Corbyn in the past, expressed his support for Corbyn’s political leadership of the party, acknowledging “that you can harness support for a radical political agenda” (Daily Record, 24 August). If, as seems to be widely acknowledged, Scotland holds the key to a Labour Government then Corbyn seems to be now accepted as the leader to return a Labour victory in Scotland.
The timing of Scottish Labour Party Leader Kazia Dugdale’s resignation, can only be interpreted as another sign of a shift towards a Corbynist Labour Party in Scotland, though the internal democratic process alone will decide that. But there was a time, not long ago, when any such resignation would have been, or depicted as being, an anti-Corbyn act. How times have changed.
In the aftermath of the General Election swing to Labour, a total of 95 seats had been targeted as being marginal. Of these Labour would have to gain at least 64 to have a majority. And of these Labour needs to take 18 in Scotland, where, according to LabourList, 22 August, to take up to seven of those seats (mostly held by the SNP) would only require a 1% swing to Labour.
On reflection: to make the big, decisive breakthrough, perhaps it is necessary for Labour to look again at the tactics of dealing with the political landscape in Scotland impacted, as it was in recent years, by the independence issue. “Sceal (sgeul) eile!” you could say in Irish/Scots Gaelic. But, in support of that, according to an article in “The Scotsman,” 29 August, Labour’s new position on a soft Brexit gives the SNP – even reduced as it was by the last General Election – a key role in any soft Brexit Labour-led alliance in the House of Commons.
Incidentally, the final August YouGov poll results show Labour at 42% and Conservatives at 41% while the Guardian/ICM poll conducted within the same week found Labour and Conservatives at level pegging: on 42%. This has been interpreted by some sections of the press as evidence that Corbyn’s August travails have been in vain. But poll results during the run-up to the General Election had me doubting the evidence of my own eyes – and ears – on the doorsteps canvassing. Once bitten, twice shy. And I don’t mean head lice.