Andrew Whitaker: Findlay’s role in Corbyn’s rise

Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Getty
Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Getty
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JEREMY Corbyn coming from nowhere to emerge as the favourite to be elected as Labour leader was the unrivalled political story of the summer and could well be one of the most momentous happenings in the party’s 115-year history.

But perhaps one of the least talked about aspects of Corbyn’s genuinely grassroots and issue-driven campaign is the pivotal role a Scottish Labour politician has played in garnering support for the outsider who looks set to succeed Ed Miliband.

Should Corbyn be declared the winner a week on Saturday, the left-wing MP will owe a part of his success to Lothians MSP Neil Findlay – who has run his leadership campaign north of the Border and is a key ally.

Findlay has already received plaudits as one of the few Scottish Labour figures who has effectively fought back against the dominant SNP in the last parliament after he unexpectedly won election to Holyrood in 2011.

One of the few MSPs to have recently done a real job outside politics, Findlay worked as a teacher and bricklayer in the villages of the Lothians and has one of the most solid working class backgrounds of any Labour politician north or south of the Border.

Findlay took the fight to the SNP government over the failure of ministers to order a Hillsborough-style inquiry into the convictions of Scottish miners during the 1984-5 strike and repeatedly angered the Nationalist administration by accusing it of failing to use its powers to extend the living wage.

However, if Corbyn pulls off a win on 12 September, Findlay, defeated by Jim Murphy in Scottish Labour’s leadership election last year, will become a key figure in party circles even if he was to fail to win re-election to Holyrood in 2016.

Newly elected Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, a Lothians MSPs like Findlay, has already made it clear she would have a constructive relationships with a Corbyn-led UK Labour Party.

But in such circumstances Findlay would be key in ensuring good relations between UK and Scottish Labour, with a direct line of contact to Corbyn.

It’s Findlay and former North Ayrshire and Arran Labour MP Katy Clark, a highly astute and effective figure on the Scottish Labour Left, who devoted time to ensuring Corbyn was properly briefed on Scottish politics during his successful campaign visits north of the Border last month.

Of course the irony is that Findlay, no-one’s idea of a careerist politician, has probably not thought of things in these terms and is instead motivated by trying to get a Labour leader probably for the first time in his and many other people’s lives who is the real thing when it comes to socialism.