Darren McGarvey: Corbyn forces Yes movement to admit union still has heartbeat

Ian Murray quit as Shadow Scottish Secretary rather than serve under Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: John Devlin
Ian Murray quit as Shadow Scottish Secretary rather than serve under Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: John Devlin
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Last year, Labour MP and hero of Better Together, Ian Murray, made a bit of a song and dance about ­Jeremy ­Corbyn being rubbish, before resigning live on television. The dummy wasn’t long out of the pram before everyone forgot about it, and our fleeting attentions turned to every other person who jumped on the bandwagon.

At the time, Murray’s move was part of a wider convulsion ­within the party, recoiling at the ­prospect of electoral oblivion under the leadership of a muesli-munching bearded lefty. One year on, ­Scottish Labour is now experiencing a ­mysterious bounce in the polls, days before voters go to the ­ballot box and I might be wrong, but I ­suspect it has nothing to do with Ian ­Murray.

It might have something to do with Kezia Dugdale’s unequivocal recommitment to the Union a few weeks ago, having been accused of demonstrating an unacceptable ­level of open-mindedness on the issue of Scottish independence. Now her position is unambiguous: Scottish Labour will definitely never, ever support independence under any circumstances, ever. But even that doesn’t explain why ­Scottish Labour appear to be neck-and-neck with Ruth Davidson’s delusional gaggle of goose-stepping fox-hunters.

Maybe the slight shift in Labour’s electoral fortunes north of the ­border has something to do with the SNP, which appears unusually ­constrained? The usual ­tactic of simply laughing self-satisfyingly while finger-pointing in the direction of Westminster is ­having ­markedly less impact. Angus ­Robertson, the personification of SNP smugness, demonstrated ­precisely the ­problem the SNP has at the last ­televised debate: on the UK stage, he is free to make the sort of basic ­moral arguments his ­party go to great lengths to evade and deflect in the parliament they ­control.

When the SNP are in London, politics is a simple game of heroes and villains, but in Holyrood, when faced with tough questions, they want us all to appreciate how ­complicated issues like taxation and public sector pay really are. This shallow posturing, designed to score points as opposed to solve problems, is something that’s becoming increasingly transparent to many Yes voters who’re no longer emotionally invested in the whole SNP experience. The truth is, the nationalist crease in the ­fabric of Scottish politics is less pronounced today than at any time since ­September 2014.

So, who is holding the iron? Is it Theresa May? No chance. The Iron Lady 2.0 looks barely capable of holding the ironing. This is a lady who certainly is for turning; U-turning to be precise. Every time she tries to seize the initiative, it seems to recoil from her spidery clutches and go back up in the air with the rest of her short-term plans.

So, what on earth is causing so much disruption to the usual flow of things up here in the Bermuda Triangle of Scottish politics? Scores of voters, who’ve been supporting the SNP since the referendum, are now quietly wrestling with the ­prospect of voting Labour. Could it be Ian ‘Machiavelli’ Murray’s formidable skills of persuasion causing this deep conflict in the soul of many a Yes voter? What about Blair ­‘Master of the Yoonisverse’ MacDougall? Is he the don behind the scenes ­pulling the strings?

Or is it the muesli-munching bearded lefty they’ve all been ­trying to flush down the political toilet for 12 months? Is it Jeremy Corbyn, the guy they said would lead them to a new dark age, who has made many of them electable again? Corbyn, win or lose, has already achieved something neither of them ever could – he’s forced many in the Yes movement to confront the notion that this union, long regarded ­unviable, may have the faintest trace of a heartbeat.

Now does that mean we ­suddenly abandon the prospect of an ­independent Scotland? No, of course not. But given that Sturgeon has now earmarked 2025 as the new placeholder for the indy project, it’s going to be hard for ­people ­genuinely interested in social ­justice to resist Corbyn’s appeal to their radical sensibility.

Corbyn is proving that you can make political inroads from the left. He’s forcing the Tories into U-turn after U-turn and, north of the ­border, he is the first thing the SNP is losing real sleep over.

Sturgeon and Co. look decidedly wobbly when confronted by someone with truly left-wing ­credentials. Hopefully, it will encourage them to be bolder at the next ­election up here, though I doubt their capacity to play second ­fiddle now that they’ve tasted ­power. Meantime, they will be forced to appear ­constructive or risk being portrayed as saboteurs of social ­justice for the many – not just for the Scots.

Corbyn, in all his clumsy, beardedness, has raised the ­previously unthinkable prospect that social justice, so long the exclusive ­preserve of the SNP – who claim it’s only possible by separation – is achievable within the ­United Kingdom. Corbyn, in all his ­muesli-munching incompetence, is ­outlining the kind of passionate vision of the UK that’s never been articulated.

Rather than spitting the ­dummy, it’s something the Ian Murrays of this world would do well to pay more attention to – and be ­thankful for.

Darren McGarvey is also known as Loki, a Scottish rapper and social ­commentator @lokiscottishrap