Leaders: Two divided parties – but only one scents power

Jeremy Corbyn is fighting for his political life in the Labour leadership battle with Owen Smith. Picture: PA
Jeremy Corbyn is fighting for his political life in the Labour leadership battle with Owen Smith. Picture: PA
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The country needs a strong opposition but, with May’s Tories pulling ahead in the polls, there is little hint of Labour unity breaking out

Latest figures show the Tories leaping ahead of Labour in popularity across the UK. And No10’s new incumbent Theresa May is way ahead of Jeremy Corbyn in terms of who is regarded as being best suited to run the country.

A new poll by TNS/BMRB revealed 44 per cent think Theresa May has the attributes to make her a better leader for Britain than Mr Corbyn. The current Labour leader has the backing of just 16 per cent of the population. Even people who voted Labour at the last election have their doubts about his ability to govern, with 45 per cent saying he is “performing badly”. The same poll gives the Tories a whopping 13-point lead over Labour.

All this comes at a time of deep internal divisions within both parties. It is only a matter of weeks since the surprise Brexit referendum result, which saw one of the most divisive campaigning the Tory party has ever seen. Party heavyweights battled it out on both sides of the argument – which, naturally, must have left deep wounds.

While the result inevitably led to David Cameron giving up the reins of power, it has led to Mrs May taking over. Not only is she only the second woman in the post, she was one of the heavyweights who backed Britain staying in the 28-member EU.

Yet despite her argument being lost on the majority of the UK public, she has found herself with what appears to an unassailable lead.

It says something for Mrs May’s popularity that, despite being on the losing side of 
the EU battle, she finds herself tasked with doing exactly what she did not want, leading us out of the EU, all the while winning a leadership context and seeing her party rise in popularity.

It is clear political parties can bounce back from internal divisions and win the trust of voters. But maybe not all parties. Since the EU referendum, the level of division within the Labour party seems to have intensified.

We now have one of the country’s highest courts of law being asked to decide party matters. Today the Court of Appeal will rule in a dispute about Labour’s decision to block nearly 130,000 of its members from voting in its leadership contest. The party has appealed against a High Court ruling that those joining after 12 January should be allowed to vote.

It comes amid a leadership challenge to Mr Corbyn, who lost a vote of no confidence by his MPs and saw mass resignations from his top team. He is still holding on. But unlike Mrs May, the latest poll show Labour’s internal wranglings are clearly putting off voters.

Even with the second-largest trade union now backing Mr Corbyn, the party’s ongoing leadership battle only highlights the momentous level of distrust that exists between the two camps. It is hard to see how the party will recover as one from this. But Britain needs a strong democracy and for that a strong opposition is a must. Let’s hope the Labour sorts itself out as soon as possible and gets back to holding the UK government to account.

Dark humour beats no humour

There is a tendency in film, literature and other cultural output to portray the negative aspects of Scottish life.

Films like Trainspotting, Ratcatcher and even Braveheart – fine though they are – depict the gloomier side of life.

Even popular television shows like Still Game and Rab C Nesbit use humour to show the miserableness we feel. And we love it. We understand it. We laugh at it.

But what does so-called miserablism tell us about ourselves? Is it time we move away from an image of Scotland that constantly casts itself as the poor relation?

David Manderson, a creative writing lecturer at the West of Scotland who co-authored A Glass Half Full, has started a new study to explore whether Scotland’s obsession with dourness and dark comedy has caught on elsewhere.

His original work explored the origins of our bleak take on Scottish life and the negative image of Scotland we portray not only to the world but to ourselves.

Maybe it is our modesty or maybe it is self- defence. But whatever it is, our humour might be dark, it might be termed as dour but at least it is finding fun in something. Surely it is better to have dark humour than no humour at all. Even if that means highlighting what’s wrong with our lives and the world – if it makes us chuckle, then so be it.

Manderson is aiming to find out if and why the world is becoming more downbeat. With the current worldwide political climate, it is easy to see why we are feeling more vulnerable and anxious.

So thank goodness for nordic noir and Scotland’s love of miserablism – these offer light relief in an increasingly unfunny world.