Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy is a gift to the SNP – Ayesha Hazarika

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit strategy seems to ignore Scotland (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit strategy seems to ignore Scotland (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
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Many Labour activists in Scotland have their head in their hands, fearing the party may end up appearing to be colluding with the Tories over Brexit, writes Ayesha Hazarika.

The Westminster bubble is real. But when I was in Parliament on Tuesday, when MPs voted on a raft of Brexit amendments, it felt like many MPs were living in their very own micro-bubbles – particularly on the Labour side.

There are as many Labour positions on Brexit as there are Labour MPs. Those in leave-voting seats have a tough gig. They are trying to listen to their constituents and listen to their gut instincts about what they think is best for the country. Who they are not listening to is their leader.

For a man famed for such clarity on many other issues, Jeremy Corbyn has played an elusive game on Brexit. The Labour position is still unclear to many and Labour MPs have decided to do what the Fleetwood Mac song says: “You can go your own way.”

Although the Labour leadership eventually supported the key Yvette Cooper amendment to delay Brexit, it was very late in the day and that sent a signal that it was a soft whip. The Labour MPs who defied the whip or abstained and helped a beleaguered Prime Minister secure that vital Brexit win won’t even get put on the naughty step.

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Labour loyalists are relaxed about Theresa May’s victory. It’s all still a shambles, they say, which is an absolutely fair point. The Labour plan seems to be don’t block Brexit, let the Tories own the chaos, chillax until the General Election then romp home to victory. Simples!

Well, not quite. Many Labour strategists seem to have forgotten that Labour cannot win a majority without winning seats in Scotland. The obsession with Labour votes in the North of England has meant that the rather large, cold place north of that has been somewhat forgotten.

A large majority of people in Scotland voted to remain. Many hate austerity and want more radical, socialist economic policies but also think staying in the EU is the best option – angry Corbynistas take note, it is possible to hold those two positions and not be a traitor.

Many Labour activists in Scotland have their head in their hands. They are desperately worried that Labour may end up doing a deal with Mrs May, be seen to be colluding with the Tories and being on the wrong side of the Scottish people. And Brexit is coming up the doorstep.

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One activist told me that it’s not the first thing people mention but when they get onto it, they cannot believe what is playing out in London and are following it closely.

There is anger on all sides. It has confirmed the belief that the Tories don’t care about Scotland, but there is resentment and confusion about Labour’s position, especially on why it won’t support another referendum.

There is, of course, one political winner in Scotland as a result of the mess in Westminster.

One Labour voter summed it up: “There’s no leadership in Westminster – but at least Nicola Sturgeon is showing some.” Now this person was not (currently) an SNP or independence supporter but they were a strong remainer.

Brexit could transcend party allegiances in Scotland. A two-horse race in England may well benefit Labour but in Scotland, they could find themselves once again painfully squeezed between a remain-supporting SNP and a leave-supporting Tory party. Fudge only gets you so far.