Labour can '˜wipe out' SNP predicts Jeremy Corbyn ally
Jeremy Corbyn's inner circle have set their sights on cutting the SNP's presence in the House of Commons to pre-2014 levels and believe they can sweep every Westminster seat in Glasgow as part of a strategy to put the Labour leader into Downing Street.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary and one of Mr Corbyn’s closest lieutenants, believes there is “no Nat we can’t bin” and claimed the next election would see the SNP give up even more ground after losing 21 MPs in June.
Labour’s list of 80 target seats across the UK includes 23 Scottish constituencies, all held by the SNP, representing two-thirds of the Nationalist contingent at Westminster.
But Ms Thornberry told the Scotsman no SNP MP would be safe, with senior party figures believing they can win even more seats from the Nationalists once voters are given a clear choice between a Labour or a Conservative government.
Labour’s strategy means Scotland is set for an influx of campaign resources as the party seeks to train activists amid speculation another early election could be called. Mr Corbyn has already toured Scottish constituencies during the summer in a bid to keep up the party’s momentum.
After their near wipeout in 2015, Labour ran a highly defensive campaign in Scotland, with the party initially fighting to hold on to their only stronghold in Edinburgh South and targeting at most a couple of gains. Ms Thornberry admitted Labour were taken by surprise by the collapse of the Conservative campaign and the response to their own manifesto, but were preparing to target the SNP with a new offensive strategy.
She said: “We’ve got 80 seats that we’ve identified where we can win on less than a 5 per cent swing, and that’s perfectly doable, but then there are also seats where there is a third party, and a three-way split, where I think at the next general election it will be clear to people that it is an absolute choice between the Tories and Labour,” she said. “Obviously the manifestation of that will be most obvious in Scotland.
“I was in Scotland last week... I was campaigning on streets where I was told, 18 months or two years ago, they would never have even shown their face.
“Now people are looking again at Labour and saying, you are offering something. There is an alternative.
“And I think that we will see a squeeze in the third parties that we didn’t see in the general election, because it will be even more clear that choice is between Labour and the Tories.”
Labour’s list of target seats includes every seat in Glasgow, with Glasgow East and Glasgow North in second and third position with a combined majority of just 135 votes.
However, according to analysis by pollster Survation concern in Scotland over Brexit has produced a swing back to the SNP. Data presented at the Labour conference in Brighton yesterday suggests the Nationalists would win back four seats from Labour, including Midlothian.
The SNP had never sent more than 11 MPs to Westminster before an explosion in support following the 2014 referendum saw them complete a historic near-sweep of Scotland. Ms Thornberry added: “Politics was a little bit dry when it was all about the constitution and what was the constitutional future, and should we have another referendum, and who is more Unionist, and actually what matters to people is bread and butter stuff - are your children going to do better than you, and are you safe.
“Let’s actually talk about that, and have a positive offer. I’m not saying the constitution isn’t important, but it really isn’t everything. When I was talking to activists in Scotland, they liked the manifesto, they liked Jeremy Corbyn, they like that there is an alternative on offer to the Tories, but a real one. Also, the penny is beginning to drop that the Scots Nats have been in government for a very long time in Scotland, and they really can’t keep blaming everybody else for their failures. There’s been a coinciding of that with the positivity of Labour.”
The Labour conference in Brighton heard from the interim Scottish leader Alex Rowley, who told activists the party should aim to “make that difference” in the next general election and win in Scotland to deliver Mr Corbyn into Number 10.
“The choice will be between a Labour Government that will tackle poverty, increase family incomes and raise the standards for all, or more decline, decay and drift with a Tory government,” Mr Rowley said. “Conference, it’s not the SNP who can deliver an end to the Tories. It’s the Scottish Labour Party.”
An SNP source said: “Emily Thornberry appears oblivious to the dire plight of Labour in Scotland – and polling analysis shows that even more Scottish voters are now ditching them because of their backing for an extreme Tory Brexit, which threatens Scottish jobs, investment and living standards.
“Not content with slumping to third in Scotland behind the Tories, Labour are now consumed with yet another leadership contest – they are a party obsessed with themselves and not with the concerns of families and communities across Scotland.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Labour leadership rivals clashed yesterday over Brexit, with Anas Sarwar accusing Richard Leonard of helping to weaken the UK’s hand in talks with the EU by backing the triggering of Article 50.
Mr Leonard was one of three MSPs who broke the Labour whip in February to back starting the two-year Brexit countdown. “We triggered Article 50 far too early, and that’s why I’m disappointed that Richard Leonard voted with the Tories to trigger Article 50 when we shouldn’t have done it,” Mr Sarwar told the BBC last night.
Mr Leonard said: “I as a democrat want to respect the outcome of both the 2014 and the 2016 referendums. I don’t think it’s the place of parliamentarians to block the will of the people.”