Ever since the snap election, Jeremy Corbyn has been in campaign mode – claiming Theresa May’s minority government is on the verge of collapse and that there will be another election within months. Tomorrow, the Labour leader kicks off a summer tour of Scotland, which he claims ‘holds the keys’ to getting his party back in power:
‘We have stayed on an election footing all summer, and nowhere is more important to delivering another Labour government than Scotland. The only way to deliver the truly radical change that Scotland needs is to back Labour in Scotland.’
Much to the upset of the Nats, the 18 seats Corbyn will be targeting on the trip are all held by the SNP – rather than the common enemy of the Tories. With Nicola Sturgeon the only rival to May for the biggest loser of the election, Corbyn’s visit comes at an awkward time. Her party lost a third of their seats in June after they were punished by voters for pushing for a second independence referendum. Several of those MPs who held on to their seats have had their majorities whittled down to double figures.
Now the party are being subjected to a double squeeze – with the Conservatives regaining popularity in the north-east of Scotland and Labour on the march in the cities. The problem Sturgeon faces is that after ten years in power, it’s near impossible to please everyone. Her core base still want independence even if the majority of the nation doesn’t want a referendum anytime soon. What’s more, Corbyn’s better-than-expected election result weakens the SNP argument that staying part of the United Kingdom would mean endless years of Tory rule.
Although Corbyn sees Scotland as fertile ground, it would be premature to say he will succeed. In the snap election, Scottish Labour won seven seats with 27 per cent of the vote – an improvement of just 2.8 per cent on the party’s crushing defeat in 2015. Labour may be hungry for it but Corbyn-mania hasn’t yet arrived. Nicola Sturgeon will be crossing her fingers that it doesn’t take off in the coming days.