Think tank chief: “Ridiculous” for Jeremy Corbyn to rule out alliance with SNP


Jeremy Corbyn expected to announce opposition to alliance with SNP before 2020 elections

THE LEADER of an influential leftwing think tank has said that it would be “ridiculous” for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to rule out the possibility of an alliance with the SNP.

The intervention by Neal Lawson, the head of the Compass think tank, comes after statements by leading colleagues of Corbyn in Scotland that he will rule out any alliance with the SNP at Westminster before the 2020 election.

Lawson said: “The SNP needs a governing project to improve conditions in Scotland, and that would require a progressive government in Westminster, but that’s also in the interest of everyone, and it would be ridiculous for Corbyn to rule that out.

“There’s an obvious, instrumental electoral reason, which is that it’s the only way to beat the Tories, through a progressive alliance.”

Background read: UK thinktank calls for SNP and Labour to form progressive alliance

The comments come before the Labour leadership election debate between Jeremy Corbyn and challenger Owen Smith in Glasgow’s SECC today (Thursday 24 August).

Figures in both the SNP and the Labour party have raised the prospect of an alliance between Labour, the SNP and possibly also smaller centre left parties in a bid to oust the increasingly dominant Conservative party.

However, figures in Scottish Labour, including Corbyn ally Neil Findlay MSP, have said that the leftwinger will quash the idea of any alliance between the two largest Westminster opposition parties.

Lawson urged that Scottish Labour’s position should be ignored in light of new political realities and the “decline” of Labour in Scotland.

Neal Lawson: An open letter to the SNP – it's time to join political forces with Labour

He said: “The tail should not wag the dog, where the needs of the entire UK are sacrificed for a declining Labour party in Scotland.

“The electoral arithmetic demands a progressive alliance. Demands it.

“But it can’t just be about a coalition of the losers who come in and form a government. It has to be about a new form of governance.

“The idea that any one party alone can govern the UK now, with all the threats, challenges and opportunities the country now faces is absurd.”

Lawson wrote an open letter to the SNP in May, calling on them to make efforts to work together with the Labour opposition in Westminster on matters of joint interest between the parties including anti-austerity and anti-trident policies and potential moves towards greater devolution.

“The tail should not wag the dog, where the needs of the entire UK are sacrificed for a declining Labour party in Scotland.” Neal Lawson, Compass

The idea of a progressive alliance has received support from Labour figures in recent weeks, including from shadow defence spokesperson Clive Lewis, and shadow Scottish secretary David Anderson. Their support for an alliance could now face rebuttal from both candidates for Labour party leadership.

“Partially these comments are about a Labour leadership contest, and the winner has to say they want to form the next government,” Lawson said.

“But you begin to think that at the end of the day both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith are dyed in the wool, Labour-till-I die tribalists who don’t want to face either the electoral reality or the governing culture of the 21st century.”

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale announced her support for centre left Labour leadership candidate Smith on Monday, and has also dismissed the idea of an alliance between the SNP and Labour.

Pete Wishart: The SNP is all for progressive relationships – it's Labour that's rebuffed them

On 17 August former Scottish Government justice secretary Kenny MacAskill wrote in the Herald calling for support for Lawson’s “sensible” proposals.

Lawson also said that more ought to be done by SNP members to put themselves in a stronger position by backing the idea of an alliance.

He said: “People within the SNP also have to demand more from their party. Those SNP MPs coming from Scotland could actually be passing legislation of benefit to people in Scotland. That’s why it was good having Kenny MacAskill urging the party to open itself up to dialogue

“You’ve got Clive Lewis in the Labour party who’s calling for it, Kenny MacAskill in the SNP calling for it, so at least it’s a discussion that’s going on.”

Analysis: Why are some Labour figures calling for an alliance with the SNP?

Lawson said that the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Caroline Lucas, had been very involved in discussions about the idea of a progressive alliance, and that it was something being considered by the Liberal Democrats, who were reduced from 57 to just eight MPs following their coalition government with the Conservative party.

Responding to Lawson’s comments, a Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Scottish Labour, Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn have all been clear that there should be no Westminster deal with the SNP. The SNP aren't socialists and a cursory glance of their record in Scotland shows that.”

Picture courtesy of UK Parliament

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