Corbyn Needs to Find His Inner Gladstone 199

I have never voted Labour, but were I in England I would vote for Corbyn’s Labour. There is so much that is very good in Labour’s manifesto, but they had me at renationalisation of the railways. Abolition of university tuition fees is also very near to my heart.

The key point is this. I strongly suspect that 90% of other SNP voters, were they in England, would vote for Corbyn’s Labour too. Scottish Labour is a very different thing to Corbyn’s Labour, and the longstanding mutual hatred of the SNP and central elements of Scottish Labour has real causes. The ease with which Scottish Labour voters are transferring direct to Tory, and the truly shameful Tory/Labour coalitions being cooked up now in town halls all round Scotland, show that a hard core of Scottish Labour has nothing to do with Corbyn’s Labour. It is rather a toxic brew of Blairism, institutional corruption and the Orange Order. Amazingly it manages to be still less attractive than that sounds.

There were once many thousand of genuine and decent people in Scottish Labour. Those people now constitute a very large proportion of the SNP. There are very few decent people in Scottish Labour left.

The truth is that the SNP and Corbyn believe in a very similar brand of Progressivism. The Scots simply wish to pursue it in their own country. Given Corbyn’s support for Irish unification and anti-colonial movements all round the world, his opposition to Scottish Independence is unnatural, and his initial welcome for a second referendum reflected his own instinct.

In 1886, Gladstone became convinced of both the justice and political expediency of Irish Home Rule. He decided to adopt it and thus quite deliberately split the Liberal Party. This was a massive split – those who left included the greatest grandees, the Dukes of Westminster, Devonshire, Bedford and Argyll, plus some of the protestant chapel faction like Joseph Chamberlain and John Bright. Those departing Liberal Unionists functioned as a separate political party, in effective coalition with the Tories, until eventually merging into the Conservative and Unionist party.

This loss of Dukes and their acolytes paved the way for the Liberal Party to become much more radical, leading to the Liberal governments of 1906-15 which introduced reforms including national insurance, abolition of the workhouse, old age pensions and free school meals. I would argue that, along with Attlee’s government, it was the greatest reforming government in British history. All done with the essential support of the Irish nationalists.

Corbyn should do the same. He should stop fighting Scottish Independence and embrace it. He should join forces with those who support the same kind of domestic reform and foreign policy he embraces. The loss of Alistair Darling, Kezia Dugdale, John McTernan and John Mann to Labour would be as nothing compared to the losses Gladstone was prepared to accept in embracing Irish nationalism.

The Liberal Unionists are only remembered today when The Importance of Being Earnest is performed. I have changed “Liberal Unionist” to “Blairite” in this excerpt to show how precisely the scenario fits with today’s situation:

Lady Bracknell (Sternly): What are your politics?
Jack: Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Blairite.
Lady Bracknell: Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening at any rate.

By throwing over the Scottish Labour dinosaurs and any Blairite shills who wish to go with them, Corbyn can remake the politics of the United Kingdom. And the SNP, just as the Irish Nationalists did in 1906, can help Corbyn to make the permanent transformational changes to the UK, even as they go through the process of leaving it. A future Labour/SNP administration could enact a manifesto as radical as the one that Labour have just unveiled, as the parting gift of the Scots to the UK. After this election, this must be the way forward for Corbyn. As May hits the car crash of Brexit, if May wins on 8 June I do not think her administration will last five years, and I am quite certain she, or the Tories, will not win the ensuing election.

There are other valid comparisons between Corbyn and Gladstone, particularly in foreign policy with regard to Gladstone’s principled and vigorous opposition to the Second Anglo-Afghan war. Gladstone as leader of the opposition argued directly that Afghans fighting invading British troops were justified in doing so: “We have destroyed their homes and driven their wives and children into the snows of winter”. Corbyn has a similar courage in taking on today’s media-driven jingoism and militarism.

Does Corbyn have similar courage in forcing the realignment that can make sense of UK politics, as Scotland leaves as Ireland once did? Can Jeremy embrace Scottish Independence, as I have no doubt is his natural instinct? That will be the measure of whether he makes a real mark on the future, or becomes a brief flash of radical failure.

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199 thoughts on “Corbyn Needs to Find His Inner Gladstone

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  • RobG

    As the American empire collapses, it won’t be Sanders who comes through.

    It;s gone way, way beyond that.

    But carry on consuming and taking out loans.

  • Herbie

    Can someone please fix the response reply box.

    It used to be that it appeared relatively close to the message to which you were replying.

    Now it goes up to the top of the comments section, and you can’t even see or refer to what you were responding.


    • glenn_uk

      Herbie: That seems to happen when you go beyond immediately replying to a post.

      I hit ‘reply’ here, and the reply box appears underneath your post. However, if there have already been a sufficiently high number of replies that the latest no longer has a ‘reply’ button on it (I think it nests about 4 deep), the box appears above the original response instead of below it.

      Pending a fix (which I would not count on), I would suggest opening a new browser window, or better still composing the entire reply in a textedit window. Always good practice anyway, in case the reply mechanism stalls which might lose your text.

      • Herbie

        Seems to be OK now. For this, at least.

        But you’re saying that your response box has moved to the very top of the comments section just below Craig’s post, on occasions when you’re replying to something way way down the page?

        There was additional info just above the reply box indicating the name of who you were responding to.

        Haven’t seen that before, and it’s not here when I reply to you.

        I expect someone was just trying something out.

        I hope they just leave it as it is.

        • glenn_uk

          Herbie – no, it doesn’t depend on how far down from the top your reply is – it’s actually dependent on how far indented to the right your reply might be.

          For instance, you started (at 23:47) with “Can someone please fix the response reply box.” – that would count as a “top-level” post because you weren’t replying to anyone else’s comment.

          This reply to you here is 4 comments in, or ‘nested’ 4-deep. There’ll be one more chance to hit a “reply” button on this post, after which you’ll have to go to the nearest “reply” button, which is the one above it. That will rather confusingly put the reply box at the top of your original comment, even though the reply will actually appear beneath the last comment in that thread.

          I doubt if this will be fixed anytime soon, but a workaround utilising a desktop notepad will help.

  • Hieroglyph

    Meh, I’m happy enough for Scotland to Remain, if Corbyn wins. The whole point of independence is to Leave the yoke of neoliberalism. It would seem somewhat poor timing to leave the UK just as it’s getting interesting, only to join a corrupt, and possibly irredeemable EU. Kinda like Saruman deciding that Sauron was a good bet, around the time Gandalf had discovered the sole means to defeat him.

    Of course, mayhaps the EU is worth saving, if significant reforms can be enacted. I’m afraid Craig’s argument about immigration won’t win many votes. Supporters of controlled immigration simply don’t favor the EU model of open borders, and I think it unfair to call them all racists. Some are, naturally, but insulting working class people didn’t work for Clinton either. Also, I hope we can get back to insulting globalist stooge, and utter weirdo, Macron, now he’s won. A guy who literally stood in front of an Illuminati symbol during his victory speech is evidently an odd bird indeed.

  • RobG

    I will just add that my Mother is about to have a major operation, here in France, which has the best health service in the world.

    How people buy into the vermin/scum/privateer stuff is beyond me.

    But egits believe it.

    Come on, Habba, tell us why we’ve all got to be ripped-off.

    • glenn_uk

      Good luck with that, Rob – best wishes for her. They make for very tense times, do they not? My old mother had a hip replacement last year, worried me no end. My old Dad had a heart bypass which gave him another decade. Waiting for the results of that operation… well, I was never so terrified in my life. Not even while watching a nasty pile-up occur in front of me, while unaware riders were racing up behind me, during a motorcycle race at Brands Hatch.

      (I wonder if Lyasis is going to better that by describing how he leapt from his jet onto a rogue cruise missile heading for a school-full of disabled orphans and disarmed it with his teeth, or somesuch.)

    • Habbabkuk

      If your mother is resident in the UK but being operated on in France, it is the British NHS which will pay (provided it has been cleared in advance) either directly or by way of reimbursement to her.

    • Habbabkuk


      In France, total social security deductions from your pay packet, including health care, are around 27% (these amounts are deducted from your gross and income tax is then calculated on the basis of your net).

      Not, I imagine, that you know anything about that in a practical sense.

  • Kerch'ee Kerch'ee Coup

    When asked whom I supported in the last two UK elections, I gave pretty much that quote from Gladstone as the basis for my choice of preference. Certainly few would charter trains or charabancs just to see a modern politician unless it were for Blair’s hanging.Some of my grand-mother ‘s large family remember those elections of the 1880s in the South West when the cause of Irish independence was neither ‘profitable nor popular'(Myles na gCopaleen). That of Boer independence of course is another matter. If it hadn’t been forbthe Kitty O’Shea /Parnell relationship going public , we would have been spared many troubles.

  • RobG

    I’m still waiting for Habba to explain why he supports profit out of human misery.

    The eternal mystery is why people still vote for these creatures.

    • glenn

      Indeed, Rob. It’s surely an age-old question, why do people vote against their own best interests?

      It could be – as I believe Upton Sinclair posited – that (people) do not see themselves as poor, but rather as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. Hence their championing of the causes of the rich – heck, I see myself being rich at some point the thinking goes – and then I won’t want to pay tax either!

      The likes of The Mail are brilliant at fooling the stupid into thinking that championing the prejudices of the rich is – somehow – going to further their own interests.

      Look at the likes of miserable, worthless dogs like Anon1, who will favour every position of the Establishment, the rich and the powerful, hoping it will dribble down into his bowl one day.

      Setting the working class against each other, fomenting divisions with race, religion and class – all useful weapons of the rich and powerful, as they laugh while we fight among ourselves. Aided by stooges and useful idiots all the while.

      • Anon1

        Nothing like a bit of late-night fan mail from a tired and emotional Glenn!

        Rather than everyone else being brainwashed and thick, could it be that you’re just wrong? Have you ever thought about it like that?

    • Brianfujisan


      I’d Like Add To Glen’s Best wishes For your Mum’s Opp.. Hope all goes well.

  • F. Fondrement

    By now historical continuities in England are less important than the dynamics of satellite states subject to unstable hegemony. Corbyn may or may not have an inner Gladstone. But May is demonically possessed by her inner Klaus: austerity mania.

    May’s inner Klaus is supplemented by an inner Ceaușescu, manifesting in all the loony police state nonsense: Your papers; Your passwords; What ECHR?

    The net effect of British pathologies will probably produce something like Moldova/Trans-dneistria: retrograde development and panicked repression. Who would set foot in a shitty little statelet like this City of London regime, unless they have to? What self-respecting Scottish person would submit? Great Britain has no more reason to exist than Gran Colombia.

  • bevin

    “It may have escaped your notice but being friendly to business, is a vital part of government it creates jobs.

    “The idea however is not to let it decide policy.”
    That was certainly Charlie Haughey’s view, RoS.
    If you believe that you can give business control of the economy and expect them not to interfere in policy you are even more naive than I imagined.
    As RH Tawney said, you cannot tame a tiger claw by claw. And capitalism is a tiger. Real nationalists used to call people like you Tartan Tories, and I’n very much afraid that that is what you are.

  • bevin

    “This was a massive split – those who left included the greatest grandees, the Dukes of Westminster, Devonshire, Bedford and Argyll, plus some of the protestant chapel faction like Joseph Chamberlain and John Bright. ”
    In fairness, particularly when the subject is radical manifestos, it ought to be remembered that Chamberlain and his now forgotte,n but extremely important fellow Alderman from Birmingham, the Devonian Jesse Collings were authors of the famous Radical Programme. Amongst other things it committed a Liberal government to the facilitation of legislation to provide labourers with ‘three acres and a Cow’. Collings was one of the sponsors of Joseph Arch’s Union and a speaker at some of its meetings.
    The truth is that by the time that Campbell Bannerman came to power there was a widespread revulsion against capitalist excesses. And much of it came from the heart of the bourgeoisie. Apart from the Fabians there were such luminaries as Hobson and the Hammonds whose writings about imperialism and its origins in agricultural capitalism are monuments to a generation that produced in Beveridge and Askwith harbingers of the reforms that it took until the late ’40s to come to fruition.
    (I am sure that all our best wishes are with Rob G’s mother.)

  • Vronsky

    “Can Jeremy embrace Scottish Independence, as I have no doubt is his natural instinct?”

    Rhetorical question? If not, the answer is no. He is pandering to middle English opinion which views Scots as little better than screaming savages. This piece of unprincipled calculation undermines my confidence in the rest of his manifesto much of which is, as you say, very attractive. It will be interesting if he arrives at a position where he could form a government in alliance with the SNP. Would he?

  • Colin Carr

    I believe that nations, like people, have personalities. The English national personality – not the same thing as the personality of an English person – has an unfounded belief in English superiority and seems to include an unhealthy desire to conquer and subjugate others.
    It started with Wales. Anyone who has visited Caernarfon Castle can see an early example of an English ‘defence establishment’ designed to keep the Welsh in their (subservient) place.
    Hundreds of years and many conquests later, that English national personality is unchanged. At the moment it manifests as opposition to Scottish independence, hatred of those nasty Europeans, and an utterly pointless desire to have nuclear weapons for which there is no credible target.
    Fortunately, not all the English are so unpleasant, but far too many of those in power are, if only to protect their wealth, power and influence.

    For the record, I’m English and some of my countrymen disgust me.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    If Corbyn were to achieve a sufficient majority over the Tories in Engand and Wales alone he might be justified in cutting Scotland loose. As things stand, the SNP represents a useful thorn in the side of the Tory vision, even though it and Labour have no formal alliance. And he’s not going to abandon the possibility of winning Scottish seats back from what you correctly describe as a left-wing voter base just yet.

    Nice try, but no cigar. I’m not the first to suggest that Corbyn is in fact discovering his inner Attlee…pilloried by the Press, but ultimately a radical reformer of the first order. Question for Scots – do you actually want to be the pawns af a faceless globalising bureaucracy while pretending to be self-determining? Or was the surge in support for independence simply a ‘fuck-this’ episode; a yearning for more egalitarian times and frustration with the inability of the majority Scottish Left to achieve them.

    I don’t buy the Labour = Orange Lodge smear at all. Laughable propaganda. It may be true of some bent city councillors – all parties have those, even the saintly SNP – but it’s an unwarranted slur on the vast majority of Scots Labour supporters. Clarify or withdraw, please.

    • reel guid

      You really don’t know Scotland Ba’al. Labour in Scotland for long had an Orange element that included councillors. Most progressive young people in Scotland vote SNP or Green and don’t even consider Labour.

        • reel guid

          But you live in Caithness Fred, which is hardly Orange Lodge territory.

          • fred

            The vast majority of Scotland isn’t Orange Lodge territory. When I lived on the West Coast I don’t recall any marches nor on Skye, never heard of one in Orkney or Shetland.

          • reel guid

            Of course you didn’t encounter it in Skye or the Northern Isles. Most of it is in the Central Belt.

          • Ba'al Zevul

            There I have to agree with Reel. The OO is pretty well absent or a curiousity, in the N and West Highlands. Given their history, it would be ironic to see it there. But it’s all too real around, say Stirling and Dundee, let alone Glasburgh. Fife and drum marches past Catholic churches and all. Seen it. Nasty.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        I don’t think you’ve actually contradicted me there, reel. I wouldn’t be surprised to find the SNP had a freemason element, or the Tories had a trades union element, either. To tar the lot with the brush of the few is pretty low, though.

        I lived in Scotland for thirty years, leaving before the SNP resurgence. I met a lot of Labour supporters; I was one myself for some time*. The Orange Lodge was equated with NI unionism (logically) and the Tories. We wouldn’t have touched it with a bargepole.

        Yes, I am well aware that idealistic youth sees the soi-disant socialist SNP as an attractive alternative to the impotent Scottish Labour Party. But you haven’t answered my question (possibly because I omitted the question mark). Again:

        …do you actually want to be the pawns af a faceless globalising bureaucracy while pretending to be self-determining? Or was the surge in support for independence simply a ‘fuck-this’ episode; a yearning for more egalitarian times and frustration with the inability of the majority Scottish Left to achieve them?

        *Then SNP, and actively campaigning too. As I no longer live there, I have reverted to Labour. I’d vote Green if I thought the candidate had a chance.

        • reel guid

          It depends where you were Ba’al. Some areas of the central belt had Labour councillors who were in the OO. Of course that didn’t reflect the majority of Labour activists in Scotland. Craig was only saying that the OO element was, and to some extent still is, there in Labour.

          • Ba'al Zevul

            I agree, the OO has a bigger presence, regardless of its members’ party affiliation, in the central belt. I’ve lived there as well as in the sticks. Central belt councillors are a law unto themselves, often all too literally. Craig, IMO unnecessarily associates Scottish Labour with the OO thus:

            a hard core of Scottish Labour has nothing to do with Corbyn’s Labour. It is rather a toxic brew of Blairism, institutional corruption and the Orange Order.

            Blairism, yes, and institutional corruption maybe Those two seem to go hand-in-hand. But I’d want to see evidence that the OO has had any significant effect on the policy or actions of Scottish Labour, as well as some identification of what the ‘hard core’ is *, before I’d take seriously the kind of propagandist insinuation which Craig would ridicule if it came from any other point of the political compass. And rightly.

            *If only it had one…

          • Aonghas MacNeacail

            My recollection from half a century ago is that the OO was drawn to the Conservative and UNIONIST party, the Union then being with the Six Counties. Labour in W Central Scotland was seen as the Papish party.
            As a young Skyeman, of Presbyterian background, I found it all a bit. confusing…

  • Mark Rowantree

    Great minds think alike, Craig would you believe that I was considering this very proposition myself this afternoon?
    I too came to the conclusion that the modern incarnation of the Labour Party in Scotland and certainly it’s leadership cadre are certainly analogous to the Liberal Unionists of unlamented memory.
    Of course although Gladstone was operating in a period sans mass media, he did in the shape of Joseph Chamerlain have to contend with the 19th Century counterpart of Nigel Farage the enigmatic Joseph Chamberlain.
    However, then the analogy starts to appear contrived in my opinion. Unlike, Gladstone Jeremy Corbyn does not bestride his party like anything like a collossus. In order to commit his party to any Grand Alliance he would require solid support behind him. And this he frankly doesn’t have.
    Therefore, I believe there is more chance of SDP II hoovering up Sco Lab other ‘moderate’ factions of the Labour Party. In that scenario the only likely winners are likely to be the Tories.

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