Scottish Labour purge is personal not political

Richard Leonard’s clumsy purge of opponents is personal politics, not a triumph of Corbynism North of the Border.

Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard’s clumsy purge of opponents Anas Sarwar and Jackie Baillie from his frontbench is being interpreted as the triumph of Corbynism North of the Border.

But the reality is that it just marks just the latest round of “twa baldies juke it oot for a comb”: in Scottish Labour politics comes second to personalities.

Leonard is no Corbynite. He spent his university days in the Labour Student’s “Democratic Left” faction – essentially plotting the downfall of the Militant Tendency. These days, it suits him to court Momentum because that gets him support that his otherwise less than scintillating personality would probably struggle to attract.

But his differences with Corbyn are profound – not least on the key question of Scottish politics: independence.

Corbyn takes the simplistic approach that somehow the Scots are an oppressed people and entitled to throw off their colonial chains if they want – hence he’s always been happy to talk about the prospect of a second Scottish referendum on independence. Leonard takes the much more traditional Scottish Labour Movement view that Nationalism is a petit bourgeois con job on the international working class and repeatedly rules out any chance of a second referendum.

Another difference is Europe – where, actually, Leonard is even more anti-European than Corbyn. While Corbyn has been willing to at least suggest that he might support another referendum on Europe – a People’s Vote – Leonard can barely bring himself to even acknowledge we haven’t yet left the EU.

Not surprisingly neither man’s politics have had much cut through in Scotland, where Labour remains locked in third place behind the SNP and the Tories.

Another supposed Corbynite is Alex Rowley, who rejoins Scottish Labour’s “Shadow Cabinet” after allegations about his messy private life forced him to resign last December. In a previous life Rowley was Gordon Brown’s personal choice for General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party and most of his subsequent political peregrinations can be seen as a reaction to him leaving that job after just a year. Once again the personal is political for Scottish Labour.

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