At the start of June, when he was still in the running to replace Theresa May as prime minister of the UK and leader of the Conservative Party, Tory politician Michael Gove raised a nightmarish spectre for the British right.
At all costs, Britain must avoid falling into the grip of a “Jeremy Corbyn government propped up by Nicola Sturgeon and the [Scottish nationalists],” he warned. “That would mean Brexit was lost, the future of our Union at risk, and the levers of power handed to a Marxist.”
When veteran socialist politician Jeremy Corbyn joined the race to become the next leader of Britain’s Labour Party on June 3, his candidacy was widely dismissed as a token gesture, a sop to Labour’s restless left flank after a bruising defeat to the Conservatives at the UK general election on May 7.
Even Corbyn himself seemed to acknowledge that his role in the contest was largely symbolic. “This decision to stand is in response to an overwhelming call by Labour Party members who want to see a broader range of candidates,” he said. “I am standing to give members a voice.”
Activists rush in and out of Natalie McGarry’s campaign office on Westmuir Street in Parkhead, a short walk from the towering grey-and-green stadium of Celtic Football Club. The Scottish National Party candidate for Glasgow East, an energetic 33-year-old policy officer who rose to prominence during last year’s independence referendum, is preparing her team for the first of its twice-daily canvassing sessions. “OK, let’s go,” she says. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” If on 7 May the Nationalists can win here, where the sitting Labour MP, Margaret Curran, has a majority of almost 12,000, they will sweep the country, defeating Labour in its west coast and central belt heartlands.
In Glasgow East, as in Scotland at large, ideology, identity and class have merged to shape a new political landscape. Left-leaning voters, voters who consider themselves strongly Scottish and voters from low-income or working-class backgrounds account for a large section of the SNP’s expanding post-referendum base. According to a recent survey by YouGov, 40 per cent of Scots who backed Labour at the 2010 general election now support the SNP. A similar proportion of Labour supporters voted Yes on 18 September.