Nicola Sturgeon stumbles but she knows how to lead – and Jeremy Corbyn could learn a thing or two – Torcuil Crichton


Political leaders often look good in the reflected faces of their opponents.

Tony Blair saw off four woeful Tory leaders and Theresa May is lucky she is confronted across the dispatch box on Brexit by Jeremy Corbyn.

Similarly, Nicola Sturgeon has been fortunate, until recently, to draw opponents of varying quality who have the misfortune of making her shine.

It’s easy to look good when you’re the best on the block. But Sturgeon ain’t so great after all, and the person showing her up most is herself.

In her haste to grab a headline, Sturgeon has twice now tripped over her tweets on Brexit, displaying a lack of nous that makes you wonder about her political prowess.

Running to the top of independence hill the morning after the Brexit referendum, that was a mistake. It cost Sturgeon the cross-party trust she needed from voters in the months of political slog that have followed.

Starting slow and building up to a sprint might have worked, yet it is easy to understand how, instinctively, a nationalist politician would see independence as the answer.

She wasn’t on her own that weekend, as the ordered world of UK politics capsized into a sea of chaos.

But not to learn from an error is the sign of a complacent politician, or at least poor advice.

When the Brexit ship snagged this week on the rocks of Northern Ireland (as it always would, the conundrum of the Good Friday Agreement being impossible to avoid) Sturgeon was quick out of the blocks again.

If Northern Ireland was to have a special status – in the UK but in sync with the EU – then Scotland should have too, she tweeted.

Jeremy Corbyn could stand to learn a thing or two from Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, according to Torcuil

Building a parallel case for Scottish exceptionalism on the back on Northern Ireland’s troubled history is never a good look.

The Brexit trick she missed, the one Ruth Davidson grabbed with both hands, was not to argue for the
exception but for the rule. If what applies in Northern Ireland applies across the whole UK, leaving us as close to Europe as possible, it would be the lightswitch Brexit – a neat flick on and off again. That’s what Remainers pray for.

Sturgeon caught up the next morning on Twitter, issuing a challenge to Labour to get behind the UK-wide plan for alignment.

By then Davidson was over the hill and far away with the best rallying call for Remain.

Sturgeon, who takes great pride in running her own Twitter account, had aimed in the right direction. But only the sleeping lion of Labour can really change the course of the country. On that score, the SNP leader has displayed one strategic quality that Jeremy Corbyn lacks.

Facing the snap election last year, knowing almost half a million SNP supporters backed Brexit, aware it might cost her most talented lieutenants their careers, Sturgeon did not downplay her commitment to Europe.

She has stuck to the European future – Scottish nationalism needs it, you could argue.

Corbyn has been missing in action because many Labour constituencies voted Brexit and because Labour
voters expressed as much fear about immigration as UKIP voters did.

Sturgeon factored in what it would cost her, and yet did not waver. And that, Jeremy Corbyn, is leadership.

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