Speakers at a three-hour Jeremy Corbyn rally in Edinburgh repeatedly undermined Scottish Labour by praising arch rivals the SNP less than two months before the Scottish election.
Wednesday evening’s #JC4PM concert, which struggled to sell more than half the tickets for the stalls section of the four-tier Festival Theatre, saw acts such as comedians Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy and singer Charlotte Church perform to a sparse crowd.
Scottish Labour figures had criticised the event over fears that it could distract from the Holyrood election campaign. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is understood to have bought some of the tickets but did not attend.
Other #JC4PM tour dates in England have reported healthier sales, but it seems the Scottish public may be more resistant to the idea of Corbyn as prime minister. Tickets for the concert initially cost a minimum of £20 but some students at Edinburgh University said they were being sold on Wednesday afternoon for as little as £5.
The Scottish party leadership’s concerns that it could distract from their election message were confirmed in Hardy’s opening monologue, in which he said he would probably vote for independence if he lived in Scotland but implored the crowd not to vote to leave the UK in the near future because “England would be fucked without you”.
“I thought the SNP and independence were all about blood and shortbread nationalism, but I realised it was just about getting shot of Blairism and nuclear weapons and the Tories,” said the comedian, who did a short tour in Scotland ahead of the independence referendum in 2014.
“If I lived in Scotland I would probably vote for independence, but then if I lived in America I’d weigh 40 stone and own an assault rifle,” he added.
Hardy also praised the “great” Green MP Caroline Lucas and mocked Labour MP Kevan Jones – who has spoken of his mental health issues in the past – saying it was easy to guess Jones had depression because the MP supported the renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system.
“I would have thought you could hazard a guess that if someone supports nuclear weapons, if your view of existence is so bleak you’re prepared to help with the extermination of the entire northern hemisphere, that kind of suggests depression, don’t you?” joked Hardy.
Steel, meanwhile, opened his set by praising the “brilliant” SNP, saying: “I know it’s a Labour event, but I’m very impressed with the Scottish National Party getting all their MPs and I think they’re very brilliant in many ways and do lots of brilliant things.”
He added: “But I think instead of being proper MPs, because they’ve been doing very well at that, I think they should be proper Glasgow more, there would be more support for that.”
Steel then launched into some impressions of what a “proper” Glaswegian might sound like in the House of Commons.
After Steel, a speaker from Stop the War, Chris Nineham, praised the Scottish crowd because they “nearly won [their] independence vote”, said the SNP are “very popular” and “anti-austerity”, and commended Nicola Sturgeon for turning up to an anti-Trident rally alongside Corbyn in London in February.
Nineham also complained about “a kind of attitude, even in sections of the left at the moment, that you’ve got to be politically realistic”.
Elsewhere during the event there were two performance poets including one who recited “a battlecry for Jeremy Corbyn”, a character comedian who made the crowd dance, and Charlotte Church, who performed a six-song set culminating in the 2005 classic “Crazy Chick”.
Scottish Labour leader Dugdale was not mentioned once throughout the entire three-hour event.
Leaving the Festival Theatre, BuzzFeed News overheard an audience member say: “Yeah, that was pretty good wasn’t it? I’m still voting SNP at the election though.”