Monday, June 7, 2010

Scottish Labour, a choice between responsibility and populism.

It’s an opinion poll, so caution, as per usual, advised...:
The first poll since the General Election shows the SNP falling behind Labour and no sign of a Cameron-Clegg bounce for the Conservatives or the LibDems in Scotland.
The poll, by TNS-BMRB, shows Labour ahead of the SNP on both the first-past-the-votes and regional list votes for the Scottish parliament.

The research, carried out between May 26 and June 1, puts Labour on 45% in a rise of eight points since a corresponding poll in January, and the SNP on 29% – a drop from 35%, on first past the post votes.

On the regional list Labour is on 41% – a rise of 4% – while the SNP has dropped two points to 28%. The shift towards Labour maintains a trend in its favour from a low of 29% in April last year. At that point the SNP was comfortably ahead on 41% but that has gradually eroded and the latest dip suggests the party’s honeymoon with the Scottish electorate is at an end.

There was no spin-off from the popularity in England of UK coalition leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg for either the Tories or the LibDems, with both hovering at around 13% and 12% respectively in both votes.
...but even if the percentages are out an odd 1 or 2% here or there, it is still an astonishing result; Labour in Scotland are apparently heading for an overall majority of votes (or opinions cast) not through dynamic new personnel at the helm or innovative new policies but it would appear simply due to the fact that it exists and is not either the SNP or the Conservatives.

David Runciman argued last month that effectively two General Elections had been fought in May, one in Scotland and one in England. Surprise, surprise this, for him, probably heralded the start of the end of the UK (as would any other possible combination of results would have done one suspects). The fact that there was a whole subset of elections in the United Kingdom (eg look at how London’s results differed from the rest of those in the SE of England) was conveniently ignored, the fact that Scottish Labour would describe it itself as pro-Union was also conveniently swept under the carpet.

However, Labour’s surge of support in Scotland will throw up a dilemma for the organisation there. A pro-Union party’s duty is to take on the SNP domestically on the constitutional issue. But how their relationship with the government in the rest of the United Kingdom develops as they seemingly edge towards power again in the Scottish parliament next year will also be crucially important- will they able to resist the populist temptation to "take on the English Tories"? Or will they be content to follow the pragmatic road laid out so far by Cameron and the SNP administration? Ironically, it’s the continuance of the latter marriage of convenience, one between the most Unionist and nationalist of parties which surely will prove best for both Scotland and the Union in the long-run.


Lee said...

Scottish voters wanted a parliament that fought its corner with Westminster. It reached the conclusion that Labour in London and Labour in Holyrood wasn't going to deliver that so they went SNP.

However, this shift was never underpinned by any serious embracing of the idea of independence. It was also clearly demonstrated by the polls for Westminster and Holyrood with voters drawing a distinction between the two - SNP performing well in Holyrood but behind Labour in Westminster.

Now that the situation in London has changed they can return to their traditional home - Labour - in the expectation they will be will take a firmer stance against a Tory/LibDem government (although practically this may not be so easy to do as they may need Lib Dem support to get a majority - or they could go minority like the SNP did)

O'Neill said...

"Now that the situation in London has changed they can return to their traditional home - Labour"

But with all the shifts in opinion (and actual votes cast) the fact remains that Scottish Labour is still the same shambles in terms of leadership and policy that it was 12 months ago. It's slightly disturbing how much people are voting against rather than for something in Scotland.

kensei said...

Surely even you'd have to admit that the SNP have done a competent if not spectacular job under difficult circumstances? They've kept the show on the road and had a few decent wins, despite being a heavily minority government.

I share the amazement that Labour can do so well whilst being largely, a shambles. Though it's a while before the election yet, and the campaign will matter.

O'Neill said...

They've kept the show on the road and had a few decent wins, despite being a heavily minority government.

Up until very recently, I would have said they were setting the template for stable minority govt; things have gone off the rails a bit recently. I'm not sure what changed, it's certainly not the competence of Scottish Labour.