Friday, 17 October 2014

The shifting sands

Today is a momentous day. Today, polling companies YouGov and Populous each released data on Scottish voting intentions for the 2015 Westminster election. That in itself is hardly newsworthy, as polls like these are two a penny. What IS interesting is the numbers. As with most recent polls of this sort, both give the SNP a clear lead. Quite jaw-dropping, however, is the fact that both also place Labour in third place, behind the Tories.

SNP - 41%
Conservatives - 20%
Labour - 19%
Liberal Democrats - 9%
UKIP - 6%
Greens - 5%

SNP - 35%
Conservatives - 24%
Labour - 21%
Liberal Democrats - 10%
Greens - 4%
UKIP - 4%


It's important to stress that the Tory vote hasn't risen in any meaningful way. They remain as toxic as always in Scotland, where they've never recovered from the backlash they suffered as a result of their policies in the 1980s, most notably using Scotland as a guinea pig to test out the Poll Tax a full year before unleashing it on the rest of the UK. What has happened instead is that the Labour vote appears to be in freefall, dropping to a record low of 19% in the YouGov sample and 21% in the Populous sample. This in a country where, until recently, the joke was that you didn't count Labour votes -- you weighed them.

Something I really found fascinating about the referendum was the apparent eagerness with which Labour willingly put themselves forward as the Tories' foot soldiers. Because make no mistake, the No campaign was bankrolled by Tories, with a Tory prime minister its de facto commander, relying on the Labour campaign machine to carry its message to the masses. In doing so, Labour not only made itself interchangeable with its supposed sworn enemy, it also cemented its position as the party that did Scotland down. The sheer amount of footage that exists of well-known Labour faces poo-pooing a country's hopes and aspirations is quite ming-boggling, and I suspect that even hardened No voters will have a hard time forgetting this, let alone the sight of Labour and Tory politicians linking arms to dance and cheer as the results were announced in the early hours of the 19th of September.

The Scottish Statesman, a pro-Yes online newspaper that has emerged from the ashes of the referendum defeat, has a really interesting article on the changing fortunes of the Labour Party in Scotland, suggesting that, "in blunt terms, Labour is toast." Well worth a read.

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