Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Terrible, terrible damage

As the 2015 general election approaches, we've been getting voting intention polls on an almost daily basis. All seem to agree that the two "main" UK parties, Labour and the Tories, are hovering somewhere around the dismally low 30% mark. In Scotland, as I've blogged about previously, the picture is quite different, with the SNP, perceived as the "losers" following the defeat of the independence referendum, steamrollering ahead into first place. Virtually every single poll released has placed them ahead of Labour in terms of Westminster voting intentions -- a shocking turnaround, given that Scottish voters, however they might vote at Holyrood and local elections, tend to coalesce around Labour when it comes to Westminster elections. Still, there's now so much polling evidence that it seems impossible to avoid the fact that a shift has occurred in Scottish politics and that voters are now looking more and more to the SNP to stand up for their interests in London.

Today's poll, commissioned by STV and carried out by Ipsos Mori, puts the SNP on 52% of the vote -- i.e. more than that of every other party combined. For a party that polled just 19.9% of the vote in the 2010 election (albeit with a very different picture in the Holyrood election the following year), such a result would be nothing short of remarkable, and it must be stressed that this poll is at the extreme end when it comes to favouring support for the party. Indeed, I'm slightly suspicious of this succession of stories all predicting a near wipeout for Slab. I can't help but thinking that they're preparing the ground for being able to spin anything less than total annihilation as a victory for Labour's northern branch office.

Nonetheless, if these numbers were to prove accurate on polling day, this is what the Scottish electoral map would look like:

Source: STV News

As someone who desperately wants to see Labour and the Lib Dems punished for the myriad of offences they have committed in recent years -- not least (in Labour's case) the unlawful invasion of Iraq and the heinous actions both parties and the Tories committed during the independence referendum in order to secure a No vote that was, in my opinion, unfairly won -- such a prospect fills me with absolute glee. Quite apart from the schadenfreude angle, however, a large contingent of SNP MPs in Westminster would be good not just for Scotland but for the whole of the UK. They are by far the most progressive and left-wing of the large parties (the Greens are further to the left, but, much as I admire their ideals, the level of support they currently command just isn't going to translate into more than a seat or two UK-wide, more's the pity), and today the party's leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, signalled that they were prepared to abandon their long-held convention of not voting on matters devolved to the Scottish parliament. This, she said, means that if a bill was put to the house that would restore the English NHS to public hands, then the SNP would vote for it.

It's a curious state of affairs that the party whose raison d'etre has, since its inception, been to dissolve the Union could end up coming to the aid of the rest of the UK. Because let's be honest, they'll do more good than a similar number of Labour troughers ever will. So take heart, progressives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: help could be on the way. As I've said before, we live in interesting times.

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