Labour obsesses over London while Scotland burns

by David Talbot

Returning home over the Easter weekend, the rolling English shires are about as far removed from the London metropolis as can be imagined. In political terms, my hometown, Stratford upon Avon, is a fortress of Conservative blue. The next door constituency to the south east is the prime minister’s of Witney, but to the north lie the Labour behemoth cities of Birmingham and Coventry, ringed by marginals that defined the Labour party’s return to government in 1997.

Redditch, Warwick and Leamington Spa and Worcester symbolised Labour’s deep raid into traditionally Tory lands – with the latter even spawning the stereotypical voter that gave Labour a long look again after 18 years in the wilderness. But the difference between the attention Labour will give these seats and those in London is stark, and potentially come to symbolise its failure on election night.

A week before the Easter break an ITV poll detailed Labour’s sweeping gains in the capital, with the party nudging to nearly fifty per cent of the vote and set to take six seats off the Conservatives. London, Sadiq Khan explained, held the key to Downing Street. To reinforce the point, an Evening Standard poll the next day showed Labour holding an eleven point lead. This, in a national election that is on a knife-edge, was impressive and encouraging for Labour. As part of its general election coverage the Standard ran coverage of the closest race in London, that of Hampstead and Kilburn. But buried beneath the prose of a tight election was a key, and damning, statistic.

Two out of the four million much-fabled conversations Labour are set to have in this election are to take place in London. This is a gross distortion of manpower in already safe Labour seats and, at best, for gains that will barely scratch the surface towards a majority.

Take for instance Battersea, where those south of the river are being deployed in numbers other seats outside London can but envy. It hasn’t been polled by Lord Ashcroft’s comprehensive polling of marginal seats, and was marked as a safe Conservative seat on both the ITV and Standard polls.

But activists are being told, quite vehemently, that Labour is some “500 votes ahead” in the seat and the local party is demanding some 400 volunteers on election day. From a recent canvassing session, backed up by the recent polls, not much struck Uncut that this is a seat on the cusp of overturning a 6,000 Tory majority. But money, manpower and effort are being poured into a seat that if it wasn’t in Zone Two wouldn’t get a look in.

It is not just the swing seats of the West Midlands that are drastically under-resourced by comparison. Any gains in London are set to be all but void for the SNP gains pending in Scotland. Labour is, according to a soothe-saying Scottish Labour MP, set to “defcon fucked”.

Scotland has just come through a brutal referendum campaign that has reset the Scottish political landscape. And it was reset partly because that the Scottish Labour party was found to be far more of an empty shell than anyone had ever realised. It was, like a Downing Street source noted at the time, like the Russian army in the first World War; “Superficially it was impressive but the reality was it wasn’t there in numbers or in fighting energy”.

But obsess with London, Labour will. This is, of course, largely because it is the nation’s capital and thus attracts the greatest numbers. Vast Constituency Labour Parties massage dire membership figures elsewhere; an elsewhere where Labour desperately needs to win. It is also because our party is predominantly London-centric – 40% according to some estimates. In the West Midlands and, more importantly, in Scotland, is where the real fight will be won and lost. Labour may well win London, it won’t win Battersea, and when it doesn’t, lessons for further afield need to be learnt.

David Talbot is a political consultant

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6 Responses to “Labour obsesses over London while Scotland burns”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Good trifle, but the question is why, are we doing it, answer, after 1987′ when Labour did worse in London thn 1983 and we woked it in Scotland, w took the latter for granted, desperate to try to do better in London since 1987′ it was a case of getting moderate viewed councillors in Hackney, lewisham and Lambeth council, plus the mayoral elections,where we concentrated on areas, where labour could win, a harrow, Ilford, Barnett, and excluding Bexkey Heath, Croydon,we managed since 2094 to increase the amounts of GLA members from 7-11

    But just winning in areas in London ,we should have never list in the first place is like a dodgy 1- nil away win, it also relies on immigration and labour assuming that we have the migrant,who’ve settled in the UK, as their home nation vote.

  2. Ex labour says:

    Labour has written off Scotland full stop. They now realise it’s a lost cause so are focusing on trying to win in seats they feel are accessible. They have appointed Jim Murphy to head the Scottish party and according to my Scots family is probably one of the most hated politicians North of the border in fact they described him as “vile” and they are traditional Labour. However most tell me they are going over to the Nats not because of any anti Union sentiment, just they have had it with a Labour Party who treat them as sheeple.

    In London you have access to far greater manpower resources so the efforts are bound to concentrate there. The more worrying thing though is the “silent” majority – those who are yet undecided. I did a quick canvas of five of my Labour supporting friends recently and three said they would be voting UKIP due to the inability to tackle the issues close to them such as immigration and the EU. If this is replicated elsewhere is could be disasterous. In my area we have heard via leaflet only from our local Labour MP more in the last three weeks than the last three years. Once again they treat us like sheeple.

  3. LisaRob says:

    I was till last year in Labour for many years, Miliband from the outset was obsessed with his One Nation Labour and I remember as an activist in the 2011 Scottish Election we had very little resources or support from London so it was no surprise SNP did so well. In my local Labour we spoke of feeling like Scotland no longer had their own voice and stealthily Miliband had taken back the power from Scottish Labour for his One Nation Labour which was One leader, one parly on his mind. When Johann Lamont, ex Leader of Scottish Labour stepped down she confirmed what we had suspected back in 2011……Miliband had taken back control and had been treating Scottish Labour as a branch of London and Lamont had to run things past Miliband and was thwarted probably at every turn by London Labour and that has been the destruction of Scottish Labour along with obvious massive changes to how they see socialism now. I not surprisingly am not Labour after many years, I am still a socialist so I watched SNP over the last few years, seen that they and not Labour were the ones who truly spoke for Scotland. Labour are paying the price for taking Scotland’s votes for granted for far too long. I feel really at home in SNP, a real good party, not the brainwashing we received from Labour for years they were the enemy, that is how Scottish Labour retained its votes, not by them being a party that did so much for Scotland…..on the contrary but by making us believe that they were better than SNP who they drip fed to us were the “enemy”. Now folk have seen SNP’s dedication and decency, it shows up the shallow and empty party Scottish Labour have become. I will never go back, my Labour is long gone, I have finally shaken of their mind control that once held so many in Scotland……..we woke up and we seen there was nothing remotely resembling the socialist party that Scotland got behind for many decades.

  4. Tafia says:

    Thing is, what most people in London fail to realise is London ios just some city at the other end of the country, never visited by most of the population more than once or twice in their lifetime – I know loads of people who are in their fifties, have never been and never intend to. I’ve only been because I was in the Army and also because I have been to Liverpool matches there – other than that I have no reason to visit and am not arsed. My daughter that works in Luxembourg has never been and my daughter who is a doctor has only been once. My forst wife has never been there, my second wife has only been there once and my third wife has never been there. It is an irrelevant place of no interest to most of the country.

  5. owainaparddedig says:

    If you increase the subsidy for Wales, you can rely on us Welsh boys getting a shed full of Welsh Labour Westminster seats.

    We could do with some more cash to help our jobs scheme.

    PS Cardiff is a great city….we don’t want independence and house prices are OK too.

  6. JJ says:

    You are totally right when it comes to Battersea the seat is demographically shifting away from Labour fast (going the same way as Putney). If I was Labour HQ I would ditch Battersea as a target and replace it with Enfield Southgate (which is trending Labour fast). London does contain a lot of hope for Labour but that hope is not in Battersea.

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