Posts Tagged ‘SNP’

Labour’s Scottish election campaign is a disaster

29/04/2015, 03:00:44 PM

by Calum Wright

Scottish Labour’s campaign has been uninspiring, ill-conceived and unsuccessful. A lead in the opinion polls has been squandered and it seems increasingly likely that the SNP will be re-elected with more MSPs than ever. The recent Scotland on Sunday / YouGov poll has given the SNP a 13% lead over Labour in the constituency vote and a 10% lead in the regional list. With just a week until polls open, Iain Gray is relaunching the Labour campaign. As a Labour party member, this state of affairs is above all frustrating: a campaign which had the potential to show Labour rejuvenated instead indicates that lessons have not been learned. Here I will highlight four main areas in which the campaign has come short: the anti-Tory, then anti-SNP, stance; the absence of distinctiveness; the lack of realism; and the leadership problem.

The recurring motif of most of the Labour campaign thus far has been “now that the Tories are back”. The idea, presumably, was to reawaken latent Scottish fear and hatred of the Conservatives, and insist that only Labour could save Scotland from the cuts. The problem with this strategy is first that the Tories are not the main opponents in these elections, the SNP are. Second, there is no clear evidence to show that the Scottish people believe that Labour rather than the SNP are best placed to “protect” Scotland from the Conservative-Lid Dem coalition.

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Voting SNP is like taking a chance on the Lib Dems in 2010. It will hand the keys to Number 10 to Cameron

28/04/2015, 05:05:54 PM

by Ranjit Sidhu

Let’s be frank: Labour deserve the kicking they will get this general election in Scotland. Seven months ago the Labour led No campaign in the Scottish referendum was as negative and moribund of positive messages as the Conservative campaign is in this election.  Seven months ago I wrote a piece called “The Three key lessons for the Left from the Scottish referendum” in which I predicted if Labour did not learn from the experience they would be, “20 Scottish MPs lighter come May, putting into prospective how Labour has got itself in such a tizzy about losing a possible 5 seats to Ukip.”

Well they didn’t and now they will, bar a miracle, lose those seats and 20 more for good measure.

Let’s be even more frank: Like the majority in Scotland, I have more than a little sympathy with the SNP anti-austerity economic agenda. Labour have been far too cautious in pushing growth rather than cuts as the positive social and economic way to reduce the deficit. By leaving this economic policy to the SNP they have allowed them to transpose the benefits of this policy that worked so well for the Yes campaign to the current campaign.

There are also similarities with the 2010 election that seem to be positive for the SNP:  In 2010  the main two parties are polling low 30s and the Liberal Democrats were gaining the slack and ended up becoming king makers.   Now in 2015 the two main parties again are polling low 30s, this time it is the SNP and Ukip  gaining votes, and in the media and public mind it is deemed  that the SNP will end up the  king makers.

So, all the above seems to be in keeping with the tactical voting that Nicola Sturgeon so clearly has been propounding Scotland to adopt: Vote in a strong group of SNP to keep Labour to the left and make sure they “lock David Cameron out of Downing Street” and defeat the “slash-and-burn austerity” policies, right?

Well, there is an clear flaw to this tactical voting and it becomes clearly apparent when you understand that as a first past the post system it will be whichever party has the most seats, be it in a minority, that will have the mandate to form the next  government of the UK first.

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Alex Salmond is the Ally Macleod of this election campaign

27/04/2015, 09:23:14 PM

by David Ward

We’re back in the 1970s apparently. Beards are back. A coalition government is slowly dying, and the world economy is in trouble. Another of my 70s favourites was Ally’s Tartan Army, poised to conquer the football world. And Alex Salmond thinks he’ll be writing a Labour government budget according to this video released by the Tories last week.

Now we can all see it’s in a ‘relaxed’ atmosphere where the crowd seem a few pints to the good, and Salmond has slipped into his music hall act. But given he’s spent 23 years in the House of Commons, you’d think Salmond would have realised – he won’t be writing anybody’s budget, anytime soon.

Let’s take the position the SNP are likely to be in, should Labour be the largest party. If they have around 50 seats and their vote bloc is the difference between a Labour or Conservative administration, Nicola Sturgeon has already announced their decision to support Labour.

Under constitutional precedent at this point it would be clear that David Cameron would not have a majority in the house and would be expected to resign. If he chooses he can try to face the house as Baldwin did in 1924, and put a government address to vote. But if Sturgeon fulfils her promise he would lose, and as the next most likely leader, Miliband would be asked to form a government as Ramsay Macdonald was in both 1924 and 1929 in similar circumstances.

There will be no coalition between Labour and the SNP as has been made clear already, so no need for a specific agreement. Instead Labour are free to put forward their own Queen’s speech. Sure this might contain some shared items from both manifestos, but there would be no need to address controversial issues like Trident or ‘ending austerity for the NHS’.

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Labour’s doomed in Scotland and Ed needs to put Sturgeon in her place: so scrap the Barnett Formula

27/04/2015, 07:45:47 PM

Seemingly, there is little Ed Miliband can now do to diminish the threat posed by the SNP’s remarkable insurgency. Poll after poll shows Labour facing a total wipe-out in Scotland. It isn’t a case of just losing badly; this is the stuff of total annihilation.

Meanwhile, the Conservative campaign thinks it’s on to something by warning that a minority Labour government, reliant on a bloc of SNP votes, will be a bad deal for England. As a message, it’s an exocet targeted at voters in battleground seats south of the border, where the prospect of the Scottish tail wagging the English dog seems iniquitous.

Ed Miliband can’t fix the first problem; what will be, will be. Scottish Labour is going down in flames. The bigger question for Labour strategists is whether its woes in Scotland are cyclical, the tail-end of the vortex generated by last autumn’s referendum on independence, or a more structural shift. Has the SNP now eclipsed Labour as the social democratic voice of Scots, as they contrast their simple promise to end austerity with Labour’s more complicated (and more realistic) UK-wide offer?

Although Labour’s campaign in Scotland is doomed, it can still use its setback to address its second problem: showing the SNP would not be left calling the shots.

All the party needs is a popular measure that confronts the Tory narrative that Miliband is in Sturgeon’s pocket. Something that shows Labour can make tough choices and, crucially, reassures voters in English marginals that it’s is on their side.

There is a policy proposal that fits the bill, a magic bullet Labour can fire that hits all these targets: scrap the Barnett Formula.

There is no-one in British politics who can make a plausible case for a public spending formula that sees a fifth more spent on Scotland than England. The only reason it has not been amended out of history by now is down to decades of political inertia and a tactical belief that it would add grist to the nationalists’ mill in the run-up to last autumn’s referendum.

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Week 4 of the campaign: the good, the bad and the ugly

26/04/2015, 01:27:31 PM

Uncut’s weekly review of the campaign looks at the events of week 4.

The good

Chuka Umunna’s interview in the Guardian

One of Labour’s most visible performers this campaign has been the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna. His polished media performances have ensured that he is on the Labour press office’s speed-dial when the toughest interview bids arrive.

Inevitably in an election campaign, interviews are about the issues of the day. It’s hard to see the person rather than the political position. Chuka’s interview in the Guardian probed a little deeper and offered a glimpse of what makes the man tick.

It revealed a personal biography which is a story of struggle, success, loss and revival. One which shines a light on who he is and the type of politician that he is maturing into.

Chuka’s father’s rise, from penniless migrant to running a thriving business, is clearly enormously influential.

Most immediately, it explains why Chuka is instinctively comfortable with business and able to put businessmen and women at ease with Labour, in a way that other Labour front-benchers cannot.

Yet there is more to Chuka than just being Labour’s business-whisperer.

The duality of being the child of an immigrant and a successful businessman creates a rare perspective. Most politicians lead their lives in a straight line – they are born into a class and remain in that class.

Chuka’s world was one simultaneously of disadvantage and privilege.

It’s why the rhetorical cadences from Ukip on race and identity are familiar to Chuka from his youth, as they are to anyone from a minority who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.

What Ukip say today about Eastern European migrants was said about Asian and African migrants from the 1950s through to the 1990s.

The manner in which his father faced this and overcame it, informs the direct and robust way that Chuka addresses Ukip.

Chuka’s father’s achievements and Chuka’s upbringing have given him the self-confidence to challenge Ukip in a way that his party colleagues seem to lack.

The subsequent loss of his father when he was 13 was evidently and understandably a pivotal moment in Chuka’s life.

It also places him in a rather unique category of politicians.

The Phaeton complex describes the behaviour and development of children who experience the loss of (or separation from) one or both of their parents. It seems more than a coincidence that this group is so over-represented among political leaders –Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to name just a few.

Whether Chuka’s future will be as starry as some of the other political Phaetons is unclear yet, but in an election of dry photo-opportunities and endlessly rehearsed lines, the Guardian interview with Chuka offered something more than the standard, and increasingly stale, fayre.

Progress in righting some of the wrongs of the past (more…)

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Labour’s kidding itself about this campaign. The Tories are winning the strategic battles

22/04/2015, 07:00:10 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour chiefs are happy with progress in the campaign so far. Most activists are upbeat. Even PLP pessimists have been given to moments of optimism.

But for all the pleasant mood music – from the poll averages which suggest Ed Miliband is within touching distance of victory to the parliamentary number-crunching which seems to offer manifold routes into Number 10 – Labour’s campaign strategists have misread their three biggest strategic challenges: how to deal with the Tories’ SNP scare, which voters to target with the ground operation and what retail offer to make.

Over the next fortnight, the impact of these mistakes will become clearer.

Most immediately, Labour has utterly failed to understand the Tories’ intent with their scaremongering over SNP support for a Labour government.

The view of Labour staffers has been that the Tories are principally trying to frighten Ukip voters back into the Tory fold. But that for every vote the Tories get back on their right flank the more they accentuate their negatives as the nasty party with wavering voters.

The Labour analysis is correct about appealing to kippers but wrong about the impact on swing voters, specifically English swing voters.

Labour’s more frantic recent statements, denouncing the Tory attacks as “smears” – a sure sign that a political party is becoming panicked and does not have a line to take – suggest that the impact of what’s happening has started to dawn on party strategists.

The Tories’ objective is to fuse the SNP and Labour in English voters’ minds.

This vision of McLabour as an unabashed, economically left-wing party that will prioritize Scotland’s interests over England not only scares ex-Tory Ukip voters into switching back, it resonates with right leaning and centrist Lib Dems not to mention the quarter of 2010 Labour voters who have since abandoned the party.

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The entwined challenges that the SNP and UKIP may pose PM Miliband

21/04/2015, 10:59:14 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Scotland is diminished inside the UK, argues Alex Salmond. The UK is diminished inside the EU, says Nigel Farage. Scotland did not vote for David Cameron, insists Salmond. The UK didn’t vote for Jean-Claude Juncker, maintains Farage. It would be “nae bother” for Scotland to break up the UK, asserts Salmond. It would be “no problem” for the UK to leave the UK, claims Farage.

Salmond briefly seemed a broken man after the defeat of Yes last September. Having promised to resign the leadership of UKIP if he doesn’t win South Thanet, defeat for Farage on 7 May would also leave him broken. But Salmond has been reborn, as support for Yes has wholly transferred to the SNP. Farage might be reborn too.

Salmond’s rebirth has been enabled by glacial shifts in Scottish opinion that now appear to have unstoppable momentum but which built up over a long period, going undetected by those focused on Westminster. No Scottish seats in the UK parliament changed hands in 2010. The SNP gained two seats at the 2005 general election and lost one at the 2001 general election. The churn over the same period in elections to the Scottish Parliament, however, was much more dramatic. The SNP gained 20 additional seats in 2007, 23 in 2011.

If we look only at the lack of 2010 seat change in Scotland, the SNP’s rise appears inexplicable. If we look instead at recent elections to the Scottish parliament, it seems less so. Perhaps for reasons wrapped up with the referendum, decisive numbers of Scots are now prepared to entrust the SNP with their support in the UK Parliament, as well as in the Scottish Parliament. The decision factor for voters may have migrated from “who is best to lead the UK?” to “who will get the best deal for Scotland?”

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The smaller parties should be careful what they wish for. It always ends badly for the kingmaker

16/04/2015, 09:57:12 AM

by Atul Hatwal

We are approaching peak minnow for the campaign. Yesterday the Lib Dems and Ukip launched their manifestos and this evening there is the five-way debate featuring the smaller parties minus Nick Clegg but inexplicably with Ed Miliband guest starring at the front of the coconut shy as the designated representative of Westminster’s failed big party duopoly.

But as much fun as the SNP, the Greens, Plaid and Ukip will have beating up on Ed Miliband the smaller parties should be careful what they wish for.

They might be eyeing eventual roles as kingmakers or junior partners in government, but history has a harsh lesson: it always ends badly.

In peacetime, every time there has been a coalition, confidence and supply agreement or any type of deal for support in the last 100 years, it has been electoral poison for the minor party.

On three occasions there have been coalitions in the last century and one period of less formal support to sustain a government.

All involved the Liberals, with the SNP and Plaid Cymru also becoming mired in the mess of the 1970s Callaghan government.

The results speak for themselves.

Minor party fall

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Labour obsesses over London while Scotland burns

09/04/2015, 07:00:28 AM

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.

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Six reasons why Labour should rule out an SNP deal

11/03/2015, 02:26:41 PM

by Rob Marchant

There is a rule in electoral pact-making, and pretty much any card game, which is fairly universal: don’t show your hand to the other players.

That is, don’t rule anything in and don’t rule it out. You have nothing to gain (you can fritter away your negotiation leverage when agreeing the pact) and everything to lose, in the event that you find yourself in a different situation from that expected and have to eat your words. Obvious, really. Wait until the moment comes and deal with things when you have all the information.

But it could also be argued that there one sensible exception to that rule: if the mere hint of a pact with another party could be damaging to yours even before the election. Especially when things are balanced on a knife-edge and almost anything could affect the result.

That has never really been the case with the Lib Dems: until 2010 they were a slightly dull, modestly successful and broadly respectable opposition party, whether we liked it or not. Now they are bloodied with the hard work of actual government and potentially facing a big hit at the polls, they are possibly less attractive partners. But neither are they toxic.

The same cannot necessarily be said for some other parties. Cameron would have to tread very carefully indeed in the unhappy event of ending in a coalition with UKIP, unlikely though that might seem – the toxicity of some of its members could sit ill with his (mostly) respectable party.

But worse still is the idea of a partnership between Labour and the SNP. Here’s why.

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