Labour’s Scottish headache continues

Ed Miliband would do well to start fighting with 'every fibre of his being' in Scotland.

Scotland independencej

Ed Miliband would do well to start fighting with ‘every fibre of his being’ in Scotland

Labour’s recent worries will be compounded by news that the SNP’s membership surge has been especially felt across Labour’s West of Scotland heartlands.

Total SNP membership now stands at around 80,000 as of last week – a threefold increase since the independence referendum, making it the third largest political party in the United Kingdom.

However, the Herald has reported that over the same period, Glasgow, once dubbed ‘Red Clydeside’, has seen a five-fold increase in membership, building on the city’s rejection of Labour’s pleas for it to vote to stay in the Union.

In Motherwell and Coatbridge, the membership surge has seen a six fold rise in membership of the SNP.

In contrast, it is thought that Labour’s membership north of the border as slumped, with the Herald noting:

“As recently as 1998, Labour had almost 31,000 members in Scotland but 10 years later this had fallen to around 17,000 and the party stopped reporting figures. It is now believed to have dropped to below 13,000 and the SNP surge may well hasten that decline.”

Such figures will sound alarm bells ringing in Labour circles, with the very probable spectre that election night next May will see Labour loosing seats to the nationalists. As YouGov’s polling published today shows, support for the SNP in Scotland now stands at 45 per cent way ahead of the 28 per cent polled for Labour.

Meanwhile, it was reported over the weekend that at a gathering this Saturday at Strathclyde University, a group of Labour figures, including former senior spin doctor for Scottish Labour Andrew Mcfadyen, will propose sweeping changes to the party in Scotland, including changing its name, supporting sweeping new powers for Holyrood and refusing to work with the Conservatives in any future independence referendum.

The Sunday Herald’s investigations editor Paul Hutcheon has written:

“The prospectus, to be aired at Strathclyde University this week, notes that the referendum represented ‘an extraordinary political awakening’ in Scotland.

“It claims the risks of independence advanced by Better Together ‘sounded thin to those who have little to risk’ and urged Labour to set out a ‘radical agenda for home rule in the 21st century’.

“The activists’ statement calls for Labour to ‘assert Scotland’s right to self-determination’ and back the devolution of welfare powers, broadcasting, all income tax and ‘substantial economic and industrial’ levers.

“It also urges a policy of ‘non co-operation’ with the Tories if another independence referendum is called.

“In addition, the statement calls for the Scottish party to be ‘fully autonomous’ from UK Labour and equipped with the power to appoint its full-time officials and write its own constitution.

“More radically, the activists urge ‘consideration’ of changing the party’s name to the Independent Labour Party (ILP). The original ILP was formed in 1893 by Labour icon Keir Hardie.”

With Ed Miliband having told the Parliamentary Labour Party last night that he intended to “fight with every fibre” of his being to win the next general election, he would do well to start with Scotland, and work to reconnect Labour with those traditional heartland voters who have grown disillusioned by the Oxbridge elite that makes it difficult to distinguish Labour from the upper echelons of the Conservative party.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

11 Responses to “Labour’s Scottish headache continues”

  1. David Lindsay

    There is no West Lothian Question. The Parliament of the United Kingdom reserves the right to legislate supremely in any policy area for any part of the country. It never need do so and the point would still stand, since what matters is purely that it has that power in principle, which no one disputes that it has.

    If an English Parliament, or “English votes for English laws”, would be so popular, then put it to a referendum of the people of England. It would pass in the South East, although I only suspect that, just as I only suspect that it would pass by far less in East Anglia and perhaps also in those parts of the South West that were not too far south and west.

    Whereas I know with absolute certainty, as do you, that it would not obtain one third of the vote anywhere else, that it would not manage one quarter anywhere beyond the Mersey or the Humber (or, I expect, in Devon or Cornwall, either), and that it would not scrape one fifth in the North East, or in Cumbria, or, again, in Cornwall. If anyone doubts this, then bring on that referendum.

    As for Labour’s needing Scottish MPs in order to win an overall majority, certain grandees of the commentariat need to be pensioned off, or at the very least to have their copy subjected to the most basic fact-checking by editorial staff.

    In 1964, fully 50 years ago, MPs from Scotland delivered a Labour overall majority of four when there would otherwise have been a Conservative overall majority of one that would not have lasted a year.

    In October 1974, MPs from Scotland turned what would have been a hung Parliament with Labour as the largest party into a Labour overall majority so tiny that it was lost in the course of that Parliament.

    In 2010, MPs from Scotland turned what would have been a small Conservative overall majority into a hung Parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party and with David Cameron as Prime Minister, anyway.

    On no other occasion since the War, if ever, have MPs from Scotland, as such, influenced the outcome of a General Election. In any case, with the Government committed to the Barnett Formula, there cannot be any such thing as exclusively English legislation, since it all has knock-on effects in Scotland and Wales. What “English laws”?

    The grievance of England, and especially of Northern and Western England, concerns cold, hard cash.

  2. Steven Anderson

    ‘Labour’s Scottish headache’ ?
    Throughout the Referendum campaign the British left sided with the right wing British state against a popular social democratic movement, a movement which you continue to see only in tribal terms as a headache for Labour. Your correspondent David Lindsay is even further off the pace. He, like Westminster, can only see what’s happening in Scotland in terms of the West Lothian question and the threat to Labour. He seems oblivious to the fact that there may be no Labour MPs in Scotland to be excluded from voting on English laws. It is only a matter of time before Scotland quits the whole sorry mess that is the UK.

  3. jelliedeels

    “There is no West Lothian Question. The Parliament of the United Kingdom
    reserves the right to legislate supremely in any policy area for any
    part of the country. It never need do so and the point would still
    stand, since what matters is purely that it has that power in principle,
    which no one disputes that it has”.
    =========
    The supreme sovereignty in Scotland belongs to the people ,and that is not just a slogan but fact .

    If they through any political party or movement desire another independence referendum –well I would like to see westminster try to stop them

  4. js

    You can’t quote Scottish sub samples of UK polls! They are too small and not weighted to Scottish pop. If you don’t know this you shouldn’t really be writing about politics.

  5. js

    You can’t quote Scottish sub samples of UK polls! They are too small and not weighted to Scottish pop. If you don’t know this you shouldn’t really be writing about politics.

  6. Julia

    I may have remained a Labour Party member if they had followed these proposed changes. Labour for Independence gained significant support due to the rigid outdated policies employed by the current leadership in Scotland.

  7. Alistair Sheehy Hutton

    Yes, Scottish subsamples of National polls are basically completely ignorable. Only Scotland specific polling has any relevance.

  8. The_Average_Joe_UK

    So if I’ve got that right, what you’re saying is that the West Lothian Question as proposed by a Labour MP; universally recognised by all across the political spectrum, including the Labour party and lethal to lefty Labour; doesn’t exist. … and you’re a hard core Labourite ….. and you want me to take you seriously.

    This ladies and gentlemen sums up the reason why British politics is in such a mess. People think they can tell te biggest howlers in the world and expect the majority to believe it.

  9. Jim Bennett

    Rather a disappointing article.
    The movement of many of the poorest and those in working class areas towards Scottish Independence requires a much more sober analysis than what is talked about here. Primarily, the Labour party under Blair and Brown cosied up to big business, failed to regulate the banks, attacked the poor via welfare cuts, followed a privatisation agenda and launched a series of illegal wars. Through their period in government, Labour proved that the interests of the poor and working class did not coincide with their interests. Privately educated Oxbridge Labour had more in common with the Tories than it did with ordinary people in Scotland.
    Against that background, the rise of the SNP shouldn’t have been that surprising. The SNP present as a youthful, mainstream social democratic party, frankly not that different from a traditional Labour Party, but with the ability to identify themselves as defending the interests of Scots against the rampages of the British state. On he other hand, Labour in Scotland is populated by dinosaurs apparently intent on maintaining their careers and incapable of making a distinctive agenda from the British Labour Party. The Labour Party’s agenda has often been indistinguishable from that of the Tories – a race to the bottom in attacks on benefit claimants and using the poorest to pay for the errors they made in government.
    The modest changes proposed above won’t take the Labour Party in Scotland very far. What is needed is a radical policy shift which offers a substantially distinctive Scottish social democratic programme which is actually based on positive social change.

  10. David Lindsay

    universally recognised by all across the political spectrum, including the Labour party and lethal to lefty Labour

    It is neither of those things.

    In fact, anyone with any serious knowledge of the field denies both of those propositions outright: that it exists, and that it would damage Labour even if it did.

    Both are Home Counties golf club bar drivel, the only thing that the Tories have left, and the only thing that UKIP has ever had.

  11. Norfolk29

    The SNP are as socialist as the Labour Party and it would pay Miliband to start talking to the SNP leadership because he may need them in coalition.

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