Ed Jacobs looks ahead to next month’s Glasgow council elections, asking if Labour fail to win there on May 3rd, where will they win?
Glasgow Labour Party this week launched its 100-point manifesto (pdf) amidst what will be the fiercest fight outside London on May 3rd.
Key pledges include:
• The provision of free public Wi-Fi internet access across the city;
• A London-style Oyster transport card;
• A “Glasgow guarantee” to provide everyone aged between 16 and 24 with support in the form of an apprenticeship, training or work;
• A promise every child will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare at the start of the term in which they turn three;
• Reinstating the scrapped Glasgow Airport railway plan;
• Continuing the Scottish government’s council tax freeze and the introduction of a “happy hour” at council-run five-a-side pitches, providing under-16s with free access.
In formally presenting the party’s manifesto, Labour’s leader of Glasgow City Council, Gordon Matheson declared:
“Labour has the record, the vision and the team to win the council election in Glasgow.
“I am going to spend every waking hour between now and then fighting for what I believe in: a city that fights poverty, creates jobs, that gives chances to the next generation, looks after the elderly, and has respect and decency for every single person who is blessed to live here.
“Ours is the only major city where unemployment fell last year. Youth unemployment is rising at a fraction of the Scottish and UK averages, and more school leavers are going to university than ever before.
“This didn’t happen by accident but because the people of Glasgow have made this city what it is today.”
Despite the rhetoric, however, Labour faces a tough challenge to retain Scotland’s largest local authority, one seen as a fortress for the party but which is now being considered by some as Ed Miliband’s next Bradford West.
• Mr Miliband goes to Scotland 30 Jan 2012
• Scottish Labour needs a full redesign 19 Dec 2011
• Scottish Labour needs a new Donald Dewar 26 Sep 2011
The question marks over Labour’s ability to regain control of the council come after a spate of internal spats which has seen it divided and ultimately lose its majority.
In February, the party secured its budget by just 2 votes, reducing Labour’s notional 47 seats to 40 as a number of the its councillors decided to jump ship altogether and vote against the proposals in protest over decisions made to de-select them.
In a sign of the bitterness and rancour felt within the council group, Govanhill councillor Anne Marie Millar, one of those who resigned from the party, explained before the budget vote in February in an interview with STV:
“A letter has been sent to the Labour Party this morning. It has been prompted by the actions of the central Labour Party in stopping the Govan Labour Party from exercising its right in choosing its own candidates for the local election in 2012.
“I believe the decision was made under the dual influence of party officials from London and cliques within the Labour Party in Glasgow who have set out to make space for followers of particular dynasties, but knew that leaving the choice to the local parties would not deliver the required result.”
Whilst a spokesperson for the Scottish Labour at the time argued the party’s case for Scotland would now be “put forward by a new generation of Labour candidates proud of and passionate about Glasgow”, by the middle of last month, the news of the suspension then resignation from the party of Shaukat Butt saw Labour formally lose its majority followed just weeks later by the announcement a ninth councillor, Ellen Hurcombe, would also be resigning, a year after being de-selected by her local party.
With the SNP having already declared the Labour Party in Glasgow to be in complete “meltdown”, the nationalists now have high hopes of what would be a remarkable victory by taking full control of the authority.
Speaking to the SNP conference in the city last month, the party’s deputy leader and MSP for Glasgow Southside, Nicola Sturgeon, declared:
“We are not like Labour, we take nothing for granted, we will work hard for every vote.
“The people who will decide the election here in Glasgow and in every part of Scotland are the voters. But we face here a Labour Party that is crumbling before our eyes, a Labour Party that is discredited, that is losing councillors hand over fist.
“We are working hard in Glasgow and we are working hard right across our country. We are fighting hard to win the local elections in every single part of Scotland.”
The party further argues victory in Glasgow would represent a significant stepping stone towards a successful “yes” vote in a referendum on Scottish independence.
Losing control of Glasgow, a council they’ve had an iron grip on for more than 40 years, would be an embarrassment for Labour to say the very least, particularly given the party’s leader in Scotland, Johann Lamont, is herself MSP for the Glasgow Pollock seat whilst shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran, shadow Scotland Office minister, William Bain, and Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, Anas Sarwar, all represent Glasgow seats in the House of Commons.
But don’t just take our word for it; as the fiercely Labour supporting Daily Record has declared of the party:
“If they can’t win outright in Glasgow, then it not only raises a question over whether they can defeat the independence campaign, but also over whether Ed Miliband is the leader who can win the United Kingdom for Labour.”
Expect Labour to throw everything into Glasgow as it seeks to regain lost ground and momentum in the wake of the shock of Bradford West.