Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties

As local election campaigns begin, the Scottish and Welsh Labour parties take radically different approaches to confronting the threat from nationalism.

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Last month Left Foot Forward reported on a tale of two Tory parties, with Conservatives divided on how strongly the party should support “devo max” for Scotland. Yet with local elections just over two weeks away now, a tale of two Labour parties is developing too, as the campaigns of Scottish and Welsh Labour exhibit stark differences.

Johann-LamontOn the day that a YouGov poll (pdf) for The Sun had Labour enjoying its largest lead across the UK since the 2010 general election, the very same polling put the SNP in Scotland on 46%, leaving Labour trailing quite some distance on 28%.

Officially, Scottish Labour are seeking to pile the pressure on the SNP with all guns blazing.

Seeking to compare the SNP’s financial competence with that of Rangers boss Craig Whyte, the party’s leader north of the border, Johann Lamont, was in a combative mood at Monday’s campaign launch:

“Frankly, if I might say so, after Alex Salmond passed on 90% of Tory cuts to local government, putting the SNP in charge of a local council is like putting Craig Whyte in charge of your tax return. You don’t need to be a football fan to be sick of empty promises which sound good at the time but end up making the future of your community uncertain.”

Challenging the SNP to make the local elections about more than just independence, Lamont concluded:

“Over the next two-and-a-half weeks at least, let’s try to put the debates about borders between our two countries aside and talk about the social barriers which blight lives. Let’s have a battle of ideas. Let’s discuss how we deliver social justice at a time of scarce resources. Let’s talk about real lives, real communities and how we can work together to improve them.”

Still, the reality that May 3rd looks set to be a bad night now seems to be dawning on Scottish Labour.


See also:

Vote 2012: Welsh local council elections preview 7 Apr 2012

Salmond’s screeching u-turn over independence consultation 3 Apr 2012

Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system) 29 Mar 2012

The Tories in Scotland – right message, wrong messengers 26 Mar 2012

Tories in Scotland: A tale of two parties 20 Mar 2012


With constant predictions that the party could lose a grip of its Glasgow stronghold, the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent, Severin Carrell, quotes Lamont thus:

“If the SNP do well in these elections and they will get more councillors this time because they have slightly more confidence or courage to put up a bigger number of candidates.

“Last time around they were very, very cautious, so using the last set of elections as a baseline is perhaps slightly false: in Glasgow they only put up one in every seat [in 2007]. This time I understand they’re putting up at least two, so that will be reflected in what’s a largely two-party political system.

“I am not dismissing in any way the significance of these elections, the challenge for Labour in getting Labour councillors elected, but I have to say to you, if the people of Scotland choose to vote for SNP councillors, that is their choice.

“The challenge for us is to make the political case for staying inside the United Kingdom, regardless of how many elected members there are of whatever stripe.”

Such an admission that the SNP will do well adds to a growing air of concern within Scottish Labour about how it tackles the nationalist threat. While Labour point to the party’s big beasts taking an active role in the Scottish campaign, Martin McCluskey, writing for LabourList, warns that “in 2012 Scottish Labour needs a strategy as sophisticated as Scots themselves”.

Equally, just as the party remains adamant in public that an SNP takeover of Glasgow City Council is not, as some would suggest, a done deal, David Torrance, writing for Total Politics, concludes:

“As one columnist recently put it, for Labour to lose control of Glasgow City Chambers would be ‘akin to waking up one morning and finding that Ian Paisley has taken control of the Vatican’.

“For the SNP, meanwhile, victory would be the perfect springboard for launching its formal ‘Yes’ to independence campaign, conveniently planned to get underway within weeks of May’s potentially game-changing local authority elections.”

Yet while Scottish Labour already look as if they are licking their proverbial wounds, in Wales, party members from Carwyn Jones down – free from the nationalist threat posed to their Scottish comrades – are spoiling for the kind of fight Labour enjoys most. Yesterday, Jones joined shadow Welsh secretary Peter Hain in a full frontal attack on the Conservatives, and their Lib Dem partners in crime, with something approaching relish.

There is a clear sense throughout Welsh Labour that, despite being in government in Cardiff, it has gone into these local elections fighting an insurgency against the ConDem coalition at the other end of the M4.

Addressing candidates, community activists, endorsers and Labour activists in Newport before two days of intense campaigning, Jones declared:

“The local elections on May 3rd are vital for Welsh Labour – they are vital elections for Wales. Will your local council work with the Welsh Labour Government to shield the most vulnerable from the Tory assault? If it is Labour-run, then yes it will.

“Will your local council put education first, and ensure more money and support is reaching the classroom? If it is Labour-run, then yes it will. Will your local councillors be accessible, visible, will they listen to you and act on your priorities? If they are Welsh Labour councillors, then yes, they will. And of course, only a vote for Labour will send a message to David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

“Only a vote for Labour will send a message that they need to act – as we are doing here in Wales – to tackle rising youth unemployment. Only a vote for Labour will send a message that Wales rejects the Tory / Lib Dem budget which gave tax breaks for millionaires, paid for by tax rises for our pensioners – and by the cruel cutting of support for families in work struggling to make ends meet.”

It’s a fight which also seems now to have the support of the Western Mail. With the Welsh Conservatives publishing their local election manifesto last week with a pledge to “put power in the hands of people and communities”, Matt Withers, Senedd correspondent at Media Wales, wrote at the weekend:

“There seem so many reasons to vote Conservative in next month’s council elections.

“Publishing their manifesto last week, the party set out a veritable Christmas list of things they would do if elected to take over town halls across Wales on May 3rd.

“They will freeze council tax, they promise. Fund schools directly. Freeze the Severn Bridge tolls. Put doctors and nurses in control and hospitals. And reform the planning system.

“And if that sounds too good to be true… well, it is.

“Because the Welsh Conservatives’ local election manifesto is made up almost entirely of policies it could not implement even if they won every single seat on all 21 councils which go to the polls next month.

In fact, it seems all the party has done is regurgitate its manifesto from last year’s Assembly election and given it a new cover.”


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30 Responses to “Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties”

  1. freewestray

    Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties: by @EdJacobs1985 #Scotland #Wales

  2. Max - The IT Pro

    Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties: by @EdJacobs1985 #Scotland #Wales

  3. Pulp Ark

    Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties #ABritainWeAllCallHome #devolution #Labour #muslim #tcot #sioa

  4. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties

  5. The Bevan Foundation

    "@leftfootfwd: A tale of two Labour parties: by @EdJacobs1985 #Scotland #Wales" But actually only about Scotland

  6. Ed Jacobs

    RT @leftfootfwd: Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties

  7. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties

  8. BevR

    Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties

  9. Selohesra

    “There is a clear sense throughout Welsh Labour that, despite being in government in Cardiff, it has gone into these local elections fighting an insurgency against the ConDem coalition at the other end of the M5.”

    Last time I looked M5 ran from B’ham to Exeter – which end are you referring to?

  10. Anonymous

    Oh please – Labour didn’t do badly in Scotland, it’s vote held up. The news is the SNP did well last time around (and the *LibDems* collapsed).

    But yes, in Wales Labour is doing well….another reason they’d not be tied to a Tory England for overly long after a Scottish independence.

  11. Angus McLellan

    “Vote held up” is a bit optimistic. Those Lib Dem voters didn’t all – or even mostly – switch to the SNP. Labour gained from Lib Dems and Tories, the SNP gained from Labour, etc. But since these are local elections 2011 is probably not so relevant. Not unless you’re a Lib Dem activist that is.

    If I was Paul Sinclair sitting in John Smith House playing with the numbers, what would worry me is the long-term trend of Labour’s local vote share. In 2007 it was 28%. In ’94 and ’95 Labour got 42% and 45% of the vote, a great result by any measure. If replicated next month under STV that sort of share would produce a lot of councils controlled by Labour and the map would be nearly as red as the ’94 and ’95 ones. But we all know that Labour won’t get 40% in locals any time soon. Even 30% might be a big ask.

    It’s easy to say “all Jack’s fault” and blame STV, but the decline set in long before 2007. So why did it all go wrong? Is it Holyrood, Tony Blair, cosmic rays? I don’t know but I am sure that the answer won’t be found in the history of the SNP. It takes no great genius to benefit from the decline of the dominant party. For some reason there seems to be an amazing lack of academic and journalistic curiosity about this.

  12. Anonymous

    Um, Labour’s vote totals did fine. I’m talking absolute numbers, not percentages!

    People WILL see this as a vote on the government though. And I think the Tories are going to get hammered – THIS year there’s no referendum to bring out their more reluctant voters en-mass, and they just annoyed much of the grey vote.

    I think you’re very much underestimating how well Labour will do – many of the local parts are still left-wing, and increasingly disconnected from the PLP.

    (I’m a left winger, not a Laborite and won’t vote for them outside locals).

  13. ChickAddison

    Absolute numbers can still end with you winning absolutely nothing: the percentages are just as important. Labour were so busy crowing about the number of MPs they won in Scotland in 2010, via first past the post, that they failed to notice that their margins were down in many cases. This should have got the alarm bells ringing and led to a renewed effort to engage with the voters, but instead they walked into a gubbing by the SNP in 2011. Your argumentalso ignores the fact that a strong LibDem performance helped Labour in years past as it tended to undermine the SNP in rural seats. The LibDems are facing oblivion this time round and I wouldn’t be too sure this is a temporary set back for them. The toxic Tory brand would appear to have stuck to them and people are questioning their role in politics. But more importantly, Labour cannot simply circle the waggons and hope that hanging on to Glasgow will be enough to bounce back from: there’s a lot of Scotland outside Glasgow.

  14. Anonymous

    Oh the LibDems are buried, and I intend to shovel dirt on top. But saying the Labour vote collapsed is a misnomer – the real story is the SNP’s strength, not Labour’s weakness.

  15. Anonymous

    The SNP is strong, I agree, but Labour is very, very weak. Their problem is that they’re seen as an arm of Westminster and most Scots are writing them off because of that. There are still pockets of resistance, still places where the “I’ve voted Labour all my life” still prevails, but these places are getting fewer and far between.

    Labour, in Scotland, need a root and branch review. It’s no use calling yourself “Scottish” Labour when all the major decisions are made in London. People are better educated these days and can see through all that flim-flam. When Labour actually become “Scottish Labour” instead of “Scottish” Labour, they will, perhaps, see an upturn in their vote. Untl then, they will go from crisis to crisis and the control freaks in London will blame everyone but themselves.

  16. Anonymous

    Okay, I see, numbers don’t matter. Well, have fun in your world!

  17. Anonymous

    Well, we’ll see about your numbers in May, won’t we?

    Anyway, care for a small wager on whether the London Labour vote holds up in Scotland?

  18. Peter A Bell

    Further acknowledgement of Labour's likely fate on 3 May. – Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties | Left Foot Forward

  19. Rattlecans

    RT @leftfootfwd: Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties

  20. Helen

    Ehm, not sure about this, but I think Labour have already lost control of Glasgow council

  21. Anonymous

    London’s not in Scotland.

  22. Robert Sparey

    RT @leftfootfwd Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties: by @EdJacobs1985 #Scotland #Wales

  23. Anonymous

    But the party is fighting the Scottish elections? No?

  24. Anonymous

    I see, so you’ve already decided that they’ll be eliminated. Typically anti-democratic.

  25. Anonymous

    Are you seriously saying that Labour in Scotland is not controlled by London? Seriously?

  26. Anonymous

    That’s not what you typed. You typed that London was in Scotland.

  27. Anonymous

    No I didn’t. I typed “London Labour” which is the party running in Scotland. The Labour party is controlled by London, no?

    C’mon Bot, you knew EXACTLY what I mean!

  28. Anonymous

    I’ve long ago ceased to assume that people mean anything but what they type. Far too much dealing with Americans.

  29. Thathistorybloke

    Two Labour parties in Galsgow…..Labour and ‘Glasgow First’. It’s not clear that Glasgow First will have much impact, but they might. Alernatively they may reduce the Labour vote, but they may well take votes from the SNP. Labour may well keep control of glasgow by forming an alliance against the Gnats, but the Glib Dumbs are probaly going to be decimated so it’ll need to be an alliance with the Tories….that’ll look good to Scottish voters…not.
    Labour needs to stop being afraid of devolution or risk oblivion. Unbeleivably thre is now only a 10/12 point polling gap between Labour and the Tories; if the Tories were more ambitious in Scotland they could narrow that a lot further by embracing a strong personal liberty agenda…that’s where the Gnats are weak and vulnerable.

  30. Poll: Welsh Labour “on course to make sweeping gains” | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Vote 2012: A tale of two Labour parties 18 Apr […]

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