Labour’s crisis in Scotland could deny it the keys to Downing Street

Labour has put its fingers in its ears in the hope that not hearing the bad news would make it go away.

Labour has put its fingers in its ears in the hope that not hearing the bad news would make it go away

In the end, Johann Lamont’s resignation as leader of the Scottish Labour Party over the weekend was probably inevitable.

Increasingly poor polling results and a party looking divided meant that something had to change. Sadly though, Ms Lamont is being used as a scapegoat for a much bigger problem – namely Ed Miliband’s failure to connect with voters across the country.

Putting aside the deserved sense of grievance that the outgoing leader of the Scottish Labour Party has at the way Labour HQ in London stifled the Scottish party’s ability to do things its own way, the independence referendum highlighted the dire position Miliband personally is in north of the border.

For a leader of the Labour Party to be performing worse in the polls in Scotland than the Conservatives when voters are asked which leader they prefer is bad enough. Add that to the fact that just 1 per cent of Scots trust Ed Miliband most to deliver extra powers for Holyrood – again behind David Cameron – and the picture becomes bleaker still.

Whilst a new leader north of the border might help, Labour’s immediate priority will be the UK General Election, an election in which it will be Miliband, not the Scottish leader, who will be putting himself forward as a prime minister-in-waiting. It is for this reason that Labour officials would be making a catastrophic error in believing that a mere changing of the guard at Holyrood is enough.

So why does all this actually matter?

Because Labour’s crisis in Scotland now looks more likely than ever to deny it the keys to Downing Street, allow David Cameron to continue as prime minister and by default continue the sense of grievances across Scotland that it isn’t getting a government that it votes for.

With some predictions that the SNP could win up to 25 seats from Labour, Miliband would need to pick up an additional seat in the Midlands and the South for each one it loses in Scotland just to keep the number of MPs he has at the moment, let alone to win an outright majority.

One only has to look at the polling ahead of the Rochester and Strood by-election, a seat which Labour held between 1997 and 2010, to see how dire things are for the party in the South.

The reality is that Labour is in a crisis of its own making. Having taken Scotland for granted for far too long it is now being out-flanked by the SNP on the left, whilst in the South the voters have turned to the right and in northern England, UKIP’s appeal to ‘traditional’ working class voters is becoming a severe headache for Labour strategists.

This has been brewing for some time, but Labour has been caught with its fingers in its ears in the hope that not hearing the bad news would make it go away.

Johann Lamont might have resigned in Scotland, but in the long run it is Ed Miliband who is proving to be more of a problem, and with just months to go before the country goes to the polls, the prospects of any dramatic turnaround looks increasingly unlikely.

As the Christmas carol goes, Labour faces a bleak mid-winter.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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19 Responses to “Labour’s crisis in Scotland could deny it the keys to Downing Street”

  1. colin s crouch

    Only realistic chance for Labour to reach Number 10 would be to engage discussions with the SNP. Look at the arithmetic.

  2. Ocromwell

    Labour has a bigger problem in England.The failure to address the concerns of English voters re: devolved and reserved matters will see many Trad., Labour voters deserting.

  3. littleoddsandpieces

    The traditional core voters to Labour are the poor, in or out of work and on low income retirement.

    The SNP in Scotland are not the only problem. The Scottish Greens and Greens in England will also outflank Labour to its core low income voters.

    So a coalition of SNP and Labour for Scotland, and

    The Greens and Labour in England and Wales.

    Giving the SNP in Scotland and The Greens in England and Wales the sole power over welfare and pensions within a coalition agreement.

    The Greens, if talked up by Labour in England Wales, would give a majority coalition government, and end the problem of Balls’ continuing Tory policies and being even harder on welfare reform that even the Tories.

    If Labour’s Mr Balls had no power over pensions and welfare in government, then Labour could win enough to end the 70 per cent rise in starvation since 2010 to the descendants of the people who created Labour after much struggle.

    I voted Labour all my life, as did generations before me. But I have no reason to vote Labour today or any time in the future, as disabled / chronic sick / unemployed,
    no benefits of any kind and denied state pension payout at 60, along with so far
    530,000 women.

    Labour will not repeal the pension bills 2010-2014,
    the last bill inflicting on huge numbers of women and on poorest workers
    the bulk of the rest, a massively reduced state pension,
    which for many is sole income in old age,
    therefore no food money for life.
    See more detail at:

  4. uglyfatbloke

    Perhaps the problem is n’t the rise of the other parties so much as the general rise of the ‘old mates and graduates’ class. Did anybody seriously think Johann Lamont was up to the job? If so, she should have had the support of the hierarchy in London rather than being regularly undermined by them. If not, she should not have been manoeuvred into the post in the first place.
    None of this looks very promising for next year. Murphy may not want to go to Holyrood if it looks like Ed will lose the next GE because Murphy will hope to have a senior post under Ed’s successor…or even be Ed’s successor. If, however, he does take the job, he will face several problems, not least that the Holyrood PLP will see their new leader as one of the people who undermined their previous leader – moreover his bully-boy condescension does not play all that well in the party in Scotland and an awful lot of people got pretty fed up of hearing him talking up his near-death experience with an egg.
    If the party is to avoid grave losses to the gnats next year there has to be a better choice of leader than Murphy. he’s all very well declaiming on the telly, but unless he has the support of the moderator (and that may not be so readily forthcoming at the next GE after the BBC’s behaviour during the referendum) in a TV debate he’s unlikely to fare too well and he goes to Holyrood Sturgeon will chop him into bits. Alternatively if he does not go to Holyrood then his deputy will face a barrage of ‘is that what your boss thinks?’ every time (s)he speaks. FMQs could actually become even more embarrassing for the Holyrood group than it is already. With the best will in the world, Murphy’s credentials do rather speak against him in a Scottish context. He’s a Blairite, he favours nuclear weapons, he’s authoritarian, he’s a centraliser and has a rather bad track-record from then he was at defence (much the same level of incompetence and arrogance as Liam Fox) and worst of all, he’s never going to stand up for Scottish interests if they are in conflict – however marginally – with those of Westminster. Can we visualise him calling for the abolition of the Supreme Court or the return of the Blair ‘seabed grab’? Worst of all, the other parties (not just the the gnats) would be able to talk long and loud (even if incorrectly) about Murphy’s expenses record.
    Who else could be persuaded to stand? It’s a pity that Dugdale and Marra have ruled themselves out since they have the passion and energy for a struggle and are also open -minded enough to look to get things done through cooperation when the chance arises since they already ‘get’ the less hostile ethos of Holyrood. Moreover they don’t have any questionable baggage. Failing either of them changing their minds how about Ken MacIntosh? OTH, Ed may not know Ken’s name…he did n’t know it last time round either.

  5. Alan Ji

    Why would you want to call “for the abolition of the Supreme Court “?

  6. treborc1

    The Welsh parties in Wales has stated they will not accept welfare being devolved, same as the Tories.

    Labour have stated they cannot take welfare benefits until the whole funding issues have been sorted out and even then they stated it’s highly unlikely this would be devolved at any time in the near future.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    Not even on the radar compared to the voters they’ve bled by moving right, as far as I can see.

  8. Guest

    So see a Hamas-supporting site.
    Way to undermine any argument!


  9. robertcp

    Losing seats to the SNP might mean that Labour will not get a majority but it might not mean that there will not be a Labour-led government. SNP voters would be committing political suicide if they propped up a Tory government. Regarding working class UKIP voters, I suspect that they tend to be working class Tories rather than traditional Labour voters. No need to panic in other words.

  10. Peter Arnott

    Ever been to Scotland? They’d rather gnaw off their own legs.

  11. uglyfatbloke

    it’s a contravention of the Treaty of Union.

  12. colin s crouch

    Silly and irrelevant question by Peter Arnett.

    As it happens, I have been to Scotland many, many times, mainly during the Thacher years, and have been drinking and talking politics often. But I do not see the point of your comment.

    You talk about Scots gnawing peoples legs of. There is of course a lot of sectarianism in Scotland. Are you saying that you dislike the Protestants? Or do you dislike the Catholics? Or do you hate everyone?

    Before you try to troll too deeply, the issue would be whether, after 2015, Labour and the SNP will bury their differences, and stop the Tories being elected. But then, have you ever met a Tory MP?

  13. Bill Bradbury

    I just can’t get my head around how some so called Labour voters feel that a right wing Ukip party spawned out of the Tories and almost totally led by Tories is a friend of the working class. Labour in Scotland is paying the penalty which many disaffected Labour in the rest of the UK have found that when in power they just carry on Tory policies. Not New Labour but Old Tory.

  14. uglyfatbloke

    The gnats won’t go into coalition with the tories; their constitution won’t allow it, but they might give confidence and supply in exchange for Full Fiscal Autonomy. OTH the tories would have to give an absolute public commitment to FFA within a very short period, which might be very difficult to get past their own backbenchers – especially the smarter ones who know that the ‘subsidy junky’ stuff is sheer bollocks.. In the ’70s the gnats kept Callaghan in office until it was clear that he had totally abandoned devolution, but I doubt if they would be as naive a second time.

  15. robertcp

    Yes, that is reasonable description of the situation.

  16. Gary Scott

    Johann Lamont was weak in leadership at the best of times but Labour, in London, thoroughly undermined the Scottish leadership. Scottish Labour worked for two years on counter proposals to Independence to find that 90% of their proposals were vetoed by Milliband. The remaining ‘proposals’ were an embarrassment which looked like they’d been scribbled on the back of a fag packet the night before. Thus Lamont was left in an entirely untenable position by Milliband’s disconnect from a large number of his own voters. Murphy is London’s man, he will hope to take advantage of having a honeymoon period and voters forgetting his own poor behaviour during the referendum campaign. Labour has to remake and reinvent, at the moment it does not deserve to win.

  17. Gary Scott

    Labour has been “gnawing its own legs” for years. It could have formed a coalition with SNP in the previous parliamentary session but instead refused any discussion or agreement on any point. The kind of attitude that, rightly, sickens people of politics and has driven life long Labour voters into the arms of SNP in their thousands.

  18. Alan Ji

    I don’t follow that argument.
    I do go around amazing Scottish friends (obviously, all my Scottish friends are amazing) by claiming to be one of the few English people to have read the Treaty of Union.
    What can the Supreme Court do, with specific reference to Scotland, that the previous Judicial Committee of the House of Lords couldn’t do?

  19. Alan Ji

    “The traditional core voters to Labour are the poor, in or out of work and on low income retirement.”
    Nonsense. Labours core voters are workers. That’s why the suburbs have been turning Labour.

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