Labour faces a tough week in Scotland, Wales and England. Here’s why.

The party could see its worst result in 34 years, according to one academic


Cast your minds back to the local council elections of 1990. It was the last electoral test of the Thatcher government which saw the Conservatives lose 222 councillors and their share of the vote fall by 3 percentage points from the year before.

And yet, despite the disastrous results Conservative Central Office successfully managed to portray it as a successful evening. The secret lay in the strategy adopted by the then party chairman, Ken (now Lord) Baker.

Aware of the drubbing the party faced, the spin operation throughout the campaign sought to focus the media’s minds on the Conservatives holding the flagship authorities of Westminster and Wandsworth. Having achieved this objective the party was seen to have successfully met its own bar of success.

Fast forward to today and those around Jeremy Corbyn have sought to adopt the same strategy, banking on victory for Sadiq Khan in the London Mayoral Election to be a sign of great triumph, whatever else happens around the rest of the country.

As the voters prepare to go to the polls on Thursday, the party faithful – those with a desire to get back into government rather than engage in protest politics – need to prepare for a dreadful evening.

In Scotland, Labour, once the dominant force, has been eclipsed by the SNP. No route back to Downing Street for the Labour Party is likely without a considerable upsurge in support across Scotland. What it faces this week is the high likelihood of the party, while unlikely to fall third behind the Tories, losing seats to them instead.

Indeed, the SNP look set to achieve a remarkable feat: a third term in government, picking up yet more seats up from those it gained in 2011.

The reality is that Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of politics has had little discernible impact on voters north of the border, and it is difficult to see how the party gets out of the Scottish rut it now finds itself in.

Similarly in Wales, there is now a very real danger of the party facing a similar feeling of malaise. In 2014 it came close to coming second to UKIP in its share of the vote in the European elections.

In the general election Labour actually lost seats, despite the predictions of it picking up new ones, and all the polling predicts Labour losing ground in Wales and needing to rely on Plaid Cymru once again to prop it up in government.

And then there are the local council elections. In an analysis for the Telegraph, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University has predicted Labour could lose up to 170 council seats on Thursday, in what would be the worst performance for the party while in opposition for 34 years.

What is alarming is how complacent those around the leader have become in factoring such heavy losses into whatever strategy they might have. Yes, the last time these seats were fought in 2012 was in the wake of the government’s omnishambles budget, but in many respects the conditions should be even better for Labour now.

The Conservatives are tearing themselves apart on Europe while the chancellor is looking more vulnerable than ever following a budget which sparked a resignation from the cabinet of a former party leader.

Yes, a victory in London would be welcome, but it cannot and must not mask the devastation the party faces at the end of the week. Seen in the context of a path to Downing Street in 2020, the party will, barring some remarkable last minute change in fortune, face a serious setback rather than major step forward.

Corbyn and his team need to show that they have a clear and coherent plan to get Labour back into power – reaching out to those middle-England voters that decide elections. At this stage it is questionable whether it has one.

Tony Blair and David Cameron give the clearest examples of how to do it. Leaders who take their parties out of the wilderness are those who challenge their parties, not those who affirm strategies that do not work.

For the good of the country we need an opposition that looks and sounds like a credible government in waiting. What we have is a party increasingly rudderless and in need of shock therapy to get it back into the game.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

4 Responses to “Labour faces a tough week in Scotland, Wales and England. Here’s why.”

  1. Stevie Mac


    Ed, where can I get a copy of the seat by seat predictor. I used the UAE predictor for the Indy ref and it was bang on!



  2. James Kemp

    All i read these days is Labour is so wrong or get rid of Corbin. stay in EU this is getting more blarite rubbish every day here with posts like above and I for one am getting annoyed. Labour is NOT rudderless that was the last clown you all thought was wonderful. He went into the center ground so why did we not win then?

    Because all your talking is the same old, oh only in the center ground can you win rubbish trotted out by plastic Tories in Labour.
    We lost because in 18 seats at least the Tories stole them using to much money that’s not reported by the media apart from Chanel 4 i note.
    In other seats dirty tricks and lies were used to great effect, and lets not forget the bribing of the grey vote!
    In Scotland we lost because we was stupid enought to try and keep the union together despite the Tories trying to split us up.
    Maybe we should not have bothered and then see how the Tories claimed that was a win?

    Yes Labour is wales is complacent in many cases but waking up and fighting hard now i understand. But do wales really need the useless U-Kippers fin’g up the place with there lies and divisive drivel. It’s it amazing they have to go to amazing lengths to get elected but is then thrown out virtually every time next election because they are useless one trick ponies with oh it’s the foreigners routine.

    So i ask again why post this? Are you really a Labour supporter or another plastic Tory in trying to get the 4.5% to rally behind your views. Please do that and the party WILL split into plastic Tories that can go join there big brothers, and ‘REAL Labour’ that cares about the country not just about what they can get and take!

  3. Jan Florrie

    I agree with the comments made by James Kempt. We do not need a Labour type of mini-Con-party. Blair was a Con Party man in reality not Labour. The only reason he gained government was because both Major and Howard were seen as useless [Major], dim [Hague] or despicable [Howard]. The same with Cameron, the choice was a no brainer between Cameron [dodgy] and Miliband [dozey]. Cameron was bound to win, even if the polls were swinging to say different. Miliband lost the respect of the people he was meant to representing. He lost the plot as to what an opposition party should be all about. He was all in all a ridiculous and ineffective leader, as of course was Nick Clegg who led the LibDems into becoming a nothing party, like Miliband he threw it all away.

    Corbyn must get his priorities in order and must offer something different. It is different people want not a carbon copy of Cameron or Osborne.

  4. ted francis

    Personality apart, Milliband lost the election principally because he allowed the Tories to pedal the outrageous lie over and over again that the last Labour government was singularly responsible for the crash and the banking crisis and all the commensurate financial woes of the world. At no stage did we fight back with both facts and a few exaggerations of our own. What defences were offered came forth as meows when they should have been roars. Similar is happening now but it is exacerbated by the dark background grumblings and lack of unity. The Tories are getting away with murder – literally and our front bench is allowing it. For God’s sake don’t you want to show them up for what they are?! Jump on every U-turn and repeat it over and over again. Get out there and organise, organise, organise. Petitions, protests. Dish the dirt on Murdoch and all the wealthy donors. Reveal the corruption both criminal and moral. Fight them at every opportunity. Remember, Thatcher made Greed a Virtue and Compassion a Vice. She deregulated the banks. She ordered the selling off of our housing stock and made it impossible for councils to replace it. They want to use history to beat us with, then let us use it to remind the electorate who started it!

Leave a Reply