As the General Election campaign unfolds, it is fast becoming one that is meshing together elements from elections in times gone by.
As in 1983, a female Conservative Leader and Prime Minister faces a left wing Labour leader, with the expectation of a landslide to come for the Tories against a divided opposition.
Theresa May and her team, as with Labour in 1997, now has an iron like grip on the message, ensuring spokespeople remain focussed on “Strong and Stable Leadership”, whist May herself is warning against complacency despite the healthy poll leads.
And as in 2015, the Conservatives are stealing ideas from Ed Miliband around intervention in so called failing markets, such as energy.
In Scotland meanwhile, the Tories are turning to 2005 for inspiration, seeking to adopt the decapitation strategy that was deployed so unsuccessfully by the Lib Dems under Charles Kennedy which sought to unseat high profile Tories such as David Davies, Theresa May and Oliver Letwin.
The strategy emerged after a bullish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, declared following last week’s local election results in Scotland that the party would now be seeking to unseat the former SNP Leader and First Minister, Alex Salmond, from his constituency of Gordon in Aberdeenshire. A Tory spokesperson went on to declare “we are planting our tanks on Salmond’s lawn because this seat is absolutely in play.”
In response, Salmond, never one to mince his words, accused Davidson of making “vainglorious boasts” about Tory chances in his seat. Indeed, he argued that such threats would serve only to galvanise SNP support for him. But is it true?
In 2015, Salmond took the seat by turning a Lib Dem majority of 6,748 in 2010 into an SNP majority 8,687. There was a gap then of 20,910 between first placed Salmond and the Tory candidate who languished in third place. From these results, the Tories would have a mountain to climb if it was to take Gordon.
What then of the results in the local elections last week which formed the basis of Ruth Davidson’s claim that the Tories are targeting the former SNP Leader’s seat?
Taken together, of those council wards within the Gordon constituency, last week saw, as Alex Salmond himself has noted, the SNP take 11 seats, with the Tories on 9 and the Lib Dems on 6.
Had last week’s local elections been the General Election then, would the Tories have taken the seat?
Figures from the Electoral Management Board for Scotland show that the local elections saw the SNP obtain 32.3% of the vote, ahead of the Tories on 25.3%, Scottish Labour on 20.2% the Lib Dems on 6.8% and the Scottish Green Party on 4.1%.
According to Electoral Calculus, if replicated at a General Election, this would see the SNP loose 20 of the 56 seats that bagged in 2015, with the Conservatives up 13 seats to 14, the Lib Dems up from the 1 they held in 2015 to 6 and Labour adding one more seat to the one they held in 2015.
What is particularly interesting about this scenario is that if replicated at a General Election, last week’s council votes would have seen the Lib Dems taking Gordon from the SNP rather than the Tories.
The Tories would though take the seat of Moray from the SNP’s Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson as well as Perth and North Perthshire from the SNP Chair of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, Peter Wishart.
Labour meanwhile, under this scenario, would stand to keep Ian Murray’s seat of Edinburgh Sough and, significantly, take back Paisley and Renfrewshire South which the SNP’s Mhairi Black famously took from Douglas Alexander in 2015.
So can the Tories take Alex Salmond’s seat? I would not bet on it.
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.
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