Ed Miliband will be dreading Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
On October 15th we saw him brawling with David Cameron, suffering from a sore throat. Cameron was the first to throw the jokes, saying he hoped Miliband would not forget his doctor appointment, just as he had done with the subject of the economic deficit in his conference speech.
Miliband countered well, saying: “Mr. Speaker, he [David Cameron] obviously noticed I lost a couple of paragraphs in my speech. I’ve noticed that since we last met he’s lost a couple of members of his parliament”.
Nice one, Ed. Yet now the reply from the PM could be extremely damaging to Miliband.
Cameron may indeed have lost a couple of MPs, but he has not lost the one of the leaders of his party. Namely, Johann Lamont.
Ms. Lamont stood down from her position as Scottish Labour leader on Friday, saying that the heads of the UK Labour Party is run by “dinosaurs”, and that they have treated Scottish Labour as merely a branch of the Westminster office.
Furthermore, she accused the party of working behind her back to oust Scottish Labour General Secretary Ian Price. In particular, as Paul Hutcheon writes in today’s Sunday Herald, Labour sources close to Lamont say she has been stabbed in the back by university friend MP Margaret Curran.
Interestingly, his entire article has a grand total of six unnamed sources close to either Curran, Lamont, or simply “Labour sources”; evidence, I think, that no-one wants to get caught up in the knife throwing, finger-pointing game that has befallen their party.
The Labour Party, once the champion of Scotland, has been in demise for quite some time. Tony Blair put the UK on the leash of George W. Bush, as he led the country in the “war against terror”, causing many to feel on the opposite of the fence to him. Now we have an inquiry set up into his decision, and we have found that Iraq never really had WMD.
Next we had Gordon Brown, a leader who (as Nick Robinson describes in his latest book) may not have been suitable for any period in history. Media mess-ups, the worst recession since the 1930s, and of course poor Gillian ‘bigoted woman’ Duffy, all added up to a rather abysmal Labour administration.
Ed Miliband does not appear to be doing any better. Today marks the day his leadership ratings hit a 33-month low, almost as low as Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.
All of this contributes to Labour’s prospects in both Scotland, and the whole of the United Kingdom, looking pretty bleak. Could this mean, then, that Scotland will become a one party nation?
We have seen in the rise of the Scottish Nationalists, a party who can attract aspirational working-class Scots, and those in the middle-classes. I remember in high school writing about how the SNP was the party of choice for those who would traditionally have been Labour voters, who have now moved into that middle-class ground, yet would never vote Tory. The “Tartan Tories”, as Labour labelled them.
So, what will the SNP become now? Papers today say that those unions with strong inks to the Labour party have seen their members rethink their allegiance, with some even leaving.
On top of that, we saw in the independence referendum Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, and Dundee vote for independence. Typically Labour heartlands voting against their party’s line was something Labour could have been doing without.
Now we are left with a situation where Labour have lost their credibility, Scotland still holds the Tories with disdain, and the SNP as the third-largest party in the whole of the UK, left with what appears to be the vast majority of voters.
However – and I may be mad in saying this – I suspect the Tories could have more seats in Scotland come the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary Election. Of course, that is a long way away, and the chances of ex-Labour voters voting for the Conservatives is about as likely as Ed Miliband being named “Man of the Year”, but we have seen Labour voters leave their party for right-wing options south of the border.
Then again, instead of going Conservative, we may see people go further and vote UKIP. Perhaps disaffected Labour voters, who see the SNP as a party for Bravehearts, and would never vote Tory, go the full way and vote for Farage. Especially those who dislike Labour’s traditionally welcoming stance on immigration.
Two things, I think, are clear now. Firstly, Labour will lose seats in Scotland next May. Ed Miliband has been labelled from the start as an incompetent leader, whose party have began to break apart. It is just like a business: when Chief Executives begin to fly the nest, you know something is going to go wrong.
Now, just because Labour will lose out next May, does not mean the SNP will win a swathe of seats, though the chances are high. Indeed, we may even see a “Rainbow Coalition” formed, with the minority parties banding together to create a majority. That theory has been tossed around for some time, and the chances of it actually happening are becoming more likely as the SNP, Green Party, Plaid Cymru, and others begin to come to the forefront of the political race.
Secondly, I would put money on the SNP winning the Scottish Parliamentary election in 2016. Disaffected Labour voters, whose party in Scotland don’t even have a leader right now, are likely disappointed in the way that the party is headed.
Nevertheless – albeit an odd comparison – we have seen how Rangers fans have still stuck by their club, despite numerous ownership changes, fines, relegation and ridicule being placed upon the club. The same may hold true for Labour; staunch Labour supporters, who will stick to their roots regardless of how green the grass looks on the other side.
There can be no doubt, though, that Labour is in disarray. What does the party stand for? We have an odd situation where the losers of the referendum have actually become the winners, and the winners have fallen apart. Arguments over the specifics of devolution, leadership splits, times look tough for the Labour party.
Perhaps “One Nation Labour” needs to look at bringing itself together, not the country. That, I think, is an ambitious goal.