Thursday, 26 March 2015

What do One Direction and Scottish Labour have in common?

The popular band One Direction has been much in the news recently with the departure of a vital cog in their operation. The name of the band made me think of the trajectory of the Scottish Labour party in elections to Holyrood, which displays much the same tendency.

Yes, it's one direction for Scottish Labour - downwards. They have never gained a seat in the Scottish Parliament elections against their previous tally. 

Opinion polls seem to show that under-pressure "leader" Jim Murphy is failing to reverse the slow collapse of the struggling party, with the most recent, Monday's ICM poll, showing that Labour will be reduced to 26% of the vote in both the constituency and list votes next May, a collapse from their previous low of only 31,7%/26,3% at their "rock-bottom" election in 2011. This would see them on only 33 seats. 

That projection of 33 seats includes 28 provincial seats and only five constituencies. It is certainly not outwith the bounds of reality that local factors and the loss of money, activists and full-time campaigners after a 2015 wipeout would see Labour losing every one of those constituencies to the Nationalists.

It doesn't take a great deal for the story to get even worse for them. An eight-point swing from the unionists to the National party in the constituency vote would see the latter retaining its majority, with 71 seats (+2), whilst Labour go from the 33 seats predicted by ICM (using the Scotland Votes model) down to 31 (-6).

And given the history of the Scottish Labour party in trying desperately to get its "luminaries" back into any sort of position of power once they've been rejected by the electorate *waves to Cllr. McAveety*, it's certainly not out of the question that they are likely to react to wholescale defenestrations of its MPs in 45 days by trying to force them into Holyrood. The scenario of Labour promising to "learn lessons and listen" after Maggie Curran is thrown out of parliament by the people of the East End, and then inviting them to rectify their mistake and stop letting Labour down is not an unlikely one. 

A similar swing in the provincial vote given that swing in the constituency vote would make little practical difference: the Nationalists would remain on 71 seats, but with Labour down to 27 and still remaining the largest opposition party (the vagaries of proportionality would see the Liberals actually gain a seat and also introduce fascism to the Scottish Parliament for the first time in the form of Ukip, the National Front). 

Even if an 8-point swing went directly from Labour to the Green party, it would still have very little difference. Labour would be another seat down (it hardly matters as they'd have no chance of being in government or not being the largest loyalist party anyway). The fascists would still be infesting our national parliament, and the Liberals would still be picking up an extra seat.

But here's a thing. 

Let us imagine that nothing changes from the ICM poll on Monday and that those constituency results are the final results (SNP 46%, L 26%, C 13%, L/D 6% Ukip 5%) but that the Nationalists choose not to seek support on the List, and instead encourages its supporters to vote Green. Assuming that they all listened, that would give the following number of seats in 2016:

The headline figures are that the SNP would fall slightly short of a governing majority in the parliament (although as Scottish Labour insist that the largest party always and automatically forms the government regardless of its status as a majority or minority administration, this would clearly be no problem); that the combines strength of all the loyalist parties would be unable to outvote the National party (or the Green party, come to that); that there would be no Ukip MSPs tainting our young democracy with their racism and misogyny, and crucially, that the (minority) Government and Official Opposition are both in favour of independence. 

With the Government and the Official Opposition supporting a Yes vote in the referendum almost certain to take place in the next parliament, it would be much more difficult for the BBC in Scotland to behave with the astounding bias they did during the first referendum. 

And if there's a Grand Coalition at Westminster, with the SNP as the Official Opposition there, then it would be hard to see how the BBC and STV could get away with loading panels on every show in favour of Unionists this time round. 

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