Monday, 14 September 2015

Something about Scottish Labour's membership (and money!)

The remnants of the Scottish Labour party are notoriously reticent about their membership figures. Infamously, they release the results of internal "leadership" elections in percentage terms only, uniquely in Scottish politics.

For instance, we know that Jeremy Corbyn was elected to be "Kez" Dugdale's new boss - much to her horror - with 251.417 (to put that number into context, Scottish Labour scored 630.461 votes in the 2011 general election).

We know that Ed Miliband got 125.649 votes to become leader of the party five years previously. We know that David Cameron leads the Conservative and Unionist party by winning 134.446 party members over, and that Ruth Davidson runs the shop in Scotland having achieved 2.983 votes.

Meanwhile at the Liberals, we know that thingmy leads the federal Liberals through getting 19.137 votes, and Willie Rennie is his tartan familiar because he was about the only MSP left who hadn't been leader because he stood unopposed (his predecessor, Tavish Scott, descended to the leadership by, ahem, achieving 1.450 votes).

Like wee Willie, the Nationals' leader, Nicola Sturgeon, was unopposed, but her predecessor Alex Salmond was elected leader in 1990 with 486 votes and in 2004 with 4.952 votes. There was also a Swinterregnum, in which the finance minister scored 547 votes.

But Scottish Labour have consistently refused to release the results of their "leadership" elections. All we know is that the anti-immigration activist "Kez" Dugdale got 72,1% of something. All that can discerned from that is that the Scottish Labour membership is somewhere over a hundred (the minimum threshold to produce a something-point-something result in a two-candidate election) and less than about five million.

Perhaps the big party might be able to give us some pointers, though.

Alongside the election for leader and deputy leader, Labour conducted internal elections for its powerful Conference Arrangements Committee and the National (hmm) Policy Forum.

The second most interesting thing was that Scottish Labour has been completely purged from the former organ, which is perhaps an early indication that the price the branch office will pay for its failure to continue delivering large numbers of MPs with minimum financial outlay will be a withdrawal of influence and power in the party - there is just one Scottish MP/MSP in the new Shadow Cabinet - and maybe even of financial support from HQ for the Holyrood election in May.

There is zero chance of Scottish Labour, with its ghastly latest leader limping along on 20% approval rating (Iain Gray, for contrast, was sailing along on 39% the same time out from the last Holyrood election) winning power in Scotland.

So why would HQ throw money at a campaign it has no chance of winning, and where a positive result could only provide buoyancy for Dugdale, a self-declared enemy of Corbyn?

Wouldn't it focus its money and attention on retaining control of the Welsh Assembly - now the only thing in the world above the level of a city council that they have any influence over - and on regaining the London mayoralcy from the Tories, in the city where Corbyn has his constituency? I reckon so. 

Scottish Labour might just be about to realise it's going to have to stand on its own two feet if they can't deliver all those lovely MPs.

But the most interesting thing about the results were those to the National Policy Forum. This is like a sort of mini-Senate, where each region (Scotland is a "region", incidentally) sends three or four delegates based on population.

The following is a table of the lowest and highest vote necessary to get elected in each region:

East Midlands:  4.809 - 7.327
Eastern: 5.741 - 6.779
London: 14.155 - 21.313
Northern: 4.890 - 5.252
North-West: 7.982 - 9.118
South-West: 4.751 - 6.216
South-East: 7.437 - 9.425
West Midlands: 6.542 - 7.185
Yorkshire: 7.004 - 11.920
Scotland: 3.913 - 4.351
Wales: 4.761 - 5.453

Let's interpret those results.

Scottish Labour's active membership is now so low that the highest-scoring person in its internal election would be unable to take the final (I.e. the lowest-scoring slot) in any other region of the U.K. It is the only region of the UK to be in such a membership situation.

The other two low-scoring high-scorers, Wales and Northern, would be able to be elected in three and two regions respectively.

To be the worst-performing region of the UK in terms of membership is another display of what many of us have said for years: the party is an Easter egg and the chocolate is the MPs. Take away the MPs and the party is hollow inside.


  1. Dugdales 72.1% result doesn't guarantee that there was at least 100+ votes. It would be possible to satisfy this ratio with only 43 votes:
    Kezia Dugdale: 31, Ken Macintosh: 12

  2. Ahh, good shout, never thought of going below 100!