Archive for July, 2008

Can it get any worse for Labour?

July 26, 2008

The overall verdict on the result of the Glasgow East by-election, where the SNP overturned a Labour majority with a swing of 22%, seems to be that Gordon Brown can’t even win in the Scottish Labour heartlands, and a similar swing replicated across the country would all but destroy the party (20 MPs left is the figure being bandied about).

I don’t think it’s as bad as all that. It’s bad, certainly – I’m dreading a 1997-sized landslide for Tories at the next general election – but Labour lost to the Scottish Nationalists, who actually provided Labour’s core voters with a left-of-centre alternative. The SNP proved themselves as a credible political force last year when they took Holyrood, and with a largely positive year in power up there, I’m not surprised they performed so strongly in their first Westminster test since then.

South of the border, Labour are still the only major (ostensibly) left-wing party traditional Labour voters have to vote for, so they’ll do a better job of hanging on to their seats in northern cities and avoid a complete wipeout. But it’s still clear that the core voters don’t like the party any more. If Brown can’t prove that he’s on the side of the worker, many of them will not vote at all, or opt for the BNP, allowing the Tories or Lib Dems to sneak in in seats where Labour thought they had healthy majorities (cf Crewe and Nantwich, which was compounded by a poor campaign).

It’s looking more and more likely that Labour are going to have to make some kind of lurch to the left to win back their heartlands. With Cameron having basically won back the Middle England voters who elected Blair in 1997, the next election is lost – it seems that if they want to avoid utter humiliation, Labour’s job is to abandon their chase of the Daily Mail’s favour and focus on working-class friendly policies. (So a slight modification of my opinion after the local elections.)