Lessons from Scotland

When I started doorknocking for the Labour party in Glasgow as a fresh-faced 16 year-old, it was still then a heartland where we won often, regularly defying the ambitions of the Scottish National party.

Today, Glasgow’s constituencies are all represented by nationalists, at both Holyrood and Westminster. Our fortunes have not just changed; they have collapsed.

Some have argued this is a symptom of Labour failing to be leftwing enough; others that Labour should get behind independence. There is overwhelming evidence that these statements are simply untrue, and far worse is the fact that the latter is contrary to everything Labour should stand for.

First, the Tories are now the official opposition in Scotland. As if it was not bad enough to have them in government at Westminster, the Scottish people now rely on the Conservatives to hold our devolved government to account – and it is a government doing a dreadful job.

This could arguably be because Ruth Davidson is, admittedly, an incredibly skilled politician and very popular in Scotland, despite her party. Indeed, in recent YouGov polling the only group of voters who did not have a net positive view of the Scottish Tory leader were ScNP voters – and even among them her net favourability was -2. Among many others I would like to – and used to – believe this was the case. But some shocking statistics from the same polling show us otherwise.

Theresa May is more popular than Jeremy Corbyn in Scotland – among Labour voters. A Conservative prime minister polls better than the Labour leader among the very people it should be easiest for him to win over. In fact, May has a net positive rating among these voters (+11) whereas Corbyn’s plummets significantly into negative numbers, at -22.

Among Scottish voters – supposedly so leftwing compared to the rest of the United Kingdom – more voters said the result of our recent leadership election made them less likely to vote for Labour than they were before (which was not a high percentage to begin with). This result was replicated in England. In Wales, Corbyn made a one per cent difference.

This is quite frankly a ludicrous situation for Labour. Every member of our party ought to be desperate to win again and change the lives of working people for the better from government. Labour can do great things in power. Between 1997 and 2010, it did. Labour can win again, but Scotland shows us that Corbyn’s leadership is currently not taking us anywhere near that goal.

As a further note, while we are learning from Scotland, it should also teach us that women leading political parties are successful and popular; something that we might want to take note of next time the best candidates in our major internal elections ‘just happen to all be men.’

The future, as it stands, does not look promising. I will campaign alongside those members of the party who joined me on doorsteps despite their own reservations about previous leadership of Labour, and fight for Labour values and Labour people to be represented in parliament. Sadly, though, I believe this fight will be in vain.

If it is, as these and other numbers so strongly suggest, then there are lessons to be learned. Scotland offers those lessons in the clearest terms, and Labour need to be honest with ourselves about them.

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Michael Low is a member in the 23 and under section in the Progress strategy board elections. He tweets at @MichaelLow95

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Comments: 1...

  1. On November 16, 2016 at 11:09 pm Elizabeth McIntosh responded with... #

    So are you saying Right wing policies are the way forward? Didn’t we have a progressive, moderate centrist leader at the last Westminster election in Scotland – Jim Murphy, supported by John McTernan’s communication skills. That went well.

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