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The Pasokification of Scottish Labour is writing on wall unless Labour moves Left

SYRIZA Labour logoThere is virtually no parallel for it in modern Western politics except perhaps the election which reduced the ruling Canadian Conservative party to just 2 seats. Ashcroft’s detailed polling of 14 Labour-held constituencies (plus 2 LibDem constituencies with even more dire predictions for their incumbents) is truly dramatic, showing an average 21% swing from Labour to SNP. What is most disturbing is that this is not a localised quirk in certain areas, but an across-the-board pattern. This is the latest, and most thorough, polling since the Scottish referendum which largely confirms earlier surveys showing that Labour could lose up to 35 of its current 41 seats. The question is: is this now inevitable or can this predicted wipe-out still be largely mitigated, and if so, how?

The Pasokification of Scottish Labour has been widely remarked on. Pasok, the Greek socialist party, regularly won 40-45% of the vote in the 1980s, but as its leaders following the financial crash clung to the Right-wing ideology of public service cuts, privatisation and ever more penalising the poor, its vote crashed to 13% in 2012 and then disintegrated to just 5% in the Syriza triumph a fortnight ago. The predicament of Scottish Labour is compounded by the popularity of Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, and by the steadily rising disenchantment in Scotland over the last 3 neo-liberal decades at being abandoned by the London-based, Tory-dominated Westminster Establishment. With just 3 months to go to the election there is likely only one way that is forceful enough to reverse this.

The UK polls are already showing significant majorities opposed to further austerity. This is hardly surprising when the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the premier tax and lending think-tank, reports that Osborne’s obsessive drive towards an overall budget surplus involves the most uncompromising austerity of any of 31 OECD rich countries. It would require further cuts of more than £50bn over the next 5 years. That would dispose of another 900,000 public sector jobs on top of the 500,000 that have already been chopped. It would take public spending, on which private investment significantly depends, to its lowest level as a share of GDP since 1948 or even the mid 1930s.

Putting a stop to this would be the one factor powerful enough to swing votes on the scale required. The latest YouGov poll reported that of those thinking of voting Labour, but not yet sure to do so, 57% wanted the party to end austerity, as against only 15% who took a different view, a 4:1 majority against further cuts. Even much of business, large as well as small, would be relieved in light of their concerns that the recovery is already losing momentum and beginning to fade. Nothing else is likely to impact on the consciousness of swing voters with the same force. Has Labour the courage to do it?


  1. Ashcroft should not be dismissed, the overall trend is clear. But his methods are not accepted by official pollsters and he is not a member of the polling organization.

    However the PASOK example is valid, and marks the end of the New Labour experiment. But for the next three months, the key issue is that no vote for the SNP will deliver a progressive government. It will merely give us a Tory administration.

    Getting that message over would be a game changer. Do some folk want the Tories to win? Start looking into the abyss. Only a Labour vote can prevent it

    Trevor Fisher

    1. Robert says:

      It means the end of New labour in Scotland, if you believe the hype Scotland now has a Blair-rite Progress leader who has turned to the left. I doubt it very much Murphy was to close to Blair to end that one. The problem is for labour Scotland it has a left wing party in the SNP and do not need labour playing games.

      In Wales we do have a left wing labour party who talks about all of the people.

      While in England let me remind you of what labour stands for.

      Labour is the party of the working peoples, it’s in our name, which is fine the rest of us will need to pray for an SNP…

  2. James Martin says:

    Can we please stop this ridiculous PASOK comparison. First, the situations are not comparable, second the Party is not about to collapse to 13% support, let alone 5%.

    I don’t doubt the nationalists are going to do well at our expense this year, but the Party is far from finished.

  3. yes the PASOK analogy is stupid. And remember that Ashcroft is a political animal, his polling is not accepted by the expert polling organisations, and he has presented the worst case scenario.

    However tactical voting is going to be needed because there is no doubt the two party alleigances are breaking down – though ultimately there will be only one of two leaders in Number 10, and the game starts from that fact.

    trvor fisher.

    1. Robert says:

      I have to smile your now expecting people to vote tactically in Scotland to vote in a labour Government have you all not noticed labour is not doing well in Scotland for a reason.

      Why the hell should people vote for a labour Government, they have gone to the SNP because of labour/.

  4. David Pavett says:

    Whether or not the PASOK analogy is useful there can surely be little doubt that (1) a major collapse of the Scottish Labour vote is on the cards and (2) Jim Murphy is not what Scottish Labour needs to prevent the collapse.

    We all surely know that Scottish Labour under Jim Murphy is not going to take the turn to the left needed to avert its collapse.

    That there is good polling data to indicate there would be a mass basis across the UK for support for genuinely radical policies from Labour seems to me to be as clear as is the fact that Labour will not choose that path.

    If Labour clearly sets itself against radical left policies (in my opinion there is no “if” about it) then further disenchantment with the unions is possible. A combination if eventual electoral reform and weakening/breaking union links could leave Labour very vulnerable to the rise of a new party of the left. I see no reason to dismiss the possibility of a dramatic collapse of Labour in the not too distant future. Imagine, for example, that Labour is not in a position to form a government after May. Miliband would be dumped. Does anyone doubt that he would be replaced by someone even less critical of New Labour assumptions than him?

    The PASOK analogy perhaosl turn out to have some force and not only for Scotland.

  5. Mhairi says:

    Ok – there will be a collapse, but remember the referendum vote: a lot of voters who voted ‘no’ were too intimidated to come out and say so. This I know from talking to some of them! I think there may be an argument that something similar is going on here: and let’s not forget just how dodgy polls can be: for instance, the poll that suggested, during the referendum, that young voters in Scotland were much more likely to vote ‘yes’, was in fact a canvas of a very small number of young people outside one polling station: I can’t quite remember, but I think it was in the region of 15. The strident SNP voters I have encountered (albeit via social media as I live in London) will not be swayed back, i don’t think, as they are, it would seem, incapable of criticising the SNP, who were at one point so right wing Salmond got thrown out – and who I believe are firmly neo-liberal (I am willing to have my mind changed about that one but so far…) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more quiet support for Labour…

  6. Peter Rowlands says:

    Yes, Scottish Labour will presumably be saying that a vote for the SNP will deliver a Tory government, as Trevor rightly thinks they should. However, the SNP will presumably say that whatever the ratio of Labour to SNP seats in Scotland that is unlikely to have any effect on the total of Tory MPs and that Scottish ( ie SNP) interests would best be served by a Labour SNP coalition. I do not buy this, and would obviously prefer to have a strong Labour vote in Scotland, without which there is no hope of a majority Labour government, but without a Tory majority I cannot see anyone apart from the odd Kipper and possibly the DUP being prepared to go in with them. If the Lib-Dems tried to it would destroy them, and I cannot see a minority Tory government surviving very long. Therefore if there were roughly equal numbers of Tory and Labour MPs a Labour based coalition would be the likeliest outcome. I think anyway that the SNP will say something along these lines, making it much more difficult for Labour to persuade their voters to switch.

  7. there is no way anyone can predict this election. But what is clear is that voting for minority parties only helps the OTHER party. THus UKIP will take Tory votes which will help Labour, Labour if they Vote UKIP will help Tories, SNP if they vote for SNP will help the Tories.

    If the SNP are daft enough to demand an Coalition on their terms before a vote has been counted so be it. The polls suggest their voters do want a Labour-SNP coalition, but they cannot deliver.

    A small Labour Party will not be in a position to stop the Tories if they get more seats. THe number of seats is going to be crucial. In this election, voting for the leader you want to be in #10 is the only option. That rule holds for SNP, Greens and UKIP

    PR would be different. We don’t have PR

    Trevor Fisher

  8. David Pavett says:

    I agree about the unpredictability of the next election. All the same, we can say that there are no imaginable circumstances that would deliver a strong and radical Labour government. This could go no further than a Labour majority, elected on a minority vote, led by the current Shadow Cabinet i.e. based on neo-liberal ideology and driven by the belief that capitalism is the only game in town. Even where it has policies that could be a temporary relief from the Tory onslaught on social provision (e.g. on health) it would simultaneously undermine it (e.g. by supporting TTIP).

    Nothing that the next election could deliver would be a stable government determined to set the UK on a radical new course. Traditional British politics has run its course and is visibly breaking up. Securing a Labour victory will not change this. The Labour left is still talking as if the Labour leaders were merely misguided and can be nudged into a socialist position if we campaign hard enough and present them with a clear case the details of which have so far escaped their attention. Progress with debate on the left requires that this illusion is abandonded.

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