After the Scottish Tories survived an election in 1992 that all proper-thinking Scots ‘knew’ would annihilate them north of the border, Scottish Labour decided to go large on a strategy they’d always liked: pour some nationalism into your socialism. Have all your media friends preach that it was unScottish to be Tory. It worked. Labour’s vote in Scotland, always efficient, both grew and delivered a lot of Westminster seats for its size. Greedily, Labour decided to gerrymander this productive vote: Scots would have two parliaments, so they could both vote for Labour to rule Scotland from the Scottish one in Edinburgh and vote for Labour to rule England from the British one in Westminster. And to keep the ball rolling, they kept pouring nationalism into their list of reasons for Scots to vote Labour.
The party of the future can never foresee it. The Scots parliament proved the perfect incubator for a Scottish National Party that could outdo Labour in nationalism and rival it in socialism. As soon as Labour lost power in Westminster, the nationalist end of their vote had no reason to stay with them. And precisely because Scotland’s political geography made Scottish Labour’s Westminster vote very efficient, losing enough of it to the SNP crossed a threshold and made it very inefficient (for Labour – very efficient for the SNP). All of which surprised Labour a lot as they went from 41 Scottish seats to 1 in five years.
South of the border, no-one could accuse Labour of English or British nationalism. (A different prejudice, pandering to a different set of voters, is what brings the word ‘national’ to mind when one thinks of Labour’s socialism down south.) But the SNP’s “blame the English for our failures” style of nationalism still gives Labour a problem. Before the SNP ate Labour’s lunch in Scotland, an English voter could vote Labour and get a Labour government that included Labour MPs from Scotland. Now, Labour can only hope for a Westminster government in alliance with SNP MPs owing no loyalty to Labour – the tail that will wag the dog. Some English voters will say they’d be better off without those Scottish SNP MPs giving Labour a chance. But the more they mean it, the less they’ll vote Labour – so the less they’ll cause it. The tail would try and cut itself off the dog – but would likely fail and would take years, so why would anyone south of the border vote for five years of Labour to attempt that?
So Labour have a difficult circle to square. Unless they can replace the SNP in Scotland, everyone can see that their hope of being a government in Westminster depends on allying with them. But until they look like they could be a government in Westminster without the SNP, they lack arguments why those Scots they ‘nationalised’ should vote for them instead of the SNP. And while they have the SNP-alliance albatross on their backs, they have a deservedly hard time persuading English voters.
How Boris Johnson’s Brexit Won
In the link above Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker interviews Professor David Runciman of Cambridge. I must confess that I only have to see the New Yorker‘s distinctive Irvin typeface to see the famous “View of the World from 9th Avenue” cover. I need to get over myself. It is a good and wide ranging interview, with a focus of the parallels or lack of them between the UK and the US. Stick with it, the best parts are at the end.
I put this question to myself:
In this election campaign how many times have you heard mention of working class voters switching from Labour to the Tories?
Now, how many times have you heard mention of voters of any class switching from the Tories to Labour?
I have yet to see an article or a vox pop about the blue wall.
“The Liberal Democrats misread the political mood. Yet perhaps not all is lost”, writes Martin Kettle.
Three conclusions follow. The first is that Brexit has not reshaped the electoral battle as comprehensively as some believe. That is not to belittle the fact that Brexit has done much to recast British electoral politics. This is still a Brexit election, because its results could mark a point of no return on this most all pervasive of current issues. But it is not year zero. The idea that the Lib Dems, by being clear on the biggest issue of the day, will automatically attract all remain voters en masse to their cause is being proved false. It’s as false as Labour’s equivalent fantasy that, by being clear on the need for a radical post-austerity political economy, it will automatically attract all the votes of those who agree with that policy. In both cases, belief in practicality and trust in the leader are crucial to making the sale.
I would add to that final point about trust something that Martin Kettle almost certainly would not. It is a line from an article published yesterday by Mr Kettle’s Guardian colleague John Harris: “Labour’s ‘red wall’ is looking shaky. But the problems started decades ago”.
Mr Harris writes,
Running through a great deal of what I heard was a point voiced time and again by all kinds of people: in the absence of Brexit being delivered, why should they trust politicians to do anything else?
A couple of days ago YouGov published the first set of results of their massive Multilevel Regression with Poststratification poll. This was big news, as the equivalent from the last election in 2017 was one of only two polls that came close to the final result. (The other was a conventional poll by Survation.) The YouGov MRP results showed the responses of the hundred thousand strong panel as of 27th November. If this election were a game of The Weakest Link, that would have been the point at which the Tories said “Bank”. The results suggested a sea of red seats turning blue. (Note for American readers: your colour conventions for parties are wrong. Wrong like the spelling “color”.) As ever, though, a poll is a snapshot not a prediction.
There is no bank. Today’s poll from BMG showed the steepest absolute rise for Labour – five percentage points compared to BMG’s last poll – that I have seen so far in this election, and add to that a decline of two percentage points for the Conservatives. Net change -7, giving Con 39%, Lab 33%. One might argue – Tories might pray – that it ain’t as bad as it looks because it was quite a while since the last BMG poll. Or perhaps it is just one of those spasms that all polls are subject to, poor lambs. But however you spin it, a Conservative lead in vote share as small as six points almost certainly means no Tory majority, which means a coalition between Labour and one or more of the other parties, which means a second referendum, which means, given Labour’s plan to allow foreigners the vote, no Brexit.
When the YouGov MRP came out some Conservative campaigners had been saying that they wished it had been tighter, as such a thumping great lead would make their side complacent. They have their wish now.
I assume from Labour being up five and the Lib Dems down five that we are seeing a straight tactical transfer of voting intention from the latter to the former. The Remain vote is consolidating just as the Leave vote did before it.
Fraser Nelson in today’s Telegraph:
Let’s not pretend that the Corbyn agenda is dismissed nationwide as a socialist calamity-in-waiting. His plans to nationalise water, railways, electricity and gas are supported by about half of all voters; his idea for British Broadband Corporation is backed by a margin of three to one.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is interviewed by the Spectator.
I remember having conversations with colleagues in the government that came in in 2010 saying I thought austerity was just not the right way forward for the UK.
Anyone wanting to reduce the size of the state has a lot of work in front of them.
Sometimes all one can say is “Read this”. It is by peer-turned-pollster Lord Ashcroft, who used to be Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, but whose relations with the Tories are no longer so friendly.
It was always clear that the “credible Leave option” that the Labour party proposes to pit against Remain in a second referendum is a fake. The plan is for Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry to get together with their EU opposite numbers and, after the least arduous negotiations imaginable, to emerge beaming with a “deal” deliberately designed to be as unattractive as possible.
But if that wasn’t enough, the Labour manifesto plans to make assurance doubly sure, as Macbeth said when deciding to murder Macduff. I quote:
We will oversee the largest extension of the franchise in generations, reducing the voting age to 16, giving full voting rights to all UK residents, making sure everyone who is entitled to vote can do so by introducing a system of automatic voter registration, and abandoning plans to introduce voter ID which has been shown to harm democratic rights.
–“It’s time for real change – The Labour Party Manifesto 2019”
The innocuous phrase “all UK residents” includes non-UK citizens from any country. As it says elsewhere in the manifesto, there are three million EU residents in the UK. They will get to vote on whether the UK remains in the EU. The majority by which Leave won the 2016 referendum was 1.3 million.
1) I am beginning to think that the best strategy for the Leave side would be for the Brexit Party and the Conservatives to make no official pact, and to continue to denounce each other vigorously, but to make a de facto pact in terms of which seats receive money and campaign volunteers from the two parties.
(EDIT 12:30, 11 Nov 2019: Whether or not that would have been the best strategy, it is now off the cards. Guido Fawkes reports, Brexit Party will Stand Down in 317 Seats the Tories Won in 2017)
2) In an effort to correct for the errors of their disastrous 2017 campaign, the Conservatives are deliberately holding back their main effort until later. This may be an overcorrection, but we’ll see. Expect the fireworks to start after the launch of the Labour manifesto. (The Conservatives’ own manifesto will be as short and uncontroversial – for which read fiscally incontinent – as possible.)
3) Talking of which, the line over which the campaign will be fought will be the words from the 2017 Labour manifesto that may or may not appear in the 2019 Labour manifesto: “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.” If these guys were to get their way the election result would be a Tory landslide. But Labour’s instinct to fudge will probably prevail.
3.5) It is sad to note that if I am right, both (2) and (3) require the Conservatives to move in an anti-Libertarian direction in order to win.