Did Labour really ‘win’ in Scotland?


So the dust has settled on ‘the election’ and Cameron looks all but certain to be flitting into 10 Downing Street soon….

So the dust has settled on ‘the election’ and Cameron looks all but certain to be flitting into 10 Downing Street soon.  England’s election is over and England have opted for the Conservatives and spurned Labour.

What of Scotland? Well Labour we are told have just experienced triumph, they have swept all before them vanquishing the ‘irrelevant nats’ into the bargain.  But did they really? Have Labour masterminded a Scottish electoral success of the proportions being described?

Well not exactly; Labour in Scotland took precisely no seats from any other party – their regaining of by-election seats are a typical general election phenomena.  What we saw was the huge relief from a party who expected to lose a handful of seats but instead saw a fear of the Tories transformed into Labour holds.  Indeed the SNP also increased their share of the vote by 2.3% only .2% behind Labour’s 2.5% improvement.

The only major Scottish party to lose votes were the Lib Dems who saw their share of the vote drop by 3.7% – even the Conservatives improved their share by 0.9%.

If Labour are indeed the winners in this process then the losers are not just their political rivals but also the Scottish electorate.  The seat to vote-share ratio is an anachronistic anomaly that effectively disenfranchises whole swathes of the population.

The Scottish electorate are witness to an electoral ‘smash and grab’ as Labour make their getaway with 41 seats, 70% of the total on just 42% of the vote.  Contrast this with the SNP’s 6 seats, which is 10% of the total despite achieving 20% of the vote.  Spare a thought for the Tories who reaped a measly 1 seat, 1.5% of the total despite garnering over 16% of the vote.

Labour 41
Liberal Democrats 11
Conservatives 1

Vote share
Labour 42.0%
SNP 19.9%
Liberal Democrats 18.9%
Conservatives 16.7%

The situation is the same in England where the Lib Dems are the losers in this electoral ‘hall of mirrors’. 

Electoral reform must now be one outcome of this election result.  It is not a popular thing to say but it isn’t just SNP voters who have been effectively disenfranchised in Scotland the Conservatives have also suffered.  The Scottish media discussions going on at this moment over the ‘death’ of the Scottish Tories seems to ignore the 16% of Scots who actually did vote Tory.

So, electoral reform is the dilemma faced by the big two London parties.  Gordon Brown has now advertised to Nick Clegg his willingness for a ‘fairer’ system; a clear reference to PR.  However such a system would see Labour lose out in Scotland to the tune of around 16 seats.  Their arch rivals the SNP would have doubled last night’s tally to 12, a Labour 25 – SNP 12 result not looking as covincing as 41 – 6.  Such a change would also see the Conservatives leap from 1 to 10.

The Conservatives though remain opposed to PR; the party do not want the electoral reform despite the fact it would see them re-establish their political base in Scotland.  Time will tell if the Lib Dems can force their hand on this and form a coalition government.

So, let’s not get carried away with what is after all simply stagnation in Scottish seat allocation.  Labour, the SNP and the Conservatives all increased their vote share in Scotland, only the Lib Dems lost out.

We are though where we are and the Labour party finds itself the fortunate recipient of most of the Scottish seats.  As someone pointed out on ‘Brians big Debate’ we saw a traumatised Scottish electorate prepared to overlook their transgressions and send them to Westminster to fight for Scotland.

They have to adopt a mature attitude that is in contrast to the very bitter and graceless attacks on the SNP carried out by the likes of Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran.

The voting system and a fear of the Tories has resulted in Labour being left with the lion’s share of Scotland’s political ammunition.  The electorate in Scotland will not be pleased if Scottish Labour continues to take aim at the SNP.

There is of course a sting in the tail with the revelation that the ‘irrelevant’ Plaid Cymru and the SNP look certain to hold the balance of power at Westminster – a scenario predicted some time ago by one Alex Salmond.