Labour in crisis north and south of the Border

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By a Newsnet reporter

With Labour spectacularly losing the Bradford West by-election, the SNP published an analysis of polling evidence showing that all three Westminster party leaders – Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg – are even more unpopular in Scotland than they are in the English region containing Bradford.

George Galloway’s stunning by-election victory in Bradford West on Thursday left Labour reeling.  The party had expected to hold the seat with a comfortable majority, but instead found their candidate, local man Imran Hussain, being crushed by a 36.59% swing to Mr Galloway.  The final result saw the Labour candidate over 10,000 votes behind Mr Galloway who polled over twice as many votes as his Labour rival.

The seat was formerly considered a Labour safe seat.  A by-election had been called after the sitting MP, Labour’s Marsha Singh, resigned due to a long-term illness.  The catastrophic failure of Labour in the by-election calls into question the direction the party is taking under leader Ed Miliband.  Despite what has been considered an appallingly bad week for the Conservatives after the Budget debacle, Labour is failing to benefit electorally from the popular backlash against the Tories.

“No question they are going to be seeing this as a disaster,” said Mark Wickham-Jones, an expert on the Labour Party from the University of Bristol.

“What is really disastrous for Labour is this could have been the best week since May 2010 and actually it turned in the space of a few hours into one of the worst.”

Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman admitted that the poll was disappointing for Labour, and said:

“It’s a very disappointing result.  There’s no getting away from it.  Twice as many people voted for Respect as voted for Labour and – we have to really understand – as recently as a week ago were saying they were going to support us and have been longstanding supporters and engaged with the Labour party, but when it came to the vote, voted for Respect.”

She added: “We are changing the Labour party and we are rebuilding and strengthening all around the country, but there’s a particular problem in Bradford, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband also admitted that the result was “incredibly disappointing” and vowed that the party would “learn lessons” from the defeat.  

Mr Miliband said:  “It was an incredibly disappointing result for Labour in Bradford West and I am determined that we learn lessons of what happened.

“I’m going to lead that. I’m going to be going back to the constituency in the coming weeks to talk to people there about why this result happened.

“Clearly there were local factors, but I also say only four out of 10 people voted for the three mainstream political parties.

“We’ve got to understand the reasons why that happened in Bradford.

“Above all it reinforces for me something that I’ve emphasised throughout my leadership which is that we need to be engaged and rooted in every community of this country.

“We need to show to people that our politics, that Labour politics, can make a difference to people’s lives.”

However under Mr Miliband’s leadership the Labour party has failed to make an impact on voters.  His personal polling ratings continue to be disastrous, and in Scotland he is performing even worse than his poor performance in the North of England, which was so dramatically illustrated by Mr Galloway’s spectacular by-election victory.  

The latest YouGov polling on how well or badly the UK party leaders are performing shows that the UK party leaders’ ratings are worse in Scotland than in the North of England – and worse in Scotland compared to the UK as a whole.  The figures show that Ed Miliband has a negative rating of -28% in the North of England – but an even worse -39% in Scotland.

The leaders of the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are also received much more poorly in Scotland than they are in the North of England.  David Cameron has a negative rating of -19% in the North of England – and a much worse -48% in Scotland.  Nick Clegg has a negative rating of -46% in the North of England and -61% in Scotland.

The most recent figures for Alex Salmond – the Panelbase poll published in the Sunday Times on 5 February – showed a positive rating of +17%: the only leader at Holyrood or Westminster to have a positive rating.

The latest breakdowns for YouGov show that Labour has a 10 point lead over the Tories across the UK, and a 31 point lead over the Tories in the North of England.  However, in Scotland Labour trails the SNP by 5%: with the SNP at 38%, and Labour at 33%.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader and SNP Campaign Director Angus Robertson MP said:

“If Labour are losing parliamentary seats in a heartland region like the North of England, it confirms that they are in crisis north and south of the Border.

“The three Westminster parties are clearly deeply unpopular in Bradford.  And the latest polling figures shows that all three UK party leaders – Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg – are even more unpopular in Scotland than they are in the North of England.

“The latest YouGov sample also indicates that the SNP are even ahead of Labour in Scotland for a Westminster General Election.

“This by-election result is an unmitigated disaster for Labour – and a total embarrassment for Ed Miliband in a week when the Tories and coalition government are on the back foot over the granny tax, petrol and pasties.

“And for Labour’s ratings to be more than 25 points worse in Scotland than in the North of England shows how far Scotland has moved on.

“It is clear that the people of Scotland are rightly appalled by Labour agreeing ‘100 per cent’ with the Tories on Scotland’s future.

“Ed Miliband’s decision to join in a toxic pact with the Tories to stand in the way of job-creating powers and more responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament must be a key factor in this overwhelming negative verdict against him from Scots voters, who now know that a Yes vote to independence is the only sure way to secure these job-creating powers.

“It’s no wonder that Scottish voters have deserted Labour in droves, and no wonder that Ed Miliband’s ratings are plumbing previously unimaginable depths for a Labour leader in Scotland.

“Labour has no credibility and nothing useful to say on the constitution, on the economy, or on any of the issues that matter to households in Scotland and, increasingly, in England as well.”