Analysis by Thomas Connolly
Labour faces another devastating week at the hands of opinion pollsters, following the revelation that it stands to lose a staggering 35 seats to the SNP at next year’s UK general election.
The Survation poll, published in the Labour-supporting Daily Record, also carried the astonishing claim that party leader Ed Miliband is “completely” trusted by a derisory two per cent of Scottish voters.
The Scotttish political scene has been stood on its head since the September referendum. Bizarre as it seems to Labour machine loyalists – a dying breed apparently – the party that “lost” the referendum appears to be leading by every normal measure since.
SNP activists appear to be everywhere, with party membership more than tripled to 85,000 and heading for the new 100,000 set by outgoing leader Alex Salmond MSP.
That means cash in the bank and bodies on the ground for a general election campaign which promises to change the UK political scene forever.
The three main UK parties face massive uncertainty as the public rejects their “business as usual” approach. The real possibility of a triple dip recession and the continuing law breaking of state-protected banks are ripping asunder people’s belief in David Cameron’s claims that “we are all in this together”.
Labour is the party with the most to lose, even after more than four years of Tory-Liberal coalition. The party that presided over the banking crisis in 2008 has discovered that it may yet reap what was sown more than six years ago by Brown and Darling’s failure to take on the banks.
The Labour dilemma – polls predict that they may have only five Scottish seats post election, a result which would confirm Miliband’s inability to win at Westminster – is reflected by institutions such as the Daily Record.
A loyal Labour paper whose craven reporting of Gordon Brown’s later intervention in the referendum debate earned scorn even before it published the infamous “Vow” promising Scotland more powers for voting “No”, the Record is in a quandary.
Many of its readers voted “Yes” on September 18. The result is that the Record is daring to publish articles that are critical of Miliband and the leadership.
As recently as a week ago, Jim Murphy MP would have seen one of his first tasks as new Scottish Labour leader as being to whip the Record back into line for the general election campaign.
But this week, Mr Murphy’s ascent to the Scottish leadership does not seem so assured. While he has the support of a majority of Parliamentarians, his nearest rival Neil Findlay MSP is gaining ground among trade unions and beyond.
Findlay, Murphy and the third candidate, Sarah Boyack MSP started a series of hustings at the weekend in advance of next month’s election.
They may start to resemble three bald men fighting for the use of a comb, if the opinion polls do not turn for Labour.
The Survation poll showed that on May 7 next year, the SNP would win 45.8 per cent of the popular vote in Scotland, Labour 23.9 per cent, the Conservatives 16.7 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 6.1 per cent. That swing implies that the SNP would win 52 Westminster seats in Scotland, Labour five and the Tories and Liberal Democrats one each.
According to the same poll, support for the SNP at Holyrood was 50 per cent in the constituency vote and 40.6 per cent in the regional vote, ahead of Labour at 23 per cent and 20.3 per cent respectively.