Labour triumph amidst fear and panic

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Make no mistake the election result in Scotland was a fantastic victory for Labour….

Make no mistake the election result in Scotland was a fantastic victory for Labour, it was so convincing that it had a surreal feeling about it.  Labour’s travails in Scotland didn’t just have no effect, on the contrary, the gaffes and scandals that surrounded the party led to an increase in its support.

Of course the reasons for Labour’s success wasn’t because of their troubles (Purcell, Devine etc) but in spite of them.  In England Labour have been comprehensively defeated with the Conservatives winning comfortably, crucially though without an overall majority.

No such Cameron bounce in Scotland as the Tories failed to make an impact.  The SNP although making no gains will be happy to have increased their vote, this isn’t the disaster that the Scottish media will undoubtedly suggest.  For the Lib Dems though the Scottish election has been a disaster.  Much of the Labour increases in vote appears to have come at the expense of the Lib Dems.

So what has happened in Scotland?  Do we have an electorate that have been won over by Labour’s manifesto that are in awe of Labour’s 13 year term in office?

Well, not quite; what seems to have happened is that the Scottish electorate have sensed the very real cuts that are heading their way from Westminster and have reacted in a way that can only be termed mass panic.  They have desperately turned to Labour as a drowning man in reflex will grab at a straw.

Labour in Scotland will make a grave mistake if they believe that their record or indeed their manifesto has been endorsed by this incredible Scottish result.  Jim Murphy’s spectacularly undignified rant on the BBC immediately after his own win does not augur well as he spent the entire time making incredible attacks on the SNP.  It was matched by David Mundell’s similar rant to camera later as the frustration of the Conservative failure to make progress in Scotland became apparent.

This may well turn out to have been a pyrrhic victory for Labour if they are unable to prevent cuts being inflicted on Scotland.  It will be even more incredible if they manage to form a coalition government and then set about implementing the very cuts they were elected to prevent.

Notwithstanding Northern Ireland and Wales, the UK is now two distinct countries, to the South we have a Conservative dominated England who are clearly fed up with Labour and Brown.  The English have a tendency to switch party loyalties after a decade or so and to them Labour’s time is up.  In Scotland we have a country that is not so much defined by who it endorsed but by who it feared, the English ‘meat’ has become the Scottish ‘poison’.

So, one nation votes out of desire and another votes out of fear.  How will the electorate in each of these respective countries react in the days, weeks and months ahead?

Labour will find it difficult to perform the role they have been tasked with.  They themselves advocated the cuts that the Conservatives are probably about to implement, so arguing against them won’t be easy. 

It will only be a matter of time before the Scottish electorate realise that Labour are unable to protect them from the cuts, there may even come a realisation that Labour were in fact responsible for much of the economic mess in the first place.

At that moment Labour’s current euphoria will be long forgotten and the reality of Scotland’s vulnerability will hit home.  There is also the Scottish public’s demand for more powers to the Scottish parliament and the clear majority in favour of a referendum on independence.

The elephant in the room that is about to go on a rampage is the constitution.

The coming year will pose problems for the Labour party in Scotland that they have yet to realise.  There is also the fact that any constitutional debate will include the SNP as will debates around the 2011 Holyrood election.

This election merely highlighted the very clear differences that exist North and South of the border.  How the differences are reconciled will be the narrative of the coming months.

In the meantime the Conservatives are buoyant in England whilst Labour are in a tartan daydream.  

Before celebrating this result, Labour would do well to reflect on the fact that being in the Union has led to frightened Scots voting out of fear.  Labour could have offered up absolutely no manifesto whatsoever and they would still have prevailed.

The Unionist mantra of ‘no appetite for independence’ has begun.  Scots haven’t yet voted on independence, that will come later.

This election in Scotland has been about fear and cuts, the media and the London parties marginalised the SNP.  If any of the newly elected Scottish MP’s try to use this result in order to misrepresent the constitutional wishes of the Scottish electorate they may well find themselves on the receiving end of that same electorate’s wrath.

Finally the Scottish media:
There will be much backslapping at this result and no doubt some celebrations in newsrooms and studios.  However even they will surely acknowledge that the scale of the Labour success has been perverse.

There has to be some sort of acceptance that the clear manipulation of news in Scotland and the lack of plurality is leading to an electorate who are less politically aware than they are required to be.

We should also never be faced again with the situation where the party of government in Scotland is excluded from an election TV debate broadcast in Scotland.