No party atmosphere

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by James Aitken

Over the weekend another Conservative candidate and a Liberal Democrat candidate and a list MSP in the recent Parliament resigned.  It is becoming difficult to keep on top of this but I think that it is now five Conservative candidates that have resigned since New Year.  So far most of the election coverage has been about the SNP and Labour.  Let’s take a more detailed look at the UK Government’s coalition partners.

Lets start with the Tories.

In the three Scottish Parliament elections to date and starting from 1999 the Tory vote has risen from approximately 15.5% to 16.5%.  Its regional vote has dropped from 15.5% to less than 14%.   Number of seats: 18, 18 and 17. Constituency seats: 0, 3 and 4.

In the last three Westminster elections in Scotland its record is, starting with the 2001 election: 15.5%, 16% and 17%.  1 seat won each time.     

Membership is reported to be as low as 10,000.     

The bare statistics show stagnation.  The Tories in Scotland will not be particularly worried about being unpopular in Scotland as over the last three decades that has become its default position.  What I suspect is more worrying for the Tories is the number of candidates who are resigning, the lack of any major endorsements, lack of funds and a declining membership.  The recent Party Political Broadcast was simply awful.  Contrast this with the revival of the Welsh Conservatives both in the Welsh Assembly and UK Parliament elections.  The Conservatives did initiate another review after its latest poor election performance but it is struggling to move on from its image as anti-Scottish.

It is no surprise that most of Scotland’s leading businessmen and women now endorse the SNP.  Coverage of its recent Spring conference showed how disunited it is over even the minor changes outlined in the Scotland Bill.  A leadership election is all but certain post the election.         

Now for the Liberals.

In the three Scottish Parliament elections to date its constituency vote has risen from approximately 14.5% to 16.5%.  Its regional vote has declined from 12.5% to just above 11%.  Number of seats: 17, 17, and 16.  Constituency seats: 12, 13 and 11.   

In the last three Westminster elections in Scotland its record is:  16.5%, 22.5% and 19%  Seats: 10, 11 and 11.

Membership is reported to be around 4,000.

Again the bare statistics point to a party going nowhere.  The Liberals are also in the unusual position of being regularly attacked.  The strain is beginning to show.  The weekend candidate resignation is the latest evidence of this.  Just because Clegg and Cameron have nothing to disagree about does not mean that the Liberal activists in Scotland see things in similar terms.  I suspect the Liberal hierarchy in Scotland will be worried about losing around half of its constituency seats in May.  Even if they gain a number of List seats it does indicate a party in decline.

The 2010 UK election provides further evidence of its decline.  The Liberals expected to make a number of gains and to stay ahead of the SNP in terms of votes.  Neither happened and this whilst they enjoyed unprecedented UK media coverage.  A leadership election is also likely post election if they do lose a number of constituency seats.