Commentary by Derek Bateman
You know it’s bad when even Professor John Curtice is saying: “Hey guys. Wake up and smell the coffee.”
I suspect though, that in the Murphy bunker, the Better Together refugees are sniffing the Ashcroft polls and filling their nostrils with the stench of corruption. “This one’s dead, boss…and this one. She’s a goner…so is he. Phew, what a stink.”
Gloomy polls can either motivate the hopeful to even greater effort or they can confirm the worst fears of all involved and cause a collective slump of the shoulders.
They won’t admit it, but all the signs are there of a party morale suffering from a kick in the stomach. The success of the Yes campaign in defeat, the relentless continuation of effort, the all-Scotland nationalist momentum in the polls, the mass expressions of support in the Nicola National Rock Tour…now the detail of selected constituencies reveals the aching truth – that on the streets of working class Scotland, the people Labour has taken for granted for generations have turned on them.
The ones who know this best are the party folk on the ground who have the thankless task of confronting the voters’ disillusion and disgust. How do you explain the mess the Scottish party is in? Why can’t you make your mind up on devolution? How did you come to pick Miliband as leader? Who is this Murphy, where did he come from?
Behind all of this is the knowledge of family and friends whose employment has become unpredictable, low paid, perhaps zero hours, non-unionised and with no pension. Costs have risen – the energy bills alone – but incomes are low. Benefits are cut, frozen or disappearing for disabled neighbours…people they know cut off without money for not getting to an interview on time. What is your solution? Where is the Labour message that rallies communities to fight back? What do you stand for?
The anecdotal evidence – and the unpublished Labour membership figures – appear to show a drift away, a quiet melting into the night. But the astonishing SNP membership rise and the Ashcroft numbers seat-by-seat also indicate for many a straight leap from one camp to the other. It isn’t just desertion, it’s defection.
All this renders redundant the old Labour hysteria about leaving the class war field to the enemy and seeking answers in nationalism (equals UKIP, NF, BNP etc).
Daily Record Westminster Editor Torquil Crichton, sounding scarily reminiscent of ex-MP Brian Wilson on Radio Scotland, made that very assertion as if not voting Labour was giving up on social justice – a total misreading and misrepresentation of both parties’ positions. Who favours universal benefits and who called them something for nothing? Who bailed out the bankers and didn’t stop their benefits? Who opposed intervention in Iraq and who spent £30bn waging that war and the one in Afghanistan? (Source: Royal United Services Institute).
Who voted to continue austerity and who voted against? Who voted for the benefits cap and who voted against?
This depiction of the SNP – and presumably fellow Yes travellers like Socialists and Greens – as small-minded right-wingers isn’t just a misreading. It is part of Labour’s problem. Look at those opinion poll figures. Check out the 1.6 million Yessers. Are all of these people against progressive policies? Who wants rid of nuclear weapons and who wheedles about it but quietly plans to upgrade them? Whose MPs are taking hospitality from arms dealers and joining them at trade fairs?
What Crichton and Labour apologists are doing is living in the same denial the party has been in throughout the devolution years. In 2007 a defeated Labour minister said to me: “It will get worse before it gets better.” In 2011, another one told me: “We just have to wait for the wheel to turn back to us.” We are still waiting.
Labour have convinced themselves that all this is an aberration, a kind of psephological hiccup that will cure it self in time when the people come back to the senses.
While they waited, the people moved on. They didn’t see this nasty nationalism. They didn’t see a cosying-up to business and personal deals. They didn’t see a government bending the knee to London demands. Instead they had their council tax frozen, nurses and firemen paid their pay rises, old folk given free care and travel, no forced public sector redundancies, prescriptions paid for when they hit £8 in England and ministers only too willing to tell a Tory government where to get off.
When they bothered to look, they found on the other side duffers with red rose badges opposing simple social measures like a minimum alcohol price. In the indyref they saw their representatives grinning beside Tory ministers and triumphantly announcing the pound wasn’t Scotland’s. They heard their Scotland talked down and belittled. They might not believe in independence but they did believe in Scotland. And they thought Labour did too. But any party that preferred any government in London to one in Scotland was betraying their roots.
I said recently that Labour had resorted to deceit and misinformation of a kind I hadn’t seen. It is now on an industrial scale. Even the attempt to refine the Vote SNP, Get Tories message resulted in an untruth – that “the largest party gets to form the government – FACT!”
It is endemic. It is unstoppable. I wonder if the SNP momentum might not be the same, as Labour constantly try to outbid the Nats and in doing so, play into their hands.
There was a time when Labour could have just thrown in the towel and declared that Sturgeon can have everything and anything she wants short of independence. But in a general election that won’t wash in England where Labour have successfully stoked up anti Scottish resentment but presenting their incoherent plans as a form of Devo Max and have never killed the myth that England subsidises us.
They are left with one hope – that hatred of the Tories turns back the doubters. After all voting for Labour in Scotland has always stopped us getting a Tory-led government, hasn’t it? That is, except in 79, 83, 87, 92 and 2010!
It looks now as if Scots realise that the way to get a strong Scottish voice and progressive policies is to vote SNP regardless – and why not? Labour are falling over themselves to appease them already and we haven’t even voted yet.