In 1997, Blair’s New Labour party swept to power, resulting in John Major’s Conservatives losing all of their seats in Scotland. To this day, the party has barely recovered and currently has just one MP. Additionally, the Conservatives once gained over 50% of the vote in Scotland, showing just how far the right of centre party has fallen.
With the rise of the SNP it is likely that Labour could follow a similar path.
Sunday’s YouGov poll gives the SNP 42% of the vote in Scotland - for Westminster elections. Just 25% of Scottish respondents would vote Labour, whilst 20% would vote Conservatives, placing the parties on an almost equal footing in Scotland.
Looking at recent opinion polls, this trend continues. Friday’s YouGov poll also gave Labour just a five point lead over the Conservatives (23%-18%), whilst the SNP got 48%.
Wednesday’s poll, by YouGov, gave Labour 28% and 20% to the Conservatives. Although the gap is bigger here, with the rising support for the SNP it is arguable that this gap will continue to narrow.
It is clear that Labour is losing ground in one of its former strongholds.
Furthermore, an Ipsos Mori Survey on Thursday, commissioned by STV, put the SNP on 52%, which would likely give them 54 of Scotland’s seats. Labour’s presence north of the border would be diminished, with just 23% of the vote and four seats. To put this change into perspective, in 2010 Gordon Brown’s Labour got 42% of the vote, whilst the SNP got less than 20%.
It is possible that this rise in support for the SNP in Scotland could change by next May, as voters may revert to the old pattern of voting SNP for Holyrood and Labour for Westminster. But post-referendum, it is arguable that the political game has changed permanently. Labour could face an almost wipeout in Scotland, putting them on a par with the Conservatives.
Speaking on Andrew Marr this Sunday, Alex Salmond said the reasons for Labour’s failures in Scotland were partly down to the party standing with the Conservatives during the referendum campaign.
The truth is, that now it is unpredictable, but what is clear, is that if Labour face a massive reduction in their vote share and seat share next May then there will be an awful lot of work for the new Scottish Labour leader - whoever that may be. Additionally, if Labour lose the vast majority of their seats in Scotland then Ed Miliband’s chances of becoming Prime Minister will be substantially weakened.
If the polls turn out to be correct then Labour could be reduced to being as on the same level as the Conservatives, something that is making the idea of a hung parliament much more likely next May.
Sunday’s YouGov poll can be found here: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/n965i9mzb8/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-311014.pdf
The STV/Ipsos Mori Survey can be found here: http://news.stv.tv/scotland-decides/297729-stv-poll-labour-would-annihilated-if-general-election-held-tomorrow/