Some of you may have gained the impression over the last few months that I was ridiculing the idea of a Tory revival in Scotland. Headlines like: You’re a Loser, Ruthie…Aye, That’ll Be Right…and Get It Up Ye, Tory Ba***rds…may have inadvertently given rise to suggestions I believed a Conservative comeback was unlikely. I’m sorry if any of you misunderstood my position which I would like to clarify now.
My considered opinion is that it is entirely possible the Tories will form the opposition at Holyrood after May. Still unlikely, verging on a long shot. But nevertheless, plausible (as I obviously thought all along. Do keep up.)
The latest Survation poll in the entirely trustworthy Daily Record puts the Tories on 16 per cent in the top up section only four points behind a drooping Labour. That means the Tories are up three points and Labour down two. So what? It’s within the margin of error. Well, we’re now only five months away from voting and while still many weeks from the frantic final run-in when many people commit, nevertheless patterns of behaviour are now clear. The SNP block is not shifting. The robots are programmed. Even if Nicola were revealed to be a lizard (the Record’s current investigation project) the daleks will head for the polls with an SNP cross marked on each plunger arm. Labour pollsters will be met with Exterminate.
Crucially though, Labour are stuck. To make an impression, if not actually win, you need momentum. Little signs, wee straws, wetted fingers testing the air, a palpable sense that something is happening. Word comes in from unlikely locations of a positive response. Others report bile spat about the Nats. There is a growing warmth towards the leader, etc. My favourite story about this kind of vote divining was late Labour organiser Jimmy Allison in ill-fated Govan 1988. He said he’d ‘been oot there sniffin’ the air. It’s nae good.’ It is a strange phenomenon that could keep a university going for years. It’s a kind of osmosis in which conversations, the news, the tone of presentation, all create a miasma which seeps into your consciousness and feeds the roots of expectation. And my expectation is that Labour will lose heavily. I don’t want them to. I’d rather people who know they’re supposed to strive for liberal values than the Tories who are slowly killing Britain, but there it is. Voters, already sickened by Labour, have learned they really can give them a kicking and the world doesn’t fall in on them. The habits of generations have been abandoned. Many will never go back but I think many are there to be wooed, awaiting a credible call – that will never come. Not for the foreseeable…
The serious players of Scottish Labour are departed – to obscurity, the Lords, or both. The Murphy experience still elicits the dry boak. Kezia’s carefree optimism sums up the predicament. To core voters and the recently defected she is embodiment of Labour’s failure…too young, naïve, ineffectual and somehow disposable. And then there’s the Westminster branch…St Trinian’s after the sixth form broke into the head’s drinks cabinet.
But would any of those incipient Labour votes transfer to Davidson’s Division? Maybe so. Maybe there are just enough centrist Unionists who want Britain to work better and who have lost all faith in Jeremy’s lot. They want to stop the Nats but no longer see any signs from the Labour leadership that they’re capable of it. Where once they could have slipped easily over the Liberals…nowadays, well, would you? Interestingly, while Sturgeon soars away in popularity, Ruth does better, albeit negatively, than does Kezia. That’s not good.
Ruth as leader is the kind of jolly, no nonsense type who would have led a hut rebellion in Tenko. Liz Smith is a head teacher type worth listening to. Murdo?…well, if he stopped playing the role of landowners’ ghillie, he’s an acceptable sort. And if they can make Professor Tomkins take his tablets every morning, he’ll sound somewhat sensible too. No, if it’s the Union that drives you, you’ve little option really. With the state Labour’s in, you wouldn’t trust them to run a bath, let alone a government.
I was wondering why Kezia suddenly came out with a middle class bribe of using taxpayer’s money to boost the housing market when the need is for affordable accommodation. Is the Tory threat the reason? Her whole pitch has been to the Left of the SNP, painting them as Tory austerity stooges. Then she undoes it with a naked Tory-style market offer her own party derided just a few years ago.
To be fair, it must be a kind of bunker hell to know you’re flatlining (at best) and making no impact on your main opponent – only to discover the hounds are at your own heels. This is the double horror of Labour’s dilemma – floundering against the Nats but now truly terrified of a Tory surge.
Make no mistake, in that unlikely event, it isn’t just the end of Kezia – it’s curtains for Labour. We would be drawing a veil over the funeral party and leaving them to bury their own with dignity. But there would be no way back without the kind of total reform and ruthless self-analysis they have so fair failed to carry out since the first earthquake of 2007. God rest them. Or Hell mend them?by