Normally at this point in the election campaign there is an inkling that things are either won or lost. That things are close to being decided. Like five years ago however, things are not quite decided and that final decisive movement is still to come.
Of course, at this point five years ago Brown’s meltdown in Rochdale that essentially cost him the election was still to happen. Even so Cameron’s poll ratings were not as far ahead as they wound up being come polling day. This time there’s just no movement whatsoever.
Both Labour and the Conservatives are showing as deadlocked on 33% each on the UKPR polling average. While there is no lead for Labour, the swing hinted at of 3.5% from the Conservatives to Labour would suggest Labour gaining 42 seats from the Conservatives. This swing would also point to 6 gains for Labour at the expense of the Lib Dems. Normally this would point to Labour being very firmly in largest party territory and falling just short of an overall majority. That scenario does rather ignore the bloodbath about to engulf “Scottish” Labour.
I had written about the task facing the ‘45ers’ last autumn just before polling showed a huge shift in voting intention from Labour to the SNP. Currently the SNP are averaging polling leads roughly in the mid 20’s. Extrapulated into swing, this is showing a swing from Labour to the SNP of about 22%. Enough to leave Labour with only 5 seats. Gone would be Cathy Jamieson, Margaret Curran, Anas Sarwar, Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy. It’s the potential for the loss of Alexander, and the adoption by the SNP of Mhari Black – who would be the youngest MP to enter Parliament since the 1920’s - as their candidate, that seems to have captured the imagination of the London and international media as we have seen the likes of Michael Crick (Channel 4) Alegra Stratton (Newsnight) Ewan McAskill (the Guardian) and Helen Lewis (of The New Statesman) ventured towards the home town of this blog. Paisley has never been such an epicenter of political campaigning since... well the by-election in November 1997 when the SNP's Iain Blackford lost to one Douglas Alexander.
The potential fall of Alexander and election of Black seems to be the fortunes of both parties as microcosm. Alexander the arch New Labour backroom player who’s own Blairite views have fallen from favour not just in the country but in his own party versus Black who made a name as a ‘Yes’ supporter & campaigner. If the new political landscape in Scotland threatens Labour in their attempt to win a week on Thursday, well who’s fault is that then that “Scottish” Labour failed to adapt to the new realities.
It’s not just ‘Scottish’ Labour who has failed to adapt. The Conservatives and the Lib Dems seem intent in making the SNP look like the barbarians at the gate, intent on spending money that would leave us worse off than we are now. If anything, and as I pointed out when discussing Salmond’s legacy as First Minister, the SNP have been a conservative steady hand on the Scottish Government tiller. Not the radical reforming force that we maybe need – and was hinted at in 2007 with the willingness to look at Local Government financing before LIT was dropped. But that’s an argument for 2016.
In the meantime the rise of the SNP has seen them essentially treated as lepers by the Westminster Three. More than their adoption of Keynesian economics, the thing Westminster has been agitating against is the potential for a second Independence Referendum. I think that the SNP’s response to questions on a second referendum should be to ask the Westminster Three if they condemn the tactics of the Conservative Party and their cheerleaders in the English media in making Scottish people feel like foreigners in our own country.
As we enter the final full week of campaigning, we are still to see the defining moment. Cameron is still hanging on in there despite his campaign being seen as at best lacklustre with a couple of disastrous moments in particular – his interview with Paxman and his Q&A on Radio 1. Miliband is having a better campaign than Cameron, but is still not performing as well as the SNP. If Milliband does fail to make it to Number 10 purely because of Labour supporters switching to the SNP, I wonder if there will be consequences for ‘Scottish’ Labour who have failed to adapt to the post referendum landscape. While that particular fallout is still to be played out, there’s just one actor waiting to be cast. Who is this election’s Gillian Duffy?