Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Haven't We Been Here Before Election

The last time Scotland voted for councillors, we were all told that the SNP would sweep all before them as they would take councils up and down the land.  Only for Labour to retake Renfrewshire, retain control of Glasgow and remain the largest party in Edinburgh.  With two big election wins behind them post Referendum, surely the SNP’s claims would come to fruition and not look like hubris. 
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with the SNP group leader of
Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken

On the one hand, this represents another election victory for the SNP with them becoming the largest party in Renfrewshire and, crucially, their key target’s of Glasgow & Edinburgh City councils.  On the other hand, a net gain of 6 seats over the 2012 result somehow feels underwhelming (the BBC reported that the SNP had a net loss of 7, without caveating that this was based on nominal results – council boundaries have changed).  The most accurate description you can apply to the SNP’s performance here is that it’s a solid, but unspectacular win for them.  The perfect example of this being the result here in Renfrewshire (see below) where the SNP share of first preference votes went up by 2.3% but gained 4 council seats, but enough for them to ease past a collapsing Labour party into largest party territory.  Yet surprisingly, they’re not seen as the big winners.

The big winners are of course the Tories.  They might have just scrapped into second place but if the media proclaim the side that came second as the winners…

Council Elections:- National Total

+/- from 2012
Lib Dems

Of course, it wasn’t just the spectacular gain’s the Conservatives made but that traditionally the most barren of ground for Tory supporters now has, thanks to the vagaries of the STV voting system, a Conservative councilor.  Shettleston, Ravenscraig & Ferguslie Park all now have Conservative representation.  Here in Scotland though, the Tories shtick is all based on being the out and proud defender of the union rather than any policies that might attract Scottish voters.  Of course having a heritage of being the old Scottish Unionist Party helps them, as opposed to Labour who for the second election in a row have swapped places with the Tories.

Of course, the Progress wingers were out in force today, sneering about Corbyn and his part in Labour’s downfall in Scotland.  Rather forgetting that the rot set in when Progress wingers ran Labour and that Labour are still suffering from the fallout from the Independence referendum.  While there’s been criticism of Corbyn (and I’m pretty sure we’ll be having that conversation again in four weeks time), it’s strange that no flack has come the way of Scottish Labour’s leader Kezia Dugdale. 

Nearly two years into the role and so far there’s no sign of a reversal in fortunes of Labour in Scotland.  Last year we had the stab at being ‘progressive’ by advocating tax rises, without understanding that being left of centre means advocating redistribution of wealth and that means not putting up taxes for low paid workers.  This years grand wheeze was to talk up opposition to a second Independence referendum.  What would help greatly would be if Dugdale & co just stopped and thought out some proper policy positions.  Rethinking out and out ‘SNPBad’ should be a priority as should thinking about their position regarding Scottish Independence.  Outright hostility to the idea’s really working for them just now.

Council Elections - Renfrewshire

1st Pref Votes
19 (+4)
13 (-9)
8 (+7)
Lib Dems
1 (=)
2 (+1)

Unlike five years ago when the council elections were in isolation, these elections take place practically on the doorstep of the next Westminster Election.  Nationally, the Conservatives were the big winners, seeing support switch to them from disillusioned Labour supporters and, perhaps more crucially, UKIP supporters.  This is a scenario I thought would happen when I said I thought we’d passed peak Kipper.  What I didn’t see was that the new PM would be the one leading the charge to adopt a UK-Tea Party line by carjacking their policies.  While we should be mindful that these are local authority elections and that we will be voting on different issues in four weeks, it looks awfully bad for Corbyn and the Labour party.  The ‘I told you so’ brigade, the ones that couldn’t wait to undermine Corbyn in the first place, will be very much out in force come June 9.

Like five years ago, the council elections have provided a victory for the SNP despite their progress being checked and like five years ago these elections confirmed the political landscape.  From out of nowhere, the Tories have now finished second in two elections by promoting one idea.  Going into the General Election campaign now, these council elections provide tantalising questions about “peak Nat” and the rise of the Tories.  If there is a second Independence referendum, the next four weeks will be the full on dress rehearsal.

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