Jamie Glackin, Chair of Scottish Labour, charts the party’s path from the referendum to the general election, and says despite the polls we are finding our voice again, and it is the voice of a fairer Scotland.
As a young seminarian many moons ago, in the last days of the Major government, the Church of England was undergoing quite a bit of upheaval. Women priests were being ordained, and this was unacceptable to a number of clergy who decided that their only option was to join the Catholic Church.
I recall a wry old priest telling me “Nothing is as good for the clicking of Rosaries as the fervour of the newly converted.” Or something along those lines. And of course, it’s possible to see similar phenomena when religious experience is examined in every culture and religion, including Islam. It would seem that such an experience is part of human psyche.
A similar thing happened in Scotland during the referendum campaign. Not religious fervour per se, but political. Many of the level headed in the nationalist movement looked on in some horror at the antics of their Yes colleagues, but were powerless to do anything about it. Their eye was on the prize of independence, and any assistance at all that would help win Scotland its ‘freedom’ would be grudgingly tolerated.
Except that’s not what happened. Whilst euphoria was spilling out onto the public squares of Scotland with much Saltire waving and Nick Robinson baiting, Labour, in our biggest ground operation ever conducted in Scotland, were out knocking doors until polls closed. And we helped carry the day.
But out of the ashes of a significant defeat the “45ers” were born. Obviously, the natural home for them to continue their observance was with the SNP. Facts that were inconvenient to their canon were dismissed as coming from “Red Tories”. Journalists who pointed out inconsistencies in the narrative? Well they were just heretics who would undoubtedly face their “day of reckoning”.
Many people like this subsequently joined the SNP, contributing to their boom in membership, and have undoubtedly influenced the selection of some surprising Westminster candidates. More still are reasonable folk who define themselves as ‘Yes’ more than SNP. But with that party surge polls have predicted doom for Scottish Labour ever since.
So, as Scottish Labour waits with baited breath on the Ashcroft polls of individual Scottish constituencies I thought I would share my prediction with you. It’s not going to be good. It’s going to be terrible.
What the polls don’t, and won’t, show however is the sophistication of the Scottish electorate, who have demonstrated in the past that they vote depending on the election. This was once the nightmare scenario for Scottish Labour, but it may yet still be our saving grace come May.
As Jim Murphy said yesterday, the polls won’t flip until later on in the campaign, but when they do, they will flip big. I believe this analysis for the simple reason that people who genuinely don’t want a Conservative government are faced with a stark reality come May: if you want a Labour government in the UK you have to vote for one.
Nor do the polls show the slow burn that is happening right now. People are definitely more open to the Labour message than they were previously, and this is down to the dogged hard work of all the leadership team and our superb party staff. But it is in particular down to Jim and Kez. Now we are getting a hearing in the press, which sadly was nigh on impossible before. Why? Well we really didn’t have much to say.
But there’s plenty now. People like the idea of 1000 new nurses paid for by the mansion tax. People like the idea of devolving welfare to the Scottish Parliament. People like the idea of a Labour Party standing up for jobs in the oil and gas industry, as the price falls through the floor. Pages of a different story are now being turned – one that’s not about single issue politics but a genuine attempt at rebalancing our society.
People vote for ideas and ambition. If we offer both we will hold our seats in May and see off another Cameron government. But we will have to hold our nerve along the way.
And you know, a little bit of fervour from us wouldn’t go amiss either.
Between now and May 7th we need to harness the enthusiasm, not just of those who passionately voted No, but also of those who voted Yes.
Most Yes voters believed independence was the fastest route to a fairer Scotland. We need a little fervour in delivering that fairer Scotland now. We will need it to help deliver a fairer Britain.