With Parliaments in recess, political interest has turned to opinion polls where there’s been much rejoicing by Labour and triumphalism by the SNP. However, as past elections disclose, the former are celebrating too soon and the latter resting on their laurels. I’ve been in politics long enough to see leads prove chimeral and failure to act prove costly.
In 1992 the Labour Agent at the count was boasting of the Labour Government to come, results soon showed that to be false. To be fair it had looked promising for Labour. Thatcher gone and Major an untested successor whose soap box antics were derided as desperation. Kinnock was positively revivalist at the infamous Sheffield rally, but it still came to nought.
Yet Kinnock in many ways was in a far better position than Starmer’s now. Labour was stronger, whilst the Tories were weaker, and that’s without Johnson’s removal which would reset the dial entirely. Kinnock whilst cruelly lampooned by opponents still enthused many. Starmer meanwhile has alienated many activists within his own party and has all the motivational powers of a manikin.
SNP triumphalism’s equally misplaced. Talk of Tory wipe outs forgets that there’s now a pan-unionist vote that coalesces against the SNP. Opinion polls are predicated on national party choice where the SNP are way out in front, but in a constituency vote that can change and as with all aspects related to the constitution, the gaps much narrower. Moreover, the next set of elections are council where local factors also apply and turnout’s far lower. The idea that the SNP will sweep the field’s a mirage.
More worrying for them I recall the days when it seemed that the Labour vote in Scotland could only ever go higher. 45%, 50%, there seemed no end to their hegemony. Yet soon there was little enthusiasm for them, even when polling figures remained dominant. Doorstep discussions showed derision for them locally and disdain nationally, but when asked how they were voting it still remained uniformly Labour. That was because no credible alternative was seen and old loyalty still lingered.
But all that was to change. SNP arrived and Labour was swept away. The proud history of the 1945 Government and other stalwart defences of the working class were replaced in the public memory by betrayal on the poll tax and treachery with Better Together.
The SNP has reached the stage where there’s widespread contempt for their administration and polling’s simply reflective of wider policy issues, as it was with Labour before them. Danger looms though which is why their smugness’s misplaced. As Labour too took the electorate for granted and demanded that the electorate vote for them or get the Tories, all that can change.
The danger for the independence movement though is that if that doesn’t happen then faith in even constitutional change as an escape from Tory rule, may be lost. That’s why urgency’s required as it’ll be hope which then dies and yet is essential. SNP must deliver or be removed.