Monday, February 18, 2019

Labour split: is today the day that assures the SNP of continued hegemony in Scotland?

I literally slept through the Labour breakaway this morning, so the first question I wanted answered when I woke up was whether this would be a formal new political party with a name, logo, colours, whip, paid membership and so on, or whether it would be just a ragtag of independents for the time being.  I was dismayed to discover it's the latter, because I do wonder if this could make the fall of the Tory government less likely in the short-term.  Having skimmed through a fair bit of the reporting on the breakaway, I haven't yet found any sign of the MPs being asked whether they would vote with the opposition parties in any no confidence vote.  You can imagine they won't be overly-keen on a general election until they have a formal organisation behind them. (Presumably the 'Independent Group' is a proto-party in the same way that the Council for Social Democracy preceded the formal launch of the SDP in 1981 - nothing else would make any sense, because the rule of thumb with independent MPs is that they lose their seats at general elections, and a general election can't be avoided forever.)  If by any chance the MPs start acting like "crossbenchers", and abstain on no confidence votes "to prevent Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister", as the odious John Woodcock has done, the government would be safe even if it lost the support of the DUP.  But with a bit of luck, Umunna, Berger and co will see the political risk attached to looking like Tory enablers, and will reluctantly carry on voting to bring the government down.

I would guess that, other than not being quite ready, there are a couple of reasons why they've held off from launching a formal party just yet: a) to leave the door just about ajar to reverse their defections if there is an unexpected change of direction within Labour, and b) to make it easier for their former "Labour moderate" colleagues to avoid attacking them in the way that would be inevitable if they had officially made themselves electoral opponents.  Right on cue, the likes of Kezia Dugdale and Blair McDougall seized the opportunity to attack their own party leadership rather than the splitters, which is nevertheless an extraordinary thing for them to do, because it makes clear that their instinctive first loyalty is to people who are trying to destroy their own party from the outside.  And although I suspect both Dugdale and McDougall know full well that a Labour split in Scotland would be electoral suicide for both the new party and whatever is left behind, their statements today will make it very difficult for them not to make the jump if they see the bulk of their fellow travellers in England defect in the long run.

In particular, some of McDougall's tweets today have been mind-bogglingly disloyal to "his party".  Here are a couple -

"Well done. You’ve spent two years desperately trying to make Labour smaller. You’ve succeeded. Now you can spend two years moaning that the MPs and voters you’ve driven away mean Labour can’t get elected. As if you care about getting into government. A terrible day for my party."

"I’m in a party that Luciana Berger can’t stay in and that Jim Sheridan can’t get thrown out of. What a s*** show."

The Scottish media are going to look pretty silly if they continue trying to push their "SNP civil war" narrative with all this going on.  The face of Mr Blair McDougall is what a real civil war looks like.

What is the biggest threat to SNP hegemony in Scotland?  It sure as hell isn't the Tories, in spite of the most cherished dreams of the commentariat.  There still appears to be a natural ceiling of around 30% on Scottish Tory support, and they'll struggle to even reach that at the next election.  No, the real threat is the enduring cultural and tribal affinity to the Labour brand among working-class and "working-class-minded" voters in the central belt.  We thought briefly that we'd slayed that beast in 2015, but both the local elections and the general election two years ago showed yet again just how unthinkingly some voters, including many pro-independence voters, default back to Labour, even when it appears to most people that the game is up. 

But Labour is about providing an alternative to Tory rule at Westminster, or it is nothing.  Dugdale and McDougall could be killing their own party, while failing to replace it with an alternative force that is remotely viable in Scotland.  If this breakaway eventually swells to the point where Labour no longer looks like a credible opposition, the SNP may start to feel like the only game in town for the traditional Labour vote, and at last we'll have a reliable, united, stable, pro-indy, centre-left vote at both Westminster and Holyrood elections, with a huge in-built lead over the Tories, which can only make independence a somewhat more probable outcome.

24 comments:

  1. Have been looking at their seats and wondering how they could do if there was a GE/by election. Chuka would probably be OK, hes got a decent majority and far left party lead by an old white bloke is not a big selling point in Streatham. Certainly no risk of Con or LB taking the seat

    Mike Gapes has been around along time with a healthy majority so name recognition might get him across the line, same with Ann Coffey.

    Angela Smith been around a while but only has majority of 1300 so would be on the bubble of loosing her seat anyhow.

    Hard to call on the others.

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    1. I'm not at all convinced that any of them, even Chuka, would be safe in a general election until and unless they get sorted out as a proper party. In a by-election he'd probably be fine, but general elections are hostile environments for independents, even big name independents.

      Most of them would be toast. A "healthy majority" means nothing - that was in large part a Labour majority, not a personal vote.

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    2. The last time someone resigned his seat when leaving Labour was Bruce Douglas-Mann in Mitcham and Morden in June 1982. He lost. The Tories gained the seat.

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  2. 7 by-elections would certainly help May. Going on previous experience this will probably end with a "merger" with the Lib Dems.

    Sooner if there's a GE and the LDs back them rather than stand against them.

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    1. The Liberal Countdown Harry Potter Democrats.

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    2. Bit of a mouthful James, it'll never catch on. :D :D

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  3. I just noticed this in the Guardian "analysis":

    "In the short term the group has one central task – to convince 29 more disgruntled MPs from any party colour to join their group. That would give them official third party status – overtaking the SNP and access not just to more short money but also a prized guaranteed slot for the group’s leader at every PMQs, replacing the SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford."
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/18/labour-mps-split-a-clear-attempt-to-start-a-new-party

    So that's where the idea they wanted 30 MPs to joing their group came from. They would get money.

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    1. They've got to walk before they can run. They haven't even overtaken Sinn Fein yet.

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    2. True. But my immediate reaction to the idea they wanted more than 29 to become 3rd party was ... utter chancers.

      Also Buzzfeed were reporting they originally had 30 discussing quitting, but in classic Labour style, they fell out...

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    3. Young James, I doubt the famous seven will get the right wing press behind them as the gang of four did because the Tories are in power and not Labour. You are right the Nat sis will continue to be in power for a long time and any monkey can be elected. The working class can kiss their erses. The gang of four were ardent anti socialists and Corbyn will know his enemies in the Party. A few more of the Labour French wine sippers will leave.

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    4. To be fair they are going to need every penny they can get if they want to form a party. To give an idea of scale of money they need in 2017 SNP Westminster Group spent just over a million on staff costs alone and that only got them 27 staff. Add on at least a million or so for 'campaigning' plus all the other costs and will probably need at leat between 3-5 million a year.

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    5. And punters going to food banks have to walk. No free bus pass for those sorts.

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    6. GWC: The Gang of Four broke away in 1981, so that was under a Tory government as well. (I can't believe I'm replying to the man seriously, but...)

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    7. You should not misrepresent my comment. I wrote 'are' in power. I am well aware the Tories were in power from 1979 thanks to the help from your Nat sis and during your nappy days. You are welcome to play with words.

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    8. Furthermore young James Unilateral Disarmament was probably the most stupid policy adopted by Labour in its history. It was gold to the Tories.

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    9. Gosh yes. Heaven forbid that any party should do anything stupid like trying to save humanity from nuclear destruction.

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    10. Or the Soviet Gulag and or the Stasi. Or the educational camps in China or the Scottish National fuds! Help ma Moab, Oor Wullie an ra Broons.

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    11. James, is it the yellow, red or the wee blue book you student Nat sis are holding high in your hand to save us working class. How is big Tam the former working class hero doing?

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  4. Is this the party that Jakey Potter and some gameshow hostess were going to set up, or is that another snooty shower of moneybags?

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  5. Lucky you. I dearly wish I'd slept in a bit longer this morning!

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    1. Always the bitter word. "Feel sorry for me, everyone. I may be a whiner but I'm special." Oh, how are the might fallen. Test!

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  6. Duke of Cumberland SausageFebruary 19, 2019 at 1:59 AM

    The Jacobite and French Irish Papist alliance have gone into recess.

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  7. Hello people I thought I had better introduce myself. I am from 'independent labour for indy'. We are a group that supports the breakaway labour gang of 7 and supports Scottish independence too. We were set up just after teatime. We were wondering, is there any chance of you guys crowdfunding us?

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  8. We were always Tories but could not humiliate ourselves by crossing the floor to the Tories or moving to the right and joining the Tartan Tories. Our only option was to be independent and still collect our salaries. We know we would all lose bye elections to Labour so here is to 5 May 2022 and 200k in the bank.

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