Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How would a Galloway candidacy affect the SNP v Labour battle?

I'm ever so slightly dismayed by the hints from George Galloway that he might be gearing up for a run in the Holyrood elections next year. Although I certainly don't agree with everything he says and does, I've thus far been able to take a certain amount of satisfaction in his occasional triumphs since being expelled from Labour, as it was that party he was a perennial thorn in the side of (along of course with a US Senate Committee that was almost as clueless as Menendez and co). However, if he does stand for the Scottish Parliament, he unfortunately seems somewhat more likely to do harm to the SNP than to Labour, simply because the SNP are so reliant on their list seats in Glasgow (and because Labour have no list seats to defend in the city at all). I can see five possible scenarios...

1) Galloway is no longer the force he was, and in any case his defection to the bright lights of London a few years ago has done him few favours in Glasgow. He receives a derisory vote, making no difference to the distribution of seats.

2) Galloway still has a big enough personal following to secure a seat, but in doing so he simply takes a seat that would have been won by another far-left candidate anyway. This ties in with Jeff Breslin's theory that the socialists are likely to recover sufficiently from their 2007 trouncing to at least sneak a seat in Glasgow.

3) Galloway does still have a big following, and it's one that the two 'indigenous' socialist parties can no longer match following the Sheridan saga. He takes a seat on the Glasgow list that would otherwise not have been won by the far-left, and that would otherwise have been taken by the SNP.

4) Same as scenario 3, except that either the Lib Dems or Greens underperform in Glasgow to such an extent that Galloway takes a seat that would otherwise have been won by one of them, not the SNP.

5) Galloway doesn't poll strongly enough to take a seat, but does do well enough to split the socialist vote and prevent another far-left candidate from being elected. This would leave an extra seat available on the list to be seized by a grateful SNP, or another mainstream party - but almost certainly not Labour.

So that makes three scenarios that would have no impact on the Labour v SNP battle, one that would harm the SNP, and one that might even conceivably help them. Unfortunately I think scenario 3 is probably more likely than 4 or 5.


  1. Six or seven years ago, pre Bethnal Green & Bow, scenario 3 may have made sense but it's out of date now. Scenario 1 is the realistic one. George Galloway's political career is now toast; the SWP won't touch him, his former Bangladeshi allies in Respect won't touch him; and in Scotland the SSP won't go near him, while Tommy has plenty enough on his plate without having to contend with the one ego on the far left bigger than his (which is where the otherwise believable scenario 2 falls down in respect of GG). As for Labour and the SNP, Galloway will barely make a dent in the figures. Go back to your talk-show, George.

  2. I must admit, the idea of George Galloway in Holyrood appeals to me, if only to give Holyrood a bit of a higher profile and perhaps lead to some more entertaining exchanges. Whenever he's on Question Time, it's always worth watching, even if you don't agree with what he says. These are the sort of politicians Holyrood is missing, although I'm not entirely convinced this is George's reason for considering standing. The reality is he's a spent force in Westminster, so as much as I'd love to think that it might signal the beginning of Scotland's more noted politicians starting to take Holyrood more seriously, I think it's more of a case of trying to get elected wherever he can.

    Still, imagine if he somehow got back into the Labour party, and then became their leader after a poor showing by Iain Gray - FMQs would be a mouth-watering prospect. I'd set my video for that.

    Incidentally, remember that Glasgow is losing a seat (one of the reasons Margaret Curran has scampered down south), so without actually checking the arithmetic, it might be feasible that Labour is in line for a list seat this time around, especially if the SNP manage to get a second constituency seat (although it's a shame John Mason will be standing against Frank McAveety with his massive majority). Whatever happens, I don't think we're going to see a one-seat difference next year - the SNP will either win by a few or lose by few, depending on how badly the Lib Dem vote collapses and where their voters go, and to what extent the smaller parties regain their vote. It's going to be harder for Labour to turn the election into a straight Labour vs SNP dogfight again, since the SNP are no longer an unknown quantity in government, and four years of their rule has not brought the independence-fuelled economic disaster that Labour told us would come with an SNP Government.

    Should be exciting, whatever happens.

  3. Why is George Galloway against Scottish independence?

  4. Anon, it's probably partly the old "workers of the world unite" ideal, although if so he ought to bear in mind R B Cunninghame Graham's words - "without nationalism there can be no internationalism". To be fair, though, no-one can doubt Galloway's commitment to Home Rule. In the wake of the 1992 election, he was one of the very few Labour MPs willing to share a platform with Alex Salmond to demand a Scottish Parliament - most of his colleagues were content just to settle in for five more years of remote control Tory rule from London.

  5. I think number four sounds a good possibility.