Those Ashcroft figures! And there’s more to come. Yet while amazing to see in print, they didn’t truly surprise anyone at all. Although it’s certainly striking how, contrary to the usual daft and pointless polls by the Daily Record, the well-funded and serious polling efforts by the now very credible Tory peer Lord Ashcroft have become important markers in Scottish (and British) politics.
So what can Scottish Labour do about it all? Well, as Lord Ashcroft himself hints, it seems at least possible that most of the Labour and Lib Dem to SNP movement has taken place now, so in those constituencies where it looks close there’s still a chance that Labour MPs might keep their seats. Labour’s resources are modest, so they’ll make their biggest effort in those seats, then. But what to do and say?
Claiming that Labour would be more likely to deliver extra powers to Scotland, ‘the Vow+’ (uh?) just won’t work. If the election is to be about powers, then since the SNP wants ALL the powers in Scotland, there’s not much business for Labour to do there. So if process is screwed, what about policy?
Well, specific policy discussion has been absent on both sides, so far. Oil prices plummeting? Most SNP supporters think that’s neutral! Accident and Emergency times have been growing under the SNP but folk are ‘not bovvaad’. A fracking moratorium and, amazingly, pressure to restrict gas exploration under the sea? A threat to hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs, maybe? And the potential loss of thousands of Trident-related jobs? Nae worries. Any sign of SNP tax-plans that might, as they claim, address inequality in Scotland? Nope – in fac,t the only certain plan the SNP has is to actually reduce corporation tax on businesses. Never the less, nothin’ doin’ for Labour. In fact, people actually seem keen to blame it for all that’s wrong with Scotland – this in spite of the SNP having held power here for 8 years.
Labour is, I think, suffering the predictable effect of ‘project fear’. This may have helped deliver a referendum No, although I personally think not. But it also gifted the ‘hope’, ‘new-start’-type messages of optimism to the SNP. Ignore that such messages often sound messianic, incoherent and sometimes even deluded. The fact is that Scotland did vote No, so now no-one’s afraid. If Labour’s right and ‘project fear’ won the day, then Scots are opting for blind optimism now, and fear can fuck off.
That instinct, while it could possibly lead to disaster in the long run, is certainly refreshing to many in a world of economic difficulty – it’s simply impossible to deny the SNP’s optimism. So ‘refreshing optimism’ has adhered to the SNP, while Labour have become – not fairly but that’s politics – the very vessel of doom.
All Scottish Labour can do now is work their fingers to the bone in new ‘marginals’ that were once great strongholds, and hope enough traditional Labour voters see through Scotland’s new Peronism. Oh, and pray to God there isn’t a Labour-SNP coalition, because then it’s all over for good.