Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Good news for Labour?

Thanks to Will, I learn that the number of Scottish Labour MPs who will not be standing for the party at the next General Election is now in double figures.  They are:

Jim Devine (Livingston)
Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh South)
Gavin Strang (Edinburgh East)
John McFall (West Dunbartonshire)
Anne Moffat (East Lothian)
Des Browne (Kilmarnock & Loudoun)
Mohammed Sarwar (Glasgow Central)
Adam Ingram (East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow)
Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East)
John Reid (Airdrie & Shotts)

I don't know that I have a huge amount to add to Will's excellent piece surrounding the state of Labour in Scotland at the moment, other than to note with some disbelief that 10 out of 39 Labour MPs (that is, 25% or one in every FOUR) is - for one reason or another - not standing for the party again next time round.

I'm not here to suggest that each (or indeed any) of these "retirements" will result in the loss of the seat for Labour.  But in certain places the result could be affected by the standing down/ de-selection of the sitting MP.  Think particularly of Livingston, where Jim Devine has been de-selected and may stand as an independent.  Or indeed, the fractures in the East Lothian Labour party which may result in many Anne Moffat supporters failing to turn out in support of another Labour candidate.  Or the tight race in Edinburgh South, where Nigel Griffiths "kent face" may have helped Labour hold onto a slim majority - now that seat is very much a wide-open three horse race.

On the face of it, I'd suggest that 10 MPs standing down won't help Labour hold onto marginal seats.  It has the aura of a party in decline - a party ceding power, with major players finding their way out before they are pushed.  On the other hand, this could be an opportunity for the party to blood some new, younger MPs during a period of opposition, giving them some experience as MPs before the party has another opportunity to govern.  But that, as a strategy, would recognise that Labour are probably not going to win the election, a message which isn't exactly useful on the doorsteps.

And, of course, if all Labour do is replace those retiring MPs with MSPs then that isn't really going to be of much benefit, either to the party at Westminster or under Iain Gray's leadership at Holyrood.

So perhaps this purge of MPs may have a favourable outcome for Labour in the long run.  I guess, like so much else in politics, we'll just have to wait and see.


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