Monday, 10 May 2010

2010 General Election: Analysis

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So, since 2005 we've had a new Prime Minister, a new party leader for each of the three "big" parties.  We've had a Scottish Parliament election which saw the SNP take power at Holyrood and change the complexion of political competition in Scotland.  We've had 3 years of minority government in Scotland, and nationalists also in power in Wales.  We've had a European election which saw the Labour party heavily beaten and the SNP win the vote in Scotland.  And we've had TV debates, a campaign that seemed to be about change.  And what happened?

59 seats out of 59 in Scotland stayed with the party who won them in 2005.

It is difficult to get your head round exactly why this is.  Gordon Brown became a fairly unpopular Prime Minister, the country was in recession under his leadership and arguably partly due to his policies as Chancellor.  And yet, Scotland voted in considerable numbers for him and his party.  Across Scotland, Labour scored 42% of the vote, more than double any other party.  More than 1 million Scots cast their vote for them - a clear indication, if one were needed, that Scotland has cast its face against David Cameron's Conservatives.

That, for me is, I think, they key to this result.  Labour's campaign was, to all intents and purposes, a very negative one.  "If you don't want a Conservative government, vote for us - we're the only ones who can stop it" proclaimed Jim Murphy at almost every opportunity, claiming that the SNP were "irrelevant" to this election while a vote for the Lib Dems would let the Tories in by the back door.  And it worked too - Labour scared people into voting for them, returning 41 out of the 59 Scottish MPs.

The problem for Labour is that their ability to stop a Conservative government from taking office did not rest with their ability to win seats in Scotland.  No, they needed to stop the Tories from winning the marginal constituencies in England.  That they failed to do so has meant that even though voters in Scotland bought that message, it was essentially a false one.  For even if they had won every single one of the 59 Scottish seats, they would still have finished as a smaller party than the Tories - and we'd still be looking at the likelihood of a Conservative government.

So yes, in Scotland, the song remains the same.  But come the next election - whenever that may be - I'm not convinced that we'll be taken in by the same message again.


Doug Daniel 10 May 2010 at 10:51  

But come the next election - whenever that may be - I'm not convinced that we'll be taken in by the same message again.

Glasgow will.

Malc 10 May 2010 at 11:10  

Fair point. And true too, which makes it fairer.

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