In our latest Panelbase opinion poll, conducted last week in association with the Sunday Times, we wanted to complete the work we started previously in analysing the public’s reaction to Labour’s election strategies.
What we found last time was that almost every decision the party had taken in Scotland under the regional managership of Jim Murphy had been massively at odds with the Scottish electorate.
Whether it was booze at football, full fiscal autonomy or the Named Person initiative for child welfare, the voters were full-square behind the SNP, and every new policy Scottish Labour unveiled doomed them further. Anything that could be got wrong was.
This time we were curious about the effects in the whole UK, and with regard to one landmark moment in particular.
One week before the election, in a televised BBC debate, Labour’s then-leader Ed Miliband had issued these fateful words:
Labour then spent the final days of the campaign finding ever more strident forms of words to say that they’d rather let the Tories form the government, even if there was a viable anti-Tory majority, than deal with the SNP.
We wondered how the numbers on that had panned out, so we asked an unusually large sample, divided roughly half-and-half between Scotland and the rest of the UK. This is what they said (click pic to embiggen):
In Scotland, the policy was catastrophic. By well over two to one, it drove more people away from Labour than it attracted, including a colossal majority (53% to 4%) of the voters Scottish Labour most needed to tempt back – those who ended up giving the SNP the most spectacular landslide in Scottish electoral history.
By then it was already clear that Labour had decided to throw Scotland under the bus in a desperate attempt to win over a few Tories in England. But the strategy failed utterly. Almost 70% of rUK voters didn’t care either way, and of those who did, it turned off almost as many (14%) as it appealed to (17%).
But Labour’s gamble was – and still is – that a possible gain of 3% of the electorate in England is still more voters than the net loss of 18% in Scotland, because England has 10 times the population. As illustrations of where Scotland stands in Labour’s priorities come, you won’t see a much starker one.
(It’s a fundamentally flawed calculation, because regardless of the raw voting numbers Labour lost twice as many seats to the SNP as it gained from the Tories and Lib Dems combined, but we’ve learned from bitter experience over the years that it’s futile to try to explain arithmetic to them.)
Scottish Labour appears determined to remain as a branch office of the UK party, and as such its overall direction will continue to be dictated by London. (In our last poll, even most Labour voters, by a large margin, accepted that UK Labour was ultimately in control of Scottish Labour policy.)
Both the Scottish leadership candidates have made all the usual noises about change, and about being more positive and not just spending their whole time bashing the SNP. But it’s plain that Nat-bashing is going to be right at the core of UK Labour strategy over the next five years, and at the end of the day the Scottish branch office will have to shut up and do what it’s told.
Labour has made its decision. Scotland is scorched earth.