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Wings Over Scotland

The Kinnock Factor

Posted on September 18, 2012 by

Barely a day’s gone by since we started this site on which we haven’t cursed our failure to save an opinion piece we read in one of the English broadsheet newspapers a few months before the 2011 Holyrood election.

Labour were riding high in the polls, and the more exciteable elements of the Unionist press in Scotland were even tentatively talking of an absolute majority. But the column we read in the Telegraph, or the Times, or perhaps even the Mail On Sunday, by a writer whose name we can’t recall a syllable of, was having none of it.

It confidently predicted an SNP victory, despite them being something like 12/1 against with the bookies at the time, on very simple grounds: no matter what the polls say, when it comes to the crunch voters never elect the party with the worst leader. The most famous UK example is Neil Kinnock, but our infuriatingly-unknown author pinned the same label on Iain Gray, and was proven right in the most spectacular manner. We may have forgotten his name, but we’ve never forgotten the lesson.

We hope one day to remember and rediscover the original piece, but at least now we have a similar one to point to. today reports a dramatic surge of 9 points in Labour’s UK lead, from 6% to 15%. But at the same time it sounds a note of caution: even with Labour so far in front, twice as many people want David Cameron to remain Prime Minister than want Ed Miliband to take the job.

And when it comes down to it, that’s what will decide the outcome of the next Westminster election. It doesn’t matter how much the electorate likes your policies if it doesn’t believe your leader has the strength to carry them out. Labour is infamously reluctant to sack its leaders, and unless something makes Miliband voluntarily fall on his sword in the next three years – and we can’t imagine what that would be – he’ll lead Labour into the 2015 campaign.

If he does, we’ll make our prediction now: regardless of what other events may transpire, Labour will lose, and everyone will know they’re going to lose well in advance of the vote – very possibly as far in advance as autumn 2014. Kevin McKenna referred obliquely to that possibility in his Observer column last Sunday:

“Before long the Nationalists will simply be unable to resist the temptation of urging Scots to vote independence for a Tory-free Scotland. The prospect of living in a country where the party of Thatcher, the Bullingdon Club and the Hillsborough cover-up can never again make a decision affecting Scots will be attractive to many.”

We agree entirely with that view. At present, Labour has leaders both north and south of the border who it’s all but impossible for a rational observer to picture in control of their respective countries. (Go on, just try to imagine Johann Lamont as Scotland’s representative on the world stage.) Whenever you read an opinion poll in the next couple of years, whether it’s about an election or a referendum, always remember to apply the Kinnock Factor to the numbers. It changes everything.

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15 to “The Kinnock Factor”

  1. Embradon says:

    I remember a Spitting Image episode from around the time of Kinnock’s succession. If I may paraphrase: Some Tory grandees are gloomily pontificating –
    “Kinnock’s a worry though. Intelligent…. articulate…. credible…. good on TV….”
     Then – “Just as well her husband’s a wally!”
    I thought it cruel at the time and would much have preferred him to another dose of Torys but middle England thought otherwise. That removed the last vestige of doubt that independence is absolutely our only protection against Thatcherite supply-side economists whether Con, Lib or Nu-Lab.

  2. Doug Daniel says:

    Anyone in any doubt that a Miliband-led Labour party will be rejected by the electorate in 2015 need only take a swift look at this blog:

  3. Juteman says:

    I think it’s fairly obvious that a strong and popular leader is a vote winner, hence the non-stop attacks by the Uneeys on AS, and their obvious attempts to turn the referendum into a personality competition. Very clever decision to give Nicola more of a leading roll.
    For some reason, i posted this in another thread.

  4. Morag says:

    I never thought Kinnock was really all that bad.

    Lamont, on the other hand, is appalling.  Miliband is just a toom tabard.

  5. jon abroad says:

    Rev: was this the article by any chance?
    Just a shot, but it does say:
    “SNP leader Alex Salmond remains highly popular. In contrast, his Labour counterpart, Iain Gray, is both unknown and unloved. Voters seem inclined to believe the SNP would make a better fist of running Scotland – and of standing up to London.”

  6. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Nope, definitely not that one. It was in one of the more right-wing papers, and it was very explicit about saying “the public never elects the party with the worst leader”.

  7. Arbroath 1320 says:

    I found these two clips of Neil Kinnock.
    Does this clip allow us to give Kinnock the title of fortune teller?
    Is he REALLY talking about Milliband and/or Lamont?
    This clip is what I think you might want to classify as Kinnock’s HIGH point in leadership of the Labour party.

  8. Arbroath 1320 says:

    O.K. folks here’s the weather forecast for everyone who will be in Edinburgh on Saturday.

    I wonder if:
    a) Is the BBC aware of what is happening on Saturday?
    b) If the BBC ARE aware of Saturday’s event how did they feel about putting up Saturday’s forecast?

  9. Siôn Eurfyl Jones says:

    I can’t decide – is Miliband really Mike or is he Bernie Winters? Has hew got a clarinet? 

  10. Bill C says:

    Morag, with all due respect, Toom Tabard (empty suit) was the nickname given to John Balliol by Scots prior to the Scottish Wars of Independence. Neil Kinnock, being a Welshman, might merit the title, but Ed Milliband, being an Englishman I think not!

    Yours for Scotland 


  11. Morag says:

    My point stands, I think.

  12. MajorBloodnok says:

    The problem for Labour is that the days of principled folk with a true social conscience being drawn to the party are long gone.  It’s now only for the mindlessly self-serving and ambitious who think they’ve made it because they get to wear a suit and tie most days and might even make it to the Lords! Jings!

    And that is why the SNP is far stronger because it (currently) is made up of people who are ambitious for Scotland before themselves.  We still need politicians and leaders with ideals and principles and to be honest only the SNP (plus maybe the Greens and SSP I suppose) are able to demonstrate that (the less said about the Lib-Dems the better).

  13. Emyr Morgan says:

    Kinnock was a ("Tractor" - Ed) to 

    His nation, for his self promoting, no stance in the 1979 Welsh Devolution Referendum
    His class, for not supporting the miners

    I remember his actions well, growing up in a Welsh Speaking Mining Community in the 80’s

    As much as I hate Thatcher I hate the Kinnocks more 

  14. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I hate Scargill much more than Kinnock for the miners’ strike. His ego-driven lack of a ballot played right into Thatcher’s hands, and made things very difficult for the opposition parties.

  15. Bill C says:

    Hi Morag,  sorry I see your point, sometimes can’t see the wood for the Scottish trees!

    I agree with both  Emryr and Rev Stu. Kinnock did betray his country, his class and his socialist beliefs, his betrayal on nuclear weapons was beyond contempt.  Scargill was an idiot and fell into Thatcher’s trap. My father-in-law worked for British Rail at the time along with a mate of his who was responsible for the transport of coal to the power stations. He said that he couldn’t understand why they were shipping so much coal to the power stations,this went on for 6 months before Scargill called the strike. Scargill was a lamb to the Tory slaughter! 

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