Numbers Game #1: We’re Having A Party

Disclosure of interest: the author is a member of the Labour Party (as well as a Yes voter).

The astonishing development since the referendum on 18th September is the news that the SNP has almost doubled its membership over the period, from about 26k to about 53k (and still rising). The Green Party has seen an even larger increase in proportionate terms (again, still rising) and the SSP has likewise benefited. Overall, more than 30k have newly joined these political parties.

Beyond that, the talk is about an alliance of parties in pursuit of tactical voting with a view to inflicting maximum damage on Labour in Scotland at the UK General Election in May 2015 and the Holyrood one in 2016. The principal canvassing target would be the 40% or so of Labour voters who voted Yes and, through them, the aim would be to unseat as many sitting Labour MPs as possible. All of the Glasgow constituencies had a majority for Yes, suggesting that they must be particularly vulnerable to such an effort. There would be no escape for the Lib Dems either.

There has to be a good chance that such an exercise would meet with great success. It’s likely that it would deliver a majority for the SNP in Holyrood. Given the electoral system, it’s more difficult to assess exactly what the effect would be on the Westminster results for Scotland, but it would be significant at worst and sensational at best. (It’s possible that it might have the unintended consequence of increasing the number of Scottish Tory MPs.)

The problem, though, is that Westminster doesn’t care about Holyrood, especially not now. There is no chance of agreement to another referendum any time soon (though that’s not the same as saying never).

Moreover, there is no leverage to exert at present: Scottish Westminster seats aren’t part of David Cameron’s electoral arithmetic; his concern is UKIP, which is far more important to him than his single existing Scottish MP. All that annihilation of Labour in Scotland would achieve in fact is to ease the way for another Tory government, probably with UKIP pulling its strings. “Lucky” Dave does it again.

The man who really does care about Scottish seats at Westminster is Ed Miliband.

Before the 18th, the Labour Party had about 190k members throughout the UK. About 13k of those members were in Scotland, i.e. under 7% of the total, but that figure will be lower now, given that some of the recruits to the other parties will of course be defectors from Labour.

If all those new members had instead joined the Labour Party, then (assuming 5k of the 30k were existing Labour members) it would have taken the Scottish section of the overall UK membership up to about 20% of the total. Think of the influence the Scottish bloc would have if it were 20% of the Labour Party.

The real power is at Westminster. The way to make progress is for a UK government to be in place which is beholden to a party manifesto that sets out in unambiguous and specific terms a policy commitment to more powers for Holyrood. That’s not going to happen with the Tories; there needs to be a Labour victory in 2015.

If those new joiners had instead flooded the Scottish Labour Party (trebling it in size) then setting the agenda for the manifesto for 2015 would have been a slam dunk.

I can’t help feeling that an opportunity has been missed here.

5 thoughts on “Numbers Game #1: We’re Having A Party

  1. P.S. As of the afternoon of Wednesday, 24th September the membership of the SNP has reached 60,000, with no sign of the growth stopping.

    Truly astonishing.

  2. Dear Haivers,

    Given my long family connection with Labour, you might think that I should be a good candidate for your proposal for Yes voters to join the Labour Party instead of one of the Scottish parties. I want to explain why your heid is up the lum on this.

    Are you being serious? I am utterly disgusted with the lying, corrupt scum who infest the Labour Party nowadays. Lamont (not genetically programmed to make decisions), Murphy (of expenses fame), Curran, that heidcase Gordon Brown (of whom Frank Field famously said to Tony Blair “You are letting Mrs Rochester out of the attic!”) and Darling the house flipper. They openly worked with the Tories, the fascists of the national defence leagues, the Orange Order and UKIP to screw Scotland over.

    I don’t think you realise in just how much contempt your party is held by Yes voters. The London lot are no better, with their enthusiastic embrace of Tory welfare caps and cuts.

    I have a great deal of respect for the people who had the guts to join Labour for Indy. They should not go back to their Quisling former “comrades” (now, that word is a sick joke) but actively engage in a new Scottish political movement/alignment to overturn a result that was stolen by fear and lies (mainly disseminated by the Labour Party).

    If you are happy to be a member of a Party that phoned up pensioners and told them they would lose their pensions, that told Polish residents they would be deported and, through its national leader, signed a joint and worthless “vow” with Cast-Iron Dave and Nick of the Student Fees, then I am not.

    I think your idea of mass joining of the Labour Party by Yes voters has all the aerodynamic qualities of a lead balloon.

    Best wishes

  3. I’ve posted enough, on my own blog and elsewhere, to demonstrate how deeply unhappily I am with what has occurred over the referendum campaign. My concern now is with how to make the best of where we’ve ended up.

    If all those who favoured Yes leave the Labour Party then that point of view will be completely absent from it. What comes to mind is something I remember the older members saying at branch meetings during the Kinnock era: the party doesn’t belong to the leadership but to the members, so let’s stop acting as if it did. You won’t get “your” (or “our”) Labour Party back by leaving it.

    30k new members would have been able to transform it. That opportunity is lost. I genuinely think that’s a real pity.

    And what worries me most of all is handing victory to the Tories/UKIP at the 2015 General Election.

    Thanks anyway. Always good to talk.

  4. Haivers,

    I am afraid that the Labour Party has sunk so far that it is beyond rescue. With Milliband in charge, there is little hope of them winning in 2015, and, even if they did, Ed Balls is committed to Tory policies.

    For Scotland’s sake, I would like to see a repeat job on Labour of the wiping out of the Tories. After what they have done to the country, for the sole purpose of keeping their noses in Westminster’s trough, they deserve no less.

    The fate of all Imperial Masters awaits them.

    The British Labour Party (Scottish Labour is an electoral con, it has no more autonomy than the Labour Party in County Durham) has to fight for Tory and UKIP votes in the Midlands, in Essex and the south of England. Ed Balls understands that clearly. Scotland does not register on their radar, except as a source of 53 solid votes and the resources of a rich province.

    I know that you agree that Scotland is best governed by people who live and work here. That’s why you voted Yes. You are kidding yourself if you think you can ever convert British Labour to that view.

    Best wishes

  5. Given the Labour Party’s propensity to assume that its members are mindnumbingly stupid, I suspect the effect of 20% of the party’s members being north of the border would be to convince the leadership that Scotland is in the bag and thus would actually increase its focus on gaining ‘middle England’ votes. Certainly, that 20% membership will have absolutely no impact on policy. Your strategy won’t work; indeed, your strategy would be counter-productive.

    In historical perspective, the Liberals were converted to Irish home rule when they lost their Irish seats in 1885. To form a government at Westminster, they needed an alliance with the Home Rule League. The Irish in alliance, via the Home Rule League, forced the Liberal Party’s hand; previously, Irish MPs, voters and party members/activists actually *in* the Liberal Party had had no effect whatsoever.

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