Previously, I posted about the electoral performance of the parties of the left, and in passing said that Labour lost more votes on the regional lists compared to their constituency results than other parties. I believe this shows that a new strategy is needed for the regional lists.
How bad is the problem? Well, as we can see from the table below, all parties win fewer votes on the list than in constituencies, but Labour suffers most. Even in 2011, with the highly effective “Alex Salmond for First Minister” campaign, the SNP still lost 1.4% of their vote – almost the same drop as in the 1999 election.
Interestingly enough, 2007 bucked the trend for Labour, but 2011 saw a return to the drop of 5% or more that Labour experiences. Where does that vote go? Well, as we saw, the Greens and the Left parties pick up quite a few votes – which have to come from somewhere, in 2011 this totalled 6.1%, but has reached nearly 15% before.
From that we can conclude there is a substantial leakage to parties which have more radical, left wing policies. What Labour must do is to give its regional MSPs – and the candidates at election time, much more freedom to promote a vote for Labour as a way of ensuring strong left wing voices are in the parliament. Speaking out on Green issues is one way to do this, as well as other more traditional left-wing concerns, such as the work that Neil Findlay has done on overturning convictions of miners during the strike in 1984.
However, policy alone won’t do the job. For several elections, Labour has simply not had a credible strategy for fighting regional list elections. A single booklet, dropped through doors as part of the Royal Mail leaflet drop is not good enough to ensure that Labour voters give us their second vote – or to attract voters from other parties. We need to be giving people the message, loud and clear that in many areas, a second vote for Labour is their chance to have real Labour representation.
By improving our performance on the regional lists, we can not only hold onto our list MSPs when we win constituencies, but also gain MSPs, helping to propel us into power in 2016.