The next UK General Election is just over two years away, and 2013 is the year that Labour has to start work on winning that election. I would like Scottish Labour to start to think strategically about 2015 as concentrating on the Independence referendum in 2014 is not the answer to all our electoral problems. Current opinion polls suggest that while the Independence referendum will be won, we will lose seats in 2015, while the SNP will make gains – especially from the Lib Dems. While not this is not a defeat on the same scale, it seems we havent really learned the lessons of 2011.
To start with our seats which are vulnerable.
|Edinburgh North and Leith
|Ochil and South Perthshire
|Dunfermline and West Fife
The main question is where will those Lib Dem votes go? As we saw in 2011, they wont necessarily come our way, as they have in England and Wales.
While it might appear that with the Lib Dems our main challengers, its worth bearing in mind that for the nearly identical Edinburgh Southern seat for Holyrood, the SNP came from 4th to win – mainly by attracting Lib Dem voters, who deserted the nominally safe Liberal seat.
Edinburgh North and Leith:
The situation here is almost identical to Edinburgh South. A large number of Lib Dem votes are up for grabs – although we held the nearly identical Edinburgh Northern and Leith in 2011 – perhaps thanks to the personal vote for Malcolm Chisholm.
Although our majority here is larger than the two Edinburgh seats, the Lib Dems have fewer votes to lose, but the SNP are starting from a higher base. Much will depend on the personal vote of Anne Begg.
Ochil and South Perthshire:
On the current opinion polls, this seat is likely to fall to the SNP. Indeed, this will be the only seat Labour would lose. Virtually all the Lib Dem vote would fall to the nationalists. This seat needs to be a priorty.
Dunfermline and West Fife:
Won back from a by-election loss, this seat has traditionally been Labour, but the collapse of the Lib Dems gives the SNP a chance to come from third place. The Lib Dem vote was perhaps boosted in 2010 by the incumbancy effect, but we must make an effort to ensure that 2006 and 2010 Lib Dem voters who had previously voted Labour back us in 2015.
But now for some good news – our opportunities….
|Argyll and Bute
|Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
|Na h-Eileanan an Iar
This is our number one target, and 35th on our UK target list. A Majority of 1831 should be easy to overturn, shouldnt it? This seat will be hard work, and Dundee was one of the few council areas where Labour did not make gains. The Lib Dem vote will be key here.
Held by Lib Dem Minister Jo Swinson, this should be a gain for Labour with only a small drop in the Liberal vote. However, we mustn’t be complacent – if we are to make gains here, we need to ensure the SNP don’t gain at our expense.
You can see that the capital is going to be a major battleground in 2015! This is in reality a 3-way marginal, and any of the major parties could win this.
Argyll and Bute:
This is an outside chance – we are coming from 3rd, but we start from in front of the SNP, and a good local campaign coud win enough defectors from the Lib Dems to see us through. Current opinion polls would have us come second to the SNP, but we should not ignore this seat.
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweedale:
Here, I would expect the anti-Tory Lib Dem votes swing behind Labour – but the lesson of 2011 is that we should not assume they will do so automatically. Victory here would remove the only Tory seat in Scotland.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles):
In 1997, Labour gained over 55% of the vote here, so there is a history of a strong Labour vote. The drawback is that the SNP’s majority is larger than the Lib Dem vote, but an Independent came third in 2010, so there are votes to be won here.
In summary, it is the Lib Dem vote that is key – both in the seats we need to defend, and those we hope to win. We need to win over those voters who voted Liberal in 2010 – and we need to work harder at it than our colleagues south of the border. We need to develop policies that will find favour, not only with our core vote, but also with disaffected Lib Dems. For example, we should think seriously before introducing policies similar to those advocated by the coalition, which have turned those Lib Dems away from their party in the first place. If we don’t, we could lose seats across Scotland – and the SNP will also gain Lib Dem seats, with our return to Government at a UK level marked by our biggest defeat in Scotland.