Tom Peterkin: Labour hopes there’s votes to come

It's not looking good for Douglas Alexander, among other Labour stalwarts. Picture: John Devlin
It's not looking good for Douglas Alexander, among other Labour stalwarts. Picture: John Devlin
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SPEAKING to a Labour politician at the sharp end of the SNP’s drive to take Glasgow next month, it was a little surprising to learn that the individual was not subsumed by gloom.

According to the polls, it would appear that the SNP is going to wipe out Labour in Scotland’s largest city next month. Among those in severe danger of being given their marching orders in the Glasgow area are Labour stalwarts such as Margaret Curran, Douglas Alexander, Ian Davidson, Anas Sarwar, John Robertson and even Jim Murphy in East Renfrewshire.

One might have thought the forthcoming SNP onslaught might have sapped morale.

In public at least, however, this individual if not exactly talking up Labour’s chances was still hopeful that things would swing back his party’s way.

According to him, the key to Labour’s chances lay with the large number of undecided voters, who he was meeting on the doorsteps.

“People who would normally consider themselves Labour voters haven’t really switched on yet,” he said.

There were, he conceded, a lot of Yes voters who had been invigorated by the referendum and were carrying on their political activities by throwing their lot in with the SNP. Therefore of those who had made up their mind, the SNP was ahead.

But there were also “reluctant No voters” who could yet be persuaded to plump for Labour.

“If they haven’t gone to the Nats already, clearly they are not fanatics. And if they haven’t been swayed by the Nats already, then I think there is a very good chance we will get them,” he said. “It is not inevitable, so we are not complacent. But I would have thought we are in a better position than the polls suggest.”

So as the campaign enters the final stretch, we can expect Labour to relentlessly target the army of “undecideds” as those who are not overtly political finally begin to tune into the election.

Last year, the Better Together campaign concentrated relentlessly on the undecided category on the grounds that it was those voters, who would determine the outcome.

As a tactic, it appeared to work as the decisive No vote confirmed.

But it is difficult to escape the impression that in the aftermath of the referendum we are in a different political age and the tried and tested strategies of a bygone era may not necessarily work in post-referendum Scotland.

Momentum is an elusive property in politics. Momentum begats momentum and the most pressing problem for Labour is that at the moment the SNP’s army of activists have it all on their side.