David Maddox: Scots need belief in UK-wide Labour
These are tough times for Scottish Labour at the moment as they try to reverse the SNP’s seemingly insurmountable poll lead in Scotland. But privately candidates and leading figures in Scottish Labour always say the key to them winning back voters is persuading people on the doorstep that Ed Miliband is prime ministerial material.
For this to work people in Scotland have also got to believe that UK Labour has got what it takes to win an election. The fluctuating polls suggest voters are yet to be convinced and in England there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty about how people will vote with around 25 per cent “don’t knows”.
To test out how Labour is doing I went to my old stomping ground Norwich North, where I was born and raised, but which more importantly is the seat on a straight swing in the UK which would give Ed Miliband his majority. This is assuming that by a miracle the party does not lose any seats in Scotland and wins back Bradford West from George Galloway.
Norwich North is currently held by Tory MP Chloe Smith – infamous for that Paxman interview which ended her career as a Treasury minister. Her principle opponent is Labour candidate Jessica Asato, a Cambridge graduate who was named 78 in the UK’s leading 100 leftwingers in 2009.
Having remembered the elections in the constituency in the 1980s and 1990s where posters for the parties were up in almost every front garden the thing that hits you most is the lack of enthusiasm with just a few posters here and there, evenly split for the Conservatives and Labour. It is also clear Ukip has a presence there.
Before my visit Tory chairman Grant Shapps told me: “Chloe will easily win Norwich North. If that’s the one Labour need on a straight swing then it shows a majority is impossible for them.”
Speaking to voters there it seemed that the disillusionment in politics and the two main parties has set in. One couple in their 70s, Barrie and Jennifer Paddock, were illustrative of the problem.
Mr Paddock, a Labour voter, said: “For the first time in my life I might vote Conservative. I don’t see Ed Miliband as being up to be prime minister.”
Mrs Paddock, a former Tory councillor and constituency deputy chairwoman, said: “I think I will vote Conservative but I shall do very reluctantly because I see no alternative. I think their policies on benefits and for the less well off have been cruel.”
Interestingly, both were worried about the SNP “having an influence” on a future government.
The battle for Norwich North may seem a long way off from Scotland but it underlines that neither of the two main parties are persuading voters.