Labour ahead of SNP in poll for first time since 2014 suggest populism may finally be on its way out – Scotsman comment

Scotland’s two governments have been relying on populist fantasies to stay in power. Fixing the country requires elected leaders who are focussed on ‘normal’ politics

A YouGov poll showing Labour ahead of the SNP for the first time since the 2014 independence referendum could be a rogue result or a blip. However, it also just might represent a fundamental moment in our politics, the point at which the tide finally turned on the false promises of populism.

For 17 years, the SNP has traded on nationalist sentiments and blamed outsiders – Westminster – while deliberately trying to engineer an exaggerated ideological divide between Scotland and England. This, combined with a spurious vision of life after independence, has proved to be a compelling enough message to enable the party to keep power.

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Meanwhile, the Conservatives, particularly since the 2016 Brexit referendum, have become increasingly obsessed with immigration, again playing to nationalist sentiments and blaming outsiders. The most important of Rishi Sunak’s “five pledges” – growing the economy – has been a dismal failure with the country entering a recession at the end of last year. And as for reducing government debt, it’s gone up. But don’t worry, because our government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds and a vast amount of Cabinet brainpower on multiple, bungled attempts to send a few hundred asylum seekers to Rwanda.

‘Middle-class lefties’

The poll, about Scottish voting intentions for the next general election, found Labour on 33 per cent, the SNP on 31, with the Scottish Conservatives down six points to just 14. Labour does have its populist moments. However, of the three leading parties, it seems the most interested in taking practical steps to stop the near constant decline of the public realm and turn the country around.

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting’s recent remark that outrage from “middle-class lefties” would not stop Labour from using the private sector to help reduce NHS waiting lists suggests he is a politician who values pragmatism over ideology – unlike Jeremy Corbyn and co – and simply wants to make people’s lives better.

It’s what you might call ‘normal’ politics, with no flags necessary. The sooner politicians of all parties realise this is what the country needs, the better. Good governance really does matter.



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