SNP risk taking electorate for granted, like Labour did before them – Kenny MacAskill MP

With parliaments in recess, political interest has turned to opinion polls where there’s been much rejoicing by Labour and triumphalism by the SNP.

Neil Kinnock throws roses to delegates at the end of the Labour Party Conference in 1990 (Picture: Michael Stephens/PA)
Neil Kinnock throws roses to delegates at the end of the Labour Party Conference in 1990 (Picture: Michael Stephens/PA)

However, as past elections show, the former are celebrating too soon and the latter are resting on their laurels. I’ve been in politics long enough to see leads prove to be chimeras and failure to act prove costly.

In 1992, the Labour agent at one count was boasting of the Labour government to come, but the results soon showed that to be false. To be fair, it had looked promising for Labour. Thatcher was gone and Major was an untested successor whose soap box antics were derided as desperation. Kinnock was positively revivalist at the infamous Sheffield rally, but it still came to nought.

Yet Kinnock, in many ways, was in a far better position than Starmer is now. Labour was stronger, whilst the Tories were weaker, and that’s without Johnson’s removal which would reset the dial entirely. Kinnock, whilst cruelly lampooned by opponents, still enthused many. Starmer, meanwhile, has alienated many activists within his own party and has all the motivational powers of a manikin.

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SNP triumphalism’s equally misplaced. Talk of Tory wipe-outs forgets that there’s now a pan-unionist vote that coalesces against the SNP. Opinion polls are predicated on national party choice where the SNP are way out in front, but in a constituency vote that can change and, as with all aspects related to the constitution, the gap is much narrower. Moreover, the next set of elections are for councils where local factors also apply and turnout’s far lower. The idea that the SNP will sweep the field’s a mirage.

More worrying for them, I recall the days when it seemed that the Labour vote in Scotland could only ever go higher – 45 per cent, 50 per cent, there seemed no end to their hegemony.

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Yet soon, there was little enthusiasm for them, even when polling figures remained dominant. Doorstep discussions showed derision for them locally and disdain nationally, but when asked how they were voting it still remained uniformly Labour. That was because no credible alternative was seen, and old loyalty still lingered.

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But all that was to change. SNP arrived and Labour was swept away. The proud history of the 1945 government and other stalwart defences of the working class was replaced in the public memory by betrayal on the poll tax and treachery with Better Together.

The SNP has reached the stage where there’s widespread contempt for their administration and polling’s simply reflective of wider policy issues, as it was with Labour before them.

Danger looms though, which is why their smugness is misplaced. As Labour too took the electorate for granted and demanded that the electorate vote for them or get the Tories, all that can change.

The danger for the independence movement though is that, if it doesn’t happen, then faith in even constitutional change as an escape from Tory rule may be lost. That’s why urgency’s required as it’ll be hope which then dies and that’s essential. The SNP must deliver or be removed.

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Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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