In Depth

Labour face election wipeout in Scotland, says new poll

Poll suggests Labour could lose all but four of their 41 seats – dashing hopes of general election majority

Columnist Don Brind

Ed Miliband arrived in Glasgow this afternoon to headlines pointing at a virtual wipeout for Labour north of the border next May.

The headlines were based on a new poll from Ipsos-MORI for STV giving the Scottish Nationalist Party an almost 30 per cent lead over Labour.

The SNP stand at 52 per cent - compared with under 20 per cent at the 2010 general election. They currently have six MPs at Westminster: that would soar to more than 50 if the result of the Ipsos-MORI poll were to be replicated in the May general election.

Labour support in Scotland is almost halved - down from 42 per cent in 2010 to 23 per cent in the poll. That could see them losing all but four of the 41 Scottish seats they currently hold – dashing Ed Miliband’s hopes of winning an overall majority at the general election.

The other big losers in May would be the Lib Dems if this poll is accurate: it shows them down from 18 per cent to six per cent, meaning they could lose all but one of the 11 seats they now hold. The Tories, down from 16 per cent to ten per cent, would lose their one Scottish MP.

The survey was carried out in part after Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont’s sudden resignation last Friday, so that headline-grabbing story might have influenced the result.  

But the pedigree of Ipsos-MORI is beyond doubt, according to Mike Smithson, who runs the Political Betting website. They were the most accurate pollster in the Holyrood election in May 2011 and came equal-first in the rankings for predicting the outcome of September’s Scottish independence referendum.

In short, Miliband needs to take the poll seriously.

There is a massive irony that Labour, who spearheaded the successful No campaign in the independence referendum, are in turmoil in Scotland while the SNP, who were on the losing side in the referendum, are now riding high. 

One of the stars of the successful No campaign was Jim Murphy, who is the frontrunner to replace Johann Lamont as Labour leader in Scotland.

He launched his campaign with a warning to party members that they need to show more passion. He told Sky News: “The Labour party hasn’t been passionate enough in recent times. It has occasionally been divided. I want to end that period of Scottish Labour party self-harm when we turn in on ourselves.” 

He said Labour had lost too many elections north of the border and he was determined to end that losing streak.

Miliband’s trip north today was for a long-standing engagement, a fund-raising dinner. Whoever is elected Scottish Labour leader – the announcement will come on 13 December - Miliband will desperately need him or her to stage a recovery over the five short months then left before the election.

Labour currently enjoy an average two per cent lead over the Tories in UK-wide polling, enough to give Miliband a small overall majority. But the loss of 10 Scottish MPs, let alone nearly 40, would eliminate that advantage.

And then there’s the Ukip threat. Nigel Farage’s party will be hoping for headlines tomorrow – Friday – saying they have won the by-election for a new police and crime commissioner in South Yorkshire. Defeat there won’t be the end of the world for Miliband - compared with the serious news from Scotland - but given that S Yorks is Labour’s heartland (and includes Ed's own seat), it won’t help.

EDITOR'S NOTE posted at 2.45 pm, Friday 31 October: Since this article was posted, Labour has won the South Yorkshire PCC by-election, gaining a fraction over 50 per cent of the vote. Turnout was just under 15 per cent. A Labour spokesman said: "We took on Ukip and won. Let's see if Cameron can do the same in Rochester and Strood."

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