The other day, in a southeastern suburb of Glasgow, a young American woman canvassing for the Labour Party chapped the Hound’s door. She asked: “Have you heard of the Margaret Ferrier scandal and would you like to sign a petition calling for her resignation?”
I said I had heard of the scandal but I’m not a fan of calling for people’s heads.
The scandal refers to the SNP MP speaking in the Commons while awaiting results from a Covid test and after testing positive, taking the train back to Glasgow rather than isolating. Ferrier then lost the whip, was sentenced to 270 hours community service for breaking Covid rules and just days ago lost her appeal against a 30-day ban from the House of Commons.
The Labour canvasser then gave me a card brandishing the local candidate’s gleaming smile and when I asked what his main policies were, she stuttered clumsily and pointed to the card.
Well, he has my vote!
But it got me thinking; if there’s a by-election because of Ferrier’s buffoonery, how would the SNP perform?
A new poll from YouGov suggests not well. According to new MRP polling (multilevel regression and post-stratification), if an election were held tomorrow, Labour could wrest 23 seats from nationalist hands, pushing the SNP back to 27 seats from its current 48.
This dramatic shift comes after months of SNP misconduct and embarrassing criminal investigations into the party’s finances. These predictions will be particularly worrying for the new SNP leader, Humza Yousaf, who must rue the day he was ever billed as the “continuity candidate”.
And if a by-election is called in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, we will see first-hand whether this YouGov poll has any predictive power. More importantly though, it will be the first electoral test for Yousaf. Yes, he can narrowly win an internal contest by spouting progressive platitudes at SNP hustings, but can he actually pick the right candidate, support them convincingly and win votes?
We should be wary of a Labour resurgence in Scotland, however. Although this polling predicts major Labour gains, it shows that most of these are in marginal seats. This greatly decreases the chances of the poll being accurate: “No fewer than 22 of the 59 projected seats are ‘called’ in this model with winning margins of less than 5%.”
It should also be remembered that Labour only won one seat in the 2019 election – Edinburgh South. If Labour even makes half the gains predicted, it will be a miraculous resurrection, if not an election-deciding comeback.
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From winning 42 per cent of the Scottish vote in 2010, Labour has never really recovered from its limp unionism of the “No” campaign. But as the independence debate becomes increasingly irrelevant, talk returns to the efficacy of government services and how much money people have in their pockets.
And the Scottish people are angry with the general Tory failure since 2010 and the SNP’s equally poor governance since 2007. As Ian Murray, Labour’s solitary MP, squeaked from his Edinburgh enclave: “Scotland is ready for change and it falls to Scottish Labour to deliver it”.
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