Whatever happened to two party politics? Inspired by Lord Ashcroft’s latest megapoll, I thought I’d look at how Scotland has voted in previous general elections. The above graph is the result. One thing that’s immediately striking is the breakdown of two (or even three) party politics north of the border. The Labour and Conservative sides claimed 96.8 per cent of the Scottish vote between them in 1955. Yet by the mid-1970s that figure had already declined to 61.0 per cent. It fell below 60 per cent, for the first time, in 2001. Scotland has outpaced England in this regard.
The scale of Labour’s coming collapse… And it could get so much worse. According to YouGov’s most recent poll, 48 per cent of voters intend to back the SNP in the forthcoming elections for the UK Parliament, compared to just 27 per cent for Labour. The dotted lines on the graph show just how momentous that would be. Labour’s share of the vote has never fallen so low in modern times. The SNP’s has never been so high. And as for the Lib Dems, they could be back to where the Liberal Party was in 1959.
…in all likelihood. Of course, as the good Lord always says, opinion polls are a snapshot not a prediction. Those dotted lines might not transpire. However, it does seem as though they’re more likely to than not. The folk at electionforecast.co.uk reckon there’s an 80 per cent chance that Labour’s vote share in Scotland will descend to a record low, below the 35.1 per cent achieved in 1983.
Tories have nothing to crow about. The downwards trend of that blue line is plain to see, but let’s put it another way: the SNP stand to gain as much ground in the next election as the Conservatives have lost across the last 14 elections. There is only one party thriving in Scotland at the moment, and it ain’t the Tories. This ought to concern any party that claims to speak for One Nation. It ought to concern anyone who cares for the Union.
The Molotov Election. Back in 2010, just after the teevee debates, I half-wrote an article describing the forthcoming election as a “Molotov Election”; one in which voters chucked all sorts of incendiaries at the established order. But it didn’t quite turn out like that. This year’s vote is a far better bet for that Molotov Election, which leaves the more important question of whether the subsequent fires will take hold or fizzle out. Will the SNP hold on to its share of the vote in 2020? Might UKIP have to wait decades, as the Scottish nationalists did, to gain anything other than a foothold in Parliament? Or can they alchemise another referendum, the EU referendum, into seats? None of these questions, it ought to be noted, will be answered in May.