The Implosion of the Labour Party
The Economist reports on the aftermath of the referendum in Scotland and the Labour Party’s multiplying woes:
To look at Scotland’s two main political parties six weeks after its independence referendum, you would not know that Scots had rejected secession. The Scottish National Party (SNP), which led the failed case for separation, is buoyant. By contrast the Labour Party, which led the winning campaign against, is plagued by rancour and recrimination. On October 24th Johann Lamont, Scottish Labour’s beleaguered leader, stepped down. An ugly leadership contest looms.
As if on cue, a new Ipsos/Mori poll shows that support for Labour at the next general election has collapsed in Scotland. If the poll is to be believed, only 23% will support Labour, and 52% say they would vote for the SNP. As Alex Massie notes, that is very unlikely to be the final result since that would leave Labour with almost no seats in one of its traditional strongholds. Even so, it does reflect the extent to which Labour has been imploding over the last few months. The referendum outcome may have prevented the dissolution of the U.K., but the ensuing weeks have been extraordinarily good for the nationalists. One could have reasonably expected that the failure of the independence campaign would hurt the SNP’s immediate political fortunes, but the reality has been quite the opposite. If Labour’s support keeps eroding like this in Scotland and elsewhere, Cameron and his party may end up winning another term in spite of themselves.
There are some lessons that other parties could learn from Labour’s recent travails. The most important lesson is that a party can neglect its core supporters for only so long before they give up and move on to an alternative. Taking support from any constituency or region for granted will eventually come back to haunt the party, and this can happen at the worst possible times. If a party is effectively representing the interests of its voters, it won’t keep suffering mass defections to its competitors.