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Labour poses ‘serious challenge’ to SNP’s dominance – leading pollster

06 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (right) with candidate Michael Shanks after Labour won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election. Photo Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Labour’s big win in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election could put the party on course for Downing Street if it is replicated across Scotland, polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice has said.

Labour candidate Michael Shanks won Scotland’s first recall by-election after securing more than twice the votes of his SNP rival Katy Loudon, in results Sir Keir Starmer hailed as “seismic”.

Sir John said that if Labour achieves the same higher-than-expected swing of more than 20% across Scotland at the next general election, Sir Keir’s party could win 40 seats north of the border.

The results confirm Labour poses “a serious challenge” to the SNP’s primacy at Westminster and has a momentum comparable with the run-up to the party’s 1997 landslide, according to the elections analyst.

2010 general election

Sir John told the PA news agency that “with nearly 59% of the vote, Labour’s share of the vote in the constituency is almost as high as it was back in the 2010 general election” before the party’s representation in Scotland collapsed.

“This is Labour apparently now able to put on the kind of performance that, frankly, it has not been able to put on at any stage since the independence referendum,” he said.

“And if – obviously it’s a big if – the swing since 2019 were to be replicated across Scotland as a whole, you are talking of Labour being back to having about 40 seats and the SNP being back down to not much more than half a dozen seats.”

He continued: “This result very firmly confirms the direction of travel indicated by the polls and that Labour do pose a serious challenge to the SNP’s continued dominance at Westminster.

“That potentially has implications for the overall outcome in the general election because if that were to happen, they would find it easier to get an overall majority.”

The increase in Labour’s vote in the seat to the south-east of Glasgow, as well as in the summer’s by-election in the North Yorkshire seat of Selby and Ainsty, “is the kind of results that you see in advance of general elections when parties are on course to win”, Sir John said.

“So, obviously, 12 months to go and all the rest of it, but I think one has to say that not only now are Labour clearly posing a serious, serious threat to the continuation of a deeply unpopular Conservative government south of the border, but they are now also posing a threat to a relatively unpopular – at least by its historical standards – SNP government north of the border.

“To that extent, I think they can reasonably claim to have done rather well.”

Sir John, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said “these are the kind of swings you saw” before Sir Tony Blair swept to power in 1997.

He said the Tamworth by-election, triggered by the resignation of the former Tory whip Chris Pincher, which will be held on October 19, will “tell us much more than Rutherglen does about the probability of the party to win a general election”.


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Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
7 months ago

The British Labour Party will take Scotland backwards, suffocating Scottish ambitions to be an independent outward looking country. Westminster will continue to drain Scotland of its resources and aspirations. The priority for the Labour Party in Scotland is to see the British Labour Mothership elected in Westminster. All people in the Labour Party care about most is the survival of their beloved Labour Party (even as it moves ever further to the right wing).

hdavies15
hdavies15
7 months ago
Reply to  Cwm Rhondda

SNP has done much to cook its own goose. Can’t attribute much of this defeat to the machinations of other parties.

Wynn
Wynn
7 months ago

Sturgeon’s legacy. Eight years, promise after promise and nothing done .Even at 56% YES she did nothing. People no longer believe the SNP, they have lied all through Sturgeon’s ‘one more election’ era. Double speak and lies was all they have delivered since she took over and Yousaf is just the one left holding the ball. Plus he’s useless

hdavies15
hdavies15
7 months ago
Reply to  Wynn

Really sad to witness the rise of the SNP getting wasted by poor policy and day to day management of the public spend. Opportunity lost.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
7 months ago
Reply to  Wynn

For sure the SNP has made some missteps in recent times but the stark reality is there is no other credible electoral vehicle for scottish independence than the SNP (just as there is no other ctedible vehicle for welsh independence than plaid cymru). But you do have to wonder if things like police scotland bizarrely treating the sturgeon’s garden like a murder scene has had a impact on the SNP’s reputation

Jeff
Jeff
7 months ago

Time will tell. One by-election and Labour have doubled their MP’s to 2. But more interest in the drop in the Cons, lost his deposit. Snigger. 11% drop. Turnout low though.

Karl
Karl
7 months ago

Given the reason for the vote, got to see it as a punishment as much as a Labour surge. Just look at the Tory vote also. Labour hasn’t got much to offer anyone right now. Their fear of the B word is a right turn off for any sane voter.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
7 months ago

Considering this is a seat labour held as recently as 4 years ago some people – principally over enthusiastic unionist commentators – seem to be getting a bit carried away and extrapolating all manner of dramatic conclusions from it. When govts at westminster lose byelections the british political commentariat attribute it to ‘mid term blues’ – so why doesnt that apply to Scotland’s SNP govt.

Brian
Brian
7 months ago

Why would anybody living in Scotland want to be governed by Westminster?

John Bull
John Bull
7 months ago
Reply to  Brian

Fastest route to Scottish and Welsh independence is to hold the referenda in England.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago
Reply to  Brian

They say that all over the Caribbean…

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
7 months ago

The catalyst for any Labour revival in Scotland is the dire Tory government in Westminster at the moment. It happened in ’97. Blair then realised that if he was to stem the nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales (caused by 18 bad years of another atrocious Tory government) he had better give them more power, essentially a sticking plaster on the rising discontent. What will Starmer do this time? Due to chronic inequality on these islands if he does nothing the Tory advancement of the independence causes over the last 13 years will only increase. The answer isn’t more power… Read more »

Doctor Trousers
7 months ago

it’s always worth looking at the actual numbers after an election. obviously it’s only percentage of the vote that actually matters when it comes to who wins a local election, but if you want to analyse what the result tells you about how a general election might play out, look at the numbers. First of all, in a constituency that was historically a safe labour seat, that has tended to flip between labour and SNP over the last decade, we have a record low turnout for the constituency, and I believe a near record low turnout for a Scottish local… Read more »

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