Thank You Humza Yousaf
The idea you can have a Labour Government without Labour votes is an obvious lie, but more importantly the FM's argument confirms that voters are turning against him.
In the last days of their disastrous Rutherglen byelection campaign, the SNP put out a final leaflet. It read “Don’t waste your vote on Labour.”
It was a terrible political message from a desperate campaign. It said nothing positive about why to vote for their party and instead amplified the sense of a movement away from their party. Voters look for social permission to change their voting habits. The SNP campaign’s plea not to desert them only reinforced that, yes voters were leaving them for Labour.
Humza Yousaf’s interview with ITV Border confirmed that this was more than just a misjudged leaflet. It is now the SNP election message: we know you’re planning to vote Labour, but you shouldn’t.
By railing against Labour momentum Yousaf is confirming it for voters.
It is worth lingering on one part of Yousaf’s interview.
“Keir Starmer does not need Scotland to win the election. That is the point. He is going to be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”
The reason this claim is nonsense is that Keir Starmer is only spoken about as being the likely next Prime Minister of the UK because there has been a recovery in Scotland.
When you hear Yousaf say that a Labour victory is a certainty, remember the context that Keir Starmer inherited. In 2019 Labour had its worst result since 1935, winning less than one-third of the vote and returning only 202 MPs.
The job this left the new Labour leader with is huge. Simply to overtake the Tories and become the largest party, Starmer found himself needing to gain around 80 seats on about an 8-point swing. One in ten of the 80 Labour target seats are held by the SNP. If, as Yousaf wants, Scottish seats do not contribute to a Labour win then the swing needed just to be the biggest party increases.
The 110 gains needed to guarantee a Labour government would include gaining another 7 or 8 SNP-held seats. Yousaf says Starmer doesn’t need Scottish votes. Without them, Starmer will need to secure a 14-point swing. To put that into context, Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997 was a 10-point swing and Clem Attlee’s 1945 earthquake result was delivered on a 12-point swing.
Only once before has there been a 14-point swing in a UK General Election. You have to go back to the 1931 election, held amid the Great Depression, after the pound left the gold standard, with one in five workers on the bread lines, and a Labour Prime Minister being expelled by his own party after defecting to govern with others. That is the historic nature of what Yousaf so casually dismisses as inevitable.
The swing needed, if Scots believe Yousaf that their votes are not needed, would see Labour win seats that have never, literally never, been Labour in all of political history.
Yousaf is arguing that it’s a certainty that things that have never happened are certain to happen.
It is quite a transformation for the SNP to go from telling us that the English are all terrible Tories, and so we have to leave the UK, to now telling us that we don’t need to vote out the Tories because the good socialists of places like Chelsea will do the job for us.
Only someone who does not want a Labour Government would argue that a Labour Government is inevitable without Scottish Labour MPs.
All of the above analysis rather than messaging. The SNP’s claim that voters can get a Labour government without voting Labour is simply a lie, but there is a far simpler and more powerful response.
The reason Yousaf is now spending his time telling people not to vote Labour, rather than making a positive case for himself, is because he knows voters who want change are going Labour this time.
By providing social permission to change their vote the First Minister is making a terrible strategic mistake. Don’t interrupt him.