No Corbyn Effect in Scotland

The latest opinion polls in Scotland in advance of the Holyrood elections next spring suggest that there is no statistically significant “Corbyn Effect,” that is, a boost in the Labour Party’s fortunes under its new leader Jeremy Corbyn. This is a dreadful omen for Labour’s future, not only north of the border, but throughout the UK. Labour currently has just one Scottish seat at Westminster, and if that does not change, Labour will permanently be a party of opposition.

The new YouGov Scottish poll in this morning’s Timesshows that voting intentions are largely unchanged from YouGov’s last Scottish poll a month ago. That was prior to Mr. Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership race. The constituency vote shows the Tories at 19% (an improvement of one percent), the Liberal Democrats at 5% (also up one point), Labour at 21% (off one percent), and the Scottish National Party at 51% (unchanged). On the regional vote, the figures are identical except that the SNP has 45% and the Greens have 6%.

Because the question was about how the interviewee will vote in the elections for the Scottish Parliament, the result doesn’t map perfectly to Westminster results. However, it bears repeating that the current make up of Scotland’s representation at Westminster is SNP 56, Labour, Tories and LibDems 1 each. The SNP took 50% of the Westminster votes in the 2015 general election, Labour 24.3 %, Conservatives 14.1% and the LibDems got 7.5%. At the next general election if the YouGov figures hold, Labour and the LibDems may lose their single seat while the Tories are likely to keep theirs and the Greens might pick up one.

There are 650 MPs at Westminster, meaning that a majority is 326. The Tories hold 330, Labour 232, the SNP 56, LibDems 8, Ulster Unionists 8, and 17 more in minor parties. If the SNP manages to hold 50 of its seats in 2020, Labour would have to pick up seats in large numbers from the Conservatives even if it were to sweep up the 33 seats that aren’t Conservative or SNP. It is difficult to believe that constituencies voted Tory because Labour wasn’t left-wing enough. Taking Conservative seats in sufficient numbers to get Labour close to a majority just isn’t going to happen.

YouGov also found that the sentiments on independence have not changed in the last month. The Unionist vote is at 52% while the independence vote is 48%. In other words, there is a statistically significant segment of the SNP vote that opposes independence. This may seem strange until one looks at the manifestoes of both Labour and the SNP. The SNP was ideologically to the left of Labour at the 2015 election. Those SNP unionist voters (an uncomfortable oxymoron to be sure) can best be explained as people who want a more left-wing party than Labour, and who want it badly enough to risk an independence referendum.

This is supported by YouGov’s findings. wrote, “The poll also asked about people’s attitudes towards income tax in Scotland and at what level it should be set once the Scottish government is given greater powers over taxation. There was relatively little support for a cut in income tax in Scotland — 60% opposed a tax cut funded by cuts to benefits or tax credits, 74% opposed a tax cut funded by cuts to money spent on public services. Attitudes towards an increase in Scottish income tax were more mixed, 57% would be opposed to increasing income tax to spend on benefits or tax credits, but 52% would support increasing income tax to improve Scotland’s public services.”

The fact that Jeremy Corbyn, the leftest of the left in Labour, has been unable to eat away at the SNP support suggests that his first month as leader has not captured the imagination of the Scottish left. Labour’s support is actually lower today than it was at the polls in May.