Rather irritatingly, Tory über-blogger Ian Dale, has scooped us all with details of a sensational poll in tomorrow’s Scotsman (even more so since he appears to be on a jolly to Washington DC right now!). In figures unprecedented this close to an election, it would seem that the SNP has a 5-point lead over Labour for Holyrood in the constituency vote and a 4-point lead in the regional ballot.
It looks like the wheels are coming off the Labour campaign, since this poll won’t take account of Health Minister Andy Kerr announcing a probe in to the alleged manipulation of NHS waiting lists. Neither will it have been able to digest the astonishing news that senior Labour aide, Stephen Lawther, had quit his post following clashes with colleagues over tactics and presentation. And with Jack McConnell providing such visible leadership…
The polls have been remarkably consistent of late, agreeing that the SNP is ahead, even if there’s some debate about the magnitude. And unless far more complex moves are afoot, this apparent swing to the SNP looks like having one of two possible explanations. Neither, it has to be said, looks particularly good for Labour.
The first explanation is that traditional independence-supporting Labour voters might be starting to come over to the SNP, thus threatening to tip the balance in many marginal central-belt seats. Alternatively and perhaps more worryingly for Labour, if these voters are staying loyal, perhaps it is floating voters who don’t necessarily want independence, that are now looking for an SNP government.
Neither group looks like particularly fertile ground for Labour’s current nat-bashing strategy, described by one party stalwart at the weekend as being ‘The worst campaign I have been involved in for over 20 years”. While I’d never underestimate the power of the Labour establishment in Scotland to pull out the stops for the party, even that might not be enough to save them this time.
The SNP deserves a chance to show what it can do in office. I hope these figures can be taken as a sign that it might be about to happen.