As Labour’s Iain Grey faces an increasingly uphill struggle amongst progressively more questions about both leadership and policy the voting public appears to be steadily turning its back on the red rose.
With the most recent polls showing the SNP overtaking Labour and a report in the Mail on Sunday showing that another Lib-Dem candidate has quit the race, the SNP have published further polling evidence showing that the they have the big momentum, Labour’s lead is wiped out, and former Lib-Dem voters are displaying a tendency to switch in favour of the SNP
The Mail on Sunday reports that Eddie McDaid has dropped out of the Central Scotland list for the Lib-Dems, while core data from the ICM poll of 14-15 March gives the first indication that LibDem voters are breaking in favour of voting SNP
This in spite of the fact Labour entered the campaign with poll leads that could only be described as devastating for the nationalists, many in the media proclaiming the keys to Bute House were already as good as in London’s hands once again. In some cases the poll gap was predicted to be as much as 15 points clear, however as the campaign has progressed and issues have clarified this chasm has steadily been filled.
In terms of those who voted LibDem at last year’s General Election, only 25% were sticking with the brand of the yellow rose at the time of polling, though even that number may be lower now, while 40% remained undecided. Those who declared an intention split as follows:
The SNP’s reported canvass information on the ground backs these numbers up. And as the Lib-Dem vote is melting away, the SNP are focusing on a number of seats where they believe gains are possible, such as the two Highlands seats where Jamie Stone and John Farquhar Munro are standing down, and Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale.
Commenting, SNP Campaign Director Angus Robertson said: “The SNP have the big momentum in this campaign, and we believe that we can win the trust of voters”.
Certainly by the way the polls are trending so far the Nationalists positive message of their record in office [over 80% of manifesto pledges kept], strength of team, and their vision for the future is going down well on the doorstep.
An SNP source stated “Iain Gray’s negative approach has definitely registered with people, and we are finding that former Lib Dem voters who are looking for something better are switching to the SNP rather than Labour by a factor of two to one – which is a very encouraging feature of the early stages of the campaign. We are taking nothing for granted, and will continue to work hard to earn every vote.”
Additionally with the Lib-Dem campaign falling apart Iain Gray also found his own problems compounding into in a leadership crisis, as Labour MPs built on criticising his performance on the first televised leaders’ debate on STV.
Commenting on today’s Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said the poll highlighted the key weakness of Labour's campaign as "the lack of a
personality capable of reaching out to voters". He further stated: "Iain Gray is little known and not much liked, even amongst those who actually voted for the party last time.”
The divisions opening so swiftly within the labour ranks have been precipitated by Iain Gray flunking his first televised debate as an STV survey concluded: Of the 991 people polled by ScotPulse – STV’s online polling system - 87% thought Alex Salmond won the debate with only 5% siding with Iain Gray.
This devastating critique of the Labour leader’s performance was followed by 74% of respondents saying their perception of the Labour leader changed negatively after watching the debate whilst 53% of respondents went on record acknowledging that they had a more positive view of Alex Salmond following the debate.
In the days following the televised Labour debacle, the Scotsman reported several Labour MPs have admitted they are "very worried" about the party's campaign referring to Iain Gray's lacklustre performance(s). Yesterday's poll which saw the SNP overtake Labour on the constituency vote is compounding Grays’ issues.
This has been enhanced by the mainstream Scottish Media who despite a reputation in some quarters for regurgitating Labour press releases are going on record with policy and performance issues for Labour, specifically on three key areas – Council Tax, Tuition Fees and Funding Public Projects
Reflecting the fact Labour increased Council Tax by 60% when they were last in office, on the STV debate Iain Gray said it was likely that the Council Tax would have increased under Labour if they had been in office since 2007.
As the Evening Times of 30th March 2011 reported: “Gray caught out over council tax .. Labour leader Iain Gray has admitted his party may have put up council tax had it been in power..."
Also in the STV debate he let slip that free tuition may not be a firm pledge for Labour after all. As Iain Macwhirter wrote in the Herald of 31st March 2011: "Iain Gray added the weasel words “if we can find a way” to his promise to keep higher education fee-free, which allows him a get-out if Labour wins in May. Students take note."
Interviewed on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on 29th March Iain Gray said he would scrap the Scottish Futures Trust funding scheme on "day one" which is currently building 43 schools, 3 Colleges, 2 major hospitals, 9 major transport projects as well as millions of pounds worth of other investments and working with 12 councils to build affordable homes.
Such an action would at least delay those projects and at worst could see them cancelled if it was taken. Delays would also put at risk the jobs being created in construction from this scheme.