Opinion: The future of the Labour party hinges on the Referendum
Opinion: The future of the Labour party hinges upon the Referendum

Cries of “Scotland says NO!” broke with anxiety behind Ed Miliband yesterday, as hundreds of perturbed Labour MPs, past and present, descended upon the city’s of Scotland, sheet white with fear.

Their etiolated skin was not derived from notions of unionism and fear of a broken “Empire”; or even a belief in the cheap, and seemingly Pete Waterman penned, “Better Together” slogan. Rather, it was derived from the expected loss of a huge Labour support base, a loss which could prove diffidence during the general election, pencilled in for May 2015.

With the first five leaders hailing from North of the border, the importance of Scotland in the history of the Labour movement is undeniable. Scotland is considered to be a major part of the Northern heartland of Labour voters, and this is made explicit by Scottish support for the party, even in at its least appealing. Even as a disjointed Labour struggled in the 1980s, the party were, ostensibly, guaranteed over 55% of the Scottish populace’s vote, winning at least twenty more seats than Thatcher’s Conservative party in both the 1983 and 1987 general elections.

Ed Miliband, while pondering the 2015 May general election over a cup of Tieguanyin tea, therefore, will have undoubtedly considered a large number of Scottish constituencies to be guaranteed Labour seats. However, with the “Yes” campaign growing in momentum and confidence, panic has ensued within the party.

Labour’s late rally to prevent the loss of a huge percentage of their polling power has, so far, screamed of desperation. Everything from Ed Miliband’s use of the NHS as an example of what a vote for independence will damage, while standing with Lord Winston, a man once quoted as saying: “Pay £200 to see the doctor so you value the NHS”; to the use of old Labour stalwarts for campaigning, has been viewed as desperate, and rather friable attempts to sway the undecided, in order to keep hold of the Scottish Labour voters.

The reaction from the Scottish populace to Labour’s hollow, and uncoordinated campaigning over the past week, has been telling.

As the Shadow Cabinet marched the streets of Glasgow, a local man yelled “Welcome our imperial overlords!” while the Imperial Death March from Star Wars played over his tannoy. The comic value of this moment did not mask its relevance to the current perception of the British Labour party in Scotland. Although the Shadow Cabinet walked the streets of Glasgow with the belief that they were the “cavalry”, sent from Westminster to quell the “Yes” campaign and restore Scotland to its original Labour supporting self; the Labour MPs were seen to be little more than perturbed imperials. If the reasoning behind this march was to present themselves as being on the same social level as the voters, it was an incredibly futile undertaking. Savile Row suits and football styled chants tend not to go together, and this did not change yesterday as the Labour MPs walk the streets of Glasgow, pretending they were citizens of the same Britain that the Glaswegian populace are. A Glaswegian populace in which one in three children live in poverty; in which half of the residents reside in 20% of the most deprived areas in Scotland, and in which a fifth of households annual income is just £10 000.

Labour campaigning this week has, at its best, been rushed and badly advised, and at its worst, been George Galloway.

Despite no longer being a member of the Labour party, Galloway stated that he was "speaking on behalf of Labour" during the "Big Big Debate" last night, before nonsensically rambling for an hour. Galloway's high points of absurdity included stating that a country cannot be independent if it does not have its own currency, therefore rendering France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece etc. as redundant states, while also putting his intellectual faith in the findings of the USA's favourite modern thinker:

Post - Referendum Labour

The 2015 general election is Labour's to lose. Miliband's party are currently on course to win a 32 seat majority in the House of Commons, with 341 seats, to the Conservatives' projected 252 seats. However, if Scotland votes for independence next Thursday, Labour's planned general election campaign will be dealt an almost irrecoverable blow. Labour could be left three seats short of a majority in parliament, and, ultimately, be forced into an unwanted coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Stats courtesy of the Daily Mail

Arguably the best case scenario for Ed Miliband if Scotland votes "Yes" would be to have the election postponed until 2016. This would give Labour time to reorganise their electoral campaign, in order to appeal to voters in more conservative parts of England, where they will be forced to look for extra electorate.

A consensus further to the right, with Labour focusing more than first predicted on the state of the private sector during the election campaign, in the short term, may be enough to win a majority in the next general election; however the long term implications of such a shift could internally tear Labour apart. The widening of the ideological gap between Labour backbenchers and Labour leaders undoubtedly something that Ed Miliband will want to avoid under his leadership, as, in theory, it has the potential to create a 1931-esque laceration in the English left.

Out of the three major political parties in the United Kingdom, the Labour party has the most to lose if Scotland says "yes" to independence. Labour will not just lose a huge section of their electorate, but also a part of their history. Although independence is not a foregone conclusion, Ed Miliband's party cannot afford to be unprepared for the realisation of their greatest fear: an independent Scotland.