Labour, Brown Lose Big in Glasgow
The Scottish Nationalist Party took one of Labour’s safest seats in a rather dramatic and unexpected upset that marks yet another setback for British prime minister Gordon Brown:
Unfortunately for Labour, Glasgow is only the latest in a string of woeful electoral performances for the party under Mr Brown’s leadership. His party lost the London mayoralty to the Conservatives; it was routed in local-council elections; was beaten in a by-election in Crewe and Nantwich, a once-safe-Labour northern seat; and finished fifth, behind the extremist British National Party, in another by-election in Henley. Perhaps even more worryingly, in national opinion polls Labour is flatlining: it is roughly 20 points behind the Tories, in the sort of polling territory that governments find it very hard to come back from.
But Glasgow East—one of the most deprived constituencies in the country—is undoubtedly the worst humiliation of the lot. Glasgow’s east end has been a Labour stronghold for almost as long as the Labour Party has existed. Mr Brown once wrote an admiring biography of an early local socialist MP. Shallow anti-Scottish prejudice of the kind perhaps evident in some bits of England cannot explain why its voters have turned against him and his party so violently. The big question being asked after the Glasgow defeat—though it was already being asked before—is whether Labour will now ditch Mr Brown, replacing him with a new leader and prime minister.
Not all of the Labour Party’s problems can be chalked up to Brown: he inherited the job from a prime minister who badly miscalculated by supporting the War in Iraq (which, unlike in the United States, was unpopular in Britain from the start and justified to the public to a much greater degree than in the U.S. on the basis of Saddam Hussein’s WMD ambitions), the economy in Britain isn’t that much better than it is here, and Europe broadly speaking has made a turn rightward in recent years. But really the question surrounding Brown’s departure from Downing Street is not if but when: will he fall victim to a palace coup like Margaret Thatcher did after the poll tax fiasco, or survive long enough to be booted out by the voters and David Cameron’s Conservatives?