The recent System 3/TNS poll (that probably passed you by) has the SNP a mere 4% behind Labour in the Westminster vote. I could envisage the SNP storming ahead just as easily as I could envisage Labour opening up a bigger gap between now and 2010 but a 4% lead is all we have to go on for now.
The figures break down as follows:
Labour - 36%
SNP - 32%
Tory - 19%
Lib Dem - 9% (9%!!)
Greens < 4%
Applying this split of the vote to the 58 Scottish seats (relative to the 2005 vote) would give an election result as follows:
Labour - 35
SNP - 14
Tories - 7
Lib Dem - 2
Labour scalps would include Frank Doran, James McGovern, Nigel Griffiths, Gordon Banks and Des Browne. A result that would delight a curious mix of SNP fans and All Women Shortlist proponents, though perhaps not in equal measure.
One key question is this though, would former MPs such as the above wait another 4 or 5 years to seek re-election to Westminster or would they change their focus to Holyrood? Being responsible for Defence and the Environment is all well and good but perhaps being on the Health & Sport Committee or working on the Flood Risk Management bill is where it's at for politicians on their way out of London.
Labour have the unique and impressively fair system where candidates who stand in First Past the Post seats do not seek election simultaneously on the party lists. That is currently under review within the Labour party (a separate post in its own right) but assuming the approach continues, it throws up an interesting scenario.
Westminster middleweights and lightweights could pretty easily boss their way to the top of the Holyrood regional lists in advance of May 2011.
Would local Labour members vote Des Browne to the top of the party's Central list or John Pentland as they did for 2007? How about Frank Doran over Richard Baker in North East? Or Nigel Griffiths over Carol Fox/Kezia Dugdale in Lothians? Gordon Banks over John Park in Mid Scotland and Fife?
It's an intriguing scenario. And the higher the SNP climb in the Westminster polling intentions the more likely current Labour MPs will lose their seats and these quandaries will crop up.
Note also that it's not specifically a Labour concern. The Lib Dems can expect a bit of a decimation next year and Malcolm Bruce, Michael Moore and Jo Swinson could well be MSPs by the time 2011 is out, perhaps squeezing out established constituency candidates Nora Radcliffe, Euan Robson and Cathy McInnes.
The potential for party infighting is huge. We've seen how Labour has the potential to implode over subjects as wide ranging as postal votes and All Women Shortlists, but if the long fuse of a slowly sizzling Westminster/Holyrood power struggle finally ignites, then the scope for the Labour gloves coming well and truly off is enormous.
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