Co-operative News comment: August 21st

WITH Labour recording a ten point lead over the Tories in the national polls, the prospect of Gordon Brown calling an autumn general election seemed feasible, if not...

WITH Labour recording a ten point lead over the Tories in the national polls, the prospect of Gordon Brown calling an autumn general election seemed feasible, if not a nailed on certainty.

However, although the ‘Brown bounce’ cannot be denied — partly as a result of the incompetence of the Opposition and partly because of the Prime Minister’s handling of the flooding crisis and the foot and mouth outbreak — the political outlook is not as rosy as it may seem.

For north of the border in Mr Brown’s own ‘back yard’ the voters are, it seems, impressed by the start made by Scotland’s first SNP administration with the nationalists an astonishing 16 percentage points ahead of Labour in the latest polls.

Now, following the resignation of Scottish Labour leader Jack McConnell, a leadership election is under way, though as the News went to press it was not clear whether this would be a coronation for Wendy Alexander or a contest, perhaps involving Labour/Co-op MSP Bill Butler. The relationship between Labour in Scotland and the party in London is critical to the future of the entire UK and, Ms Alexander — a committed Brownite whose brother, Douglas, is the new International Development Secretary — cannot afford to be seen simply as the PM’s ambassador to Scotland.

Stemming the nationalist tide won’t be easy and there are no easy answers as to how it can be done. But unless it is done, a general election will come later rather than sooner.

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