Labour on track for victory in Scotland

Latest poll puts Labour 15 points ahead of the SNP in the constituency section.

I recently noted an extraordinary opinion poll which showed that the Scottish National Party had overturned a Labour lead of 10 points and was on track to retain power at Holyrood. Since then, however, several other surveys appear to have confirmed that this was what psephologists call an "outlier" or a "rogue" poll.

The latest TNS-BMRB/Herald poll shows that Labour retains a comfortable lead over Alex Salmond's party and that, while support for the red team has fallen, the SNP has not been the beneficiary. In the constituency section, the poll puts Labour on 44 per cent (-5 since January) and the SNP on 29 per cent (-4), with the Tories up 3 points to 12 per cent and the Lib Dems up 4 points to 11 per cent.

In the regional list, it's a similar story. Labour is down 8 points to 39 per cent, with the SNP down 4 to 29 per cent, the Tories up 2 to 11 per cent and the Lib Dems up 3 to 10 per cent. The Greens are up 3 to 6 per cent and appear to be on track to win as many as six seats.

In terms of the parliamentary arithmetic, these figures would leave Iain Gray with the options of forming a coalition with the Greens or leading a minority administration. A win for Labour in Scotland, followed by victory in the London mayoral election, would be seen as a vital stepping stone on the road back to Downing Street. It looks like this is one early test that Ed Miliband won't flunk.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.