New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Spotlight on Policy
  2. Economic Growth
  3. Regional Development
  4. Devolution
17 September 2014updated 24 Jun 2021 12:58pm

The Scottish referendum campaign shows Labour shouldn’t fear establishment attacks

The onslaught against the Yes side by big business and the Treasury has not had the success many expected. 

By George Eaton

After the establishment onslaught against the Scottish Yes campaign in the last fortnight, commentators are warning that Labour will face a similar blitzkrieg next May. Under the aegis  of Lynton Crosby (a devotee of negative campaigning), the Tories will mobilise FTSE 100 CEOs, third-party fronts and media supporters in an attempt to convince voters that the UK (or what’s left of it) would face economic ruin under Ed Miliband. As the Guardian’s political editor Patrick Wintour tweeted: “The alliance of business, media and Treasury attacking the SNP is formidable. Ed Miliband should worry. He will be on the menu in 2015.”

But if so, Labour may have less to fear than some suggest. One of the most striking features of the independence campaign has been how the establishment attacks have, if anything, only aided the Yes campaign. Voters already enduring collapsing living standards are unmoved by warnings of economic dystopia, and find themselves drawn to the promise of an alternative. Independence, a cause which for so long attracted the support of no more than a third of Scots, can now plausibly dream of winning a majority tomorrow. It is only by balancing its negative attacks with a positive promise of further devolution and of social justice (courtesy of Gordon Brown) that the No campaign has been able to recover ground. 

Unlike the pro-independence side, Miliband may enjoy the advantage of entering the election with a poll lead. He will face a Conservative Party that has failed to detoxify its brand and that will struggle to hold the many seats in which the Lib Dem vote has collapsed and the Ukip vote has surged. 

Beyond the Scottish experience, it is worth noting that Miliband’s strongest moments have often come precisely when he has been attacked by powerful interests: the energy companies, the banks, the Daily Mail, and News Corporation (in what he describes as “David vs Goliath” contests). The Labour leader will certainly be on the menu in 2015, but as the conservative right has already discovered, he may be harder to devour than they hope.  

The greater challenge for Labour will be persuading voters that it itself is not part of the establishment they loathe. As the rise of the SNP, Ukip, and, increasingly, the Greens demonstrates, voters alienated by the coalition are all too often drawn to parties other than the official opposition. It is this anti-politics mood, not the establishment, that may be Miliband’s greatest foe. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
An innovative approach to regional equity
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change