By John McAllion
We are now into the fourth year of a government that has arguably the worst record in office of any government elected since the end of the Second World War. After three full years in power, output in the UK economy is still nearly 4 per cent below pre-recession levels. The levels of growth the government has achieved have been a third of those under the Labour government that was kicked out in 2010 for economic failure.
Real wages are down. Living standards are falling. Unemployment and underemployment remain rife. More than a fifth of the population are trapped in poverty. Up to half a million Britons now depend on food banks to keep hunger at bay. On top of all of this economic misery, the government has also launched unprecedented and savage attacks on public sector workers.
More than half a million jobs have been scrapped across the public sector. Wage freezes have been imposed. Pension entitlements have been slashed. Working lives have been lengthened and the retirement age remorselessly raised.
Zero hours contracts that deny workers job security and redundancy and pension entitlements have been forced onto hundreds of thousands of low paid workers across a range of social care, NHS and education services.
Then there are the welfare cuts. While the rich are feted as “wealth creators”, the poor are demonised by government ministers as “skivers”. The already rich are rewarded with tax cuts worth £100,000 a year. The already poor are penalised by benefit cuts and welfare caps.
Those who look to profit from buying second homes-to-rent out are rewarded with a £130million “Help to Buy” scheme. Those who can’t afford to pay the rent in their only home are forced on to the street by the hated Bedroom Tax.
For the first time since the establishment of the welfare state, the spectre of Dickensian levels of poverty has returned to haunt our streets.
Given such an abysmal record, most would expect that this government would pay a heavy political price. Yet in the latest opinion poll, Labour enjoys just a 7 per cent lead over the Tories and actually trails the Coalition parties when their support is combined. Indeed, if you combine support for the Coalition parties and UKIP together, Labour trails the right of centre parties by a staggering 19 points.
The personal approval ratings for the Tory Prime Minister are also 13 points ahead of those for the leader of the Labour opposition. With less than two years to the next election, the alarm bells are ringing ever louder within Labour ranks.
The prospect of losing the next election is now being taken very seriously by leading Labour figures. Senior figures warn that the Tories are making the political weather, that the party lacks policies and that time is running out for Labour to avoid defeat in 2015. Calls are made for the return of New Labour figures like Alistair Darling and Alan Johnson to front-line Labour politics. Some even want Mandelson, the Prince of Darkness, back. Under pressure, Labour’s leader promises a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle before the party conference in September.
The underlying cause of this panic is the imbalance in regional support for Labour. Their lead in the national poll disguises Labour’s inability to win support in the southern half of England. South of a line drawn from the Wash to the Bristol Channel, and excluding London, Labour holds just 10 of 197 seats. In the by-election in the southern seat of Eastleigh earlier this year, they polled a miserable 10 percent of the vote and trailed in fourth behind the Coalition parties and UKIP.
In this year’s county elections in the south, Labour’s performance was eclipsed by UKIP’s success. All the evidence points to Labour losing the south in 2015, and without southern support there will not be a Labour government.
In Scotland, the near invisible leadership of the party know this to be the case. Their trump card in the referendum vote has always been to urge a No vote on the grounds that a Labour government in 2015 would rescue our country from this dreadful government imposed upon us.
With every passing month, that card will become less and less playable and more and more Labour supporters will realise that the only certain security against more of the same is to vote Yes to independence.
The recent manufactured attacks on ‘Labour For Independence’ signal Labour’s growing fear that as the prospect of a UK Labour victory in 2015 retreats, the likelihood of a Yes vote in 2014 will increase.
This article appears courtesy of the Scottish Socialist Voice