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May 08, 2015


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"where the biggest vote-getter wins"

Does that fully apply to Britain? They aren't completely FPTP, are they?

I believe they are. The candidate with the plurality of the vote in any given constituency wins the seat.

The UK Parliament is completely FPTP in how elections are run. There is some proportionality in the devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Personally I seriously doubt Duverger's law. The British experience in both national and local elections is of multi-way votes. Some constituencies are three or four way ties, although there are also plenty of 'safe' seats too where the winner is obvious. Where I live the winner got 57% of the vote and UKIP, Labour and the Lib Dems got fairly even levels of votes each. Then there was a tail of smaller parties. That's pretty typical in British elections.

Local government is pretty similar. There are councils that regularly change hands and have councillors from more than two parties.

PS you need the U in Labour when referring to the UK political party, it's a proper name so the spelling you'd usually use isn't correct.

I was initially a little confused about the reference to the Conservatives and Labour winning 99% of the seats between them until I realized you had shifted from discussing the UK as a whole to discussing England.

Breaking it down (as shown by the equal area consitutency map diagram here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11584325/full-results-map-uk-2015.html), the results show:

1. Irish nationalist parties continuing their dominance in southern and western Northern Ireland

2. Irish unionists parties continuing their dominance in northern and eastern Northern Ireland (but with a gain in southwestern Northern Ireland)

3. Labour continues to dominate Wales (mainly South Wales, but then South Wales dominates Wales) with Plaid Cymru only really dominating the western bits of Wales

4. Labour continues to dominate in the cities and industrial north of England

5. The SNP have swept Scotland up from Labour

6. The Conservatives dominate in southern and central England and in rural England.

Now will England (as opposed to the UK as a whole or rather Britain since Northern Ireland has always been a bit different) return to two party politics?

That's probably dependent on a number of scenarios, which in turn might be affected by what happens politically in the whole of the UK as well.

So first up, let's do a little crystal ball gazing to see what we can expect up to 2017. As the Tories have won a majority of 331 seats reportedly now they can govern alone and implement their manifesto. Colin Yeo has a nice post (https://www.freemovement.org.uk/conservative-manifesto-commitments-on-immigration-the-eu-and-human-rights/) outlining the Tory manifesto's promises on immigration, the EU and human rights. Essentially the Human Rights Act will be scrapped and replaced by legislation more to the Tories liking, policies will continue to focus on reducing avenues of entry for non-EU migrants (including some rather shifty avenues that had been subject to abuse in the past) and attempting to reform migrant benefits to reduce EU migration. They will also attempt to renegotiate the UK's EU membership and place the results before a referendum. Since UKIP isn't a threat right now (at least until a couple years before the next election), there should be less pressure on Tory backbenchers to shoot the UKIP fox and push Cameron and the Tory leadership towards a harder line against the EU and immigrants. This might leave Cameron free to change the tone of his narrative about the EU away from immigration and more about the potential dangers to the economy from leaving the EU. This might shift expectations and allow him to still come out with a solid "Yes" vote for the EU in the referendum planned for 2017 even if he doesn't get the reforms to the EU he was seeking.

Now that referendum can potentially do a lot to affect party political dynamics in England (and also in Scotland). If Cameron gets a solid Yes vote for the EU then this wipes out the UKIP argument that they represent some kind of silent majority which is against continued EU membership. A solid Yes vote should also in theory take the wind out of the sails of UKIP and potentially weaken it but then a No vote to independence did not weaken the SNP...but then the SNP itself was strengthened in the lead up to the vote through canvassing which has increased it's membership and overall support - so the referendum run up was VERY good for the SNP even if the referendum itself was a blow. Can UKIP do the same with regards to the run up to the 2017 referendum? Perhaps, but it seems doubtful. A lot would depend on the organization and leadership of the party going into 2017 (Farage not leading the party might be a plus depending on who replaces him). So a Yes to the EU should see UKIP lose support back to the two main parties (but mainly the Tories)

A yes to the EU in 2017 would also rob the SNP of the potential to demand a second Scottish independence referendum since Scotland will almost certainly vote in favour of the EU no matter which way England votes in 2017. Had the referendum produced a majority in favour of leaving the EU but still had Scotland voting in favour of remaining in the EU then the SNP would probably have strong grounds to demand a second Scottish independence referendum and would likely win it as now it would be fairly clear that the UK as a whole was going to leave the EU and that the only way for Scotland to continue receiving the benefits of EU membership would be for it to become independent and apply for its own EU membership. So a Yes to the EU would keep the SNP from strengthening its vote share even further. Additionally with Scotland receiving more devolved powers there wouldn't be any real need to vote SNP for Westminster seats anymore. This could allow Labour to win back some Scottish seats if voters eventually come to realize that it might be better to vote SNP for Scottish elections and Labour for British elections. Especially IF Labour revitalizes Scottish Labour. That might take a few election cycles though as Scottish voters might come to realize that voting for the SNP in British elections does little to nothing to keep the Tories out of power in the UK as a whole (at this election some would have expected that Labour would have potentially joined the SNP in a coalition or some other informal arrangement).

The Lib Dems have long since moved from being one of the dominant parties in the UK in the form of the Liberal Party of the 1800s to being mainly a protest party now with a small core of actual Lib Dem supporters.They were badly hurt by being in government with the Tories. You can't be a proper protest party AND be a minor party of the establishment/government. It just won't work. And they got hurt in their vote share due to it. For example in Aberavon in South Wales the Labour Party won with 48.9% of the vote (down from 50% in 2010). The Tories had 14% in 2010 and 12% in 2015. However the Lib Dems went from 16% (and being second in the constituency) in 2010 to being fourth with 4.4% in 2015. They lost most of their votes to UKIP which gained nearly 16% of the vote in 2015 after not even contesting the seat in 2010 apparently. In Scotland the effect would have been worse and may have contributed to a loss of Lib Dem seats to the SNP. After all as a protest party they could do well in a traditionally anti-Tory Scotland. So what happens when a protest party in an anti-Tory region joins with the Tories in government for 5 years? Well they don't fit with the view of the anti-Tory region anymore now do they? So a spell outside of government should help the Lib Dems recover some of the protest vote but their willingness to go into coalition with the Tories even for this election will probably weaken their Scottish base (probably in favour of the SNP) for a while yet. A weakening of UKIP after 2017 in the event of a Yes vote for the EU will probably also enable them to pick up more of the protest votes alongside the Greens.

For Labour in England, they will have new leadership and tough choices to be made with Scottish Labour. This would be the chance for them to revitalize Labour in England and in Scotland and if they do this right, then perhaps coupled with voter fatigue against a possible 3-4 term Tory government (if the Tories get some reform of the EU, implement their manifesto, get improvements in the economy and campaign for a Yes to EU vote and get it, then they should also win the 2020 election)..we might see Labour picking up enough votes and seats to be a serious challenge for 2025 or 2030, possibly with the help of the Greens and very informal support from the SNP.

If the referendum sees a (probably narrow) no vote for the EU succeed, well...there will be a lot of fireworks. UKIP will probably see a surge in support, the Tories will face infighting from those intent on leaving the EU and for those for whom an EU withdrawal would be a nightmare and Labour will probably pick up the pro-EU voters who might see in them the only hope for staving off EU withdrawal between the time of the referendum and presumably the deadline for the EU and UK to complete withdrawal negotiations (2 years after the UK gives notice of its intent to withdraw...so if the referendum is held at the end of 2017 and the Tory government gives the notice of withdrawal in 2018 then the deadline would be in 2020...possibly after the next election..assuming that the infighting in the Tory camp doesn't allow for a no-confidence vote to pass and bring down the government and pave the way for a Labour minority government or new elections in 2018). In the meantime the SNP will be screaming its head off for a new Scottish independence referendum and Plaid Cymru might well echo the sentiment for a similar referendum in Wales. In Northern Ireland the nationalists would probably try to woo the pro-EU crowd with the idea that remaining in the EU is possible..IF Northern Ireland votes to rejoin the rest of Ireland.

Hmm....I wonder what the electoral landscape would look like if the UK implemented a constituency run-off system like what I think Trinidad and Tobago are set to use for their next election?

UK voter and blogger here.

Duverger's Law isn't wrong, but you're drastically oversimplifying the political geography of the UK. A more accurate (but still simplified) breakdown into regional monopolies and duopolies, following the 2010 election, would be:

1) Safe Con: Most of rural England. The "Home Counties" surrounding London.
2) Safe Lab: Urban "central belt" of Scotland. Southern Wales.
3) Con vs Plaid Cymru: North Wales.
4) SNP vs LD: Highlands and islands of Scotland.
5) Lab vs LD: Urban northern England.
6) Con vs LD: South-west England.
7) Lab vs Con: London and central England.
8) Unionists vs Nationalists: Northern Ireland

Regions 1, 3, and 8 are basically unchanged, as is southern Wales. Conservatives did better than expected in the Con-Lab battlegrounds of London and central England (the "Midlands" around Birmingham and Nottingham). The LibDems collapsed, to the benefit of their principal opponents in regions 4, 5 and 6. Most spectacularly, the SNP demolished Labour one-party rule in urban Scotland, capturing seats which had been Labour since the 1930s.

The dust has not yet begun to settle from the LD implosion and SNP takeover, and it remains to be seen what new rivalries will emerge.

UKIP and the Greens above are essentially protest parties without a significant base of seats. The single MP held by each is better understood as a local independent, rather than than a manifestation of the national party. Maybe one/both of them will expand to fill the gap left by the LibDems, but this would take a long while (probably well beyond the 2020 election). It took the LibDems 40 years to grow from a handful of MPs in the 1970s to the 57 seats they won in 2010.

Noel, I suspect the problem with Duverger's law is that, if you go by this analysis, the natural constituency which Labour originally represented disintegrated during the 1980s and they're now running on fumes. The party no longer effectively represents the interests of their voters. Meanwhile, what that article doesn't point out is that the natural constituency whose votes the Conservatives ran on has also disintegrated. However the Conservative party has better lines of funding and is therefore learning to play the same motivate-the-base-through-FUD power chords that Karl Rove worked up in the 1990s and 2000s.

Both parties are broken at a fundamental level. The Conservatives -- former party of stability, landowners, shopkeepers, and people who wanted to maintain the status quo -- now belongs to tax-exile rent-seeking lobbyists. The Labour party -- former party of class solidarity, blue-collar workers, and unions -- has been hit by the atomization of the working class (service sector jobs are far more unstable than old-style factory labour) and unions (thanks to Margaret Thatcher), and the increasing diversity of the interests it wants to represent. So they're both very visibly crumbling and voting for an upstart party isn't obviously a lost vote.

Meanwhile, the new left/right coalition/parties for the 21st century haven't fully emerged.

My guess is that over the next few elections Labour will haemorrhage support to (a) the Greens, (b) UKIP, (c) none of the above. Meanwhile, the Tory backbenches will grow increasingly unpredictable and uncontrollable in office, following the trend established by John Major's "bastards", with supporters haemorrhaging to UKIP on the right (as an external tea party). If the conservative party triangulates to the right, they'll lose support from the centre; if they don't move right, UKIP will cannibalize them. So the long term outcome will be a right wing party called either the Conservative Party or UKIP ... but the one thing it won't do is contain the former "one nation" conservatives, because they'll have defected to some centrist position or, more likely, gone extinct.

Because the UK isn't one nation any more. It probably isn't even three or four of them. The English regions are diverging from London's economic trajectory at least as rapidly as Scotland.


These are all great insights and I've learned a lot from all of them. Thanks everybody! I also thank Noel for a very deft original post.

Let me begin my very modest insights with a few caveats. First of all, I am by no means an expert on electoral politics; this goes double for British politics. Indeed, most of my knowledge about it comes, on a good day, from the Economist. On a bad day, from movies and T.V. shows like that BBC show that inspired House of Cards; I think it itself was called House of Cards...

With that said, here are my two cents. I originally learned from Gary Cox's book "Making Votes Count" (Cox is a political scientist at Stanford and previously from UCSD) that you can model first past the post as a coordination game. By extension, a key insights from that book, and confirmed from Cliffnotes readily available on the internet, is that Duverger's Law should not really deter entry of third and minor parties; instead, it should militate in favor of voters holding their nose and voting strategically on election day, so as to not waste their vote...

I think that one implication of that insight -- and I may be wrong about this, but I don't have Gary's book around right now nor the time to go find it -- is that as long as you have a strong focal point that allows voters to coordinate their behavior, in that they expect each other to vote strategically for the more plausible party, instead of sincerely, you should expect strong continuity in the two parties that typically win in any given district where the focal point is strong. At minimum, you should expect them to remain competitive. Again, this does not mean that other parties will necessarily be deterred from entering the political landscape. They might actually do so in some districts if they think that they can successfully shift the focal point that allows voters to coordinate strategically around. In other words, sometimes you might get inefficient entry -- or what looks like it ex post. If some folks smell blood in the water...

Along those lines, I think that explains why the political landscape was so fluid in the runup to last week's election and continues to feel this way still. I think ultimately this will come down to fighting over who controls the focal points at a district by district level in many of the individual districts that now seem up for grabs. If Labor is indeed existentially wounded, as some posters intimate, you might see crafty and opportunistic parties trying to gain control over those focal points by seeking to create a new self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, one in which they cement the expectation that voters anticipate that others like them will coordinate on a new choice and if they fail to do so it will lead to electoral defeat. In other words, the lesser of two evils mentality means that even if you hate the Scottish Nationals and still like Labor, you will hold your nose and vote for the Nationals because your failure to do so would thrust the Conservatives into power. The upshot will be that a bunch of Laborites go into the closet and quietly lionize Labor or the glory days of Labor in hushed tones and definitely not in mixed company.

One macro prediction is that political balkanization might actually get worse before it gets better: before things settle down and you see two party dominance of the same two or at least three or four parties return to districts that now seem pretty shaken and unstable.

Let me acknowledge that I don't believe any of this is terribly original and, moreover, I might have gotten the underlying logic wrong somehow. The real skin in the game I have is that when I teach Duverger's Law to my Introduction to Comparative Politics class I am going to continue to use the UK and Westminster as my go-to example and I will probably not have to really modify my notes or take away points. For that, I am very grateful :)

But assuming that the thrust of what I said above is correct, the one small grain of insight I have about all of this is the following. I wonder if a big part of what is now going on in the election post mortem are different interests and the parties themselves trying to control the message and recover or shift expectations so as to either stop this process from happening or hastening it? That is to say, if you are a fan of Labor in a newly competitive district, your job is to vociferously communicate that there is no need to panic and that nothing fundamental has really changed. Whereas, if you are to the left of labor or pine for an alternative to Labor that simply seeks to knock if off its perch, then your job is to make everybody else believe that there is a radical and permanent change underfoot. The key would not only to champion either view for your own sake, but to convince others that everybody else thinks this way too because that is the key to a focal point being a focal point. The expectation that everybody else is going to coordinate around it.

Why? Because folks should seek to avoid coordination failures and in the typical Battle of the Sexes setup from 1950s Game Theory, this is true even if your first choice for hegemonic focal point and associated equilibrium outcome is some other focal point. To bring this back to the example: even if you love Labor and hate the Scottish Nationals, if your preferences are ordered transitively you should hate the Conservatives more still, and thus hold your nose and vote for the Nationals if you feel the focal point has shifted in favor of the latter. That is, if you expect everybody else to vote strategically for the Nationals in your district. So your beliefs about the future is something very valuable to party operatives. They know that you know that you must vote strategically in single member districts if you want to see your preferences actually enacted.

So I guess what I will try to do going forward, and perhaps report back to the blog what I find, is to be on the hunt for this kind of strategic attempt to endogenize expectations by both fans of Labor and fans of the Nationals.

In short, if Cox's version of Duverger is right -- and that's a big if, because I have not read it in a very long while and the opportunity costs of actually locating it and sifting through it are currently too high -- then I think this is an empirical implication of the theory. The fight right now in many districts, and perhaps at the national level as well if these efforts trickle down to the districts that are up for grabs themselves, is about creating, massaging, manipulating and disseminating common knowledge. It is a war over expectations and attempts to compel others to accept that things have not fundamentally changed versus that they have irrevocably changed. I really think that whoever wins more of these wars will be the ultimate victor and so affecting other voters' beliefs and forecasts about the future might for the moment be the ultimate battleground.

Point of terminology: They're "Scottish Nationalists", "the Scottish National Party", or "the SNP", not "Scottish Nationals" (which to British ears sounds like some sort of Caledonian sporting contest). Also, "Labour" is the proper name of a political party, so I'd argue the British spelling should be used.

Mea culpa: As commenters on Charlie Stross' blog pointed out, North/Central Wales may be better understood as Labour vs Plaid Cymru, or perhaps should be split into North Wales (safe Labour) and Central Wales (fragmented between Labour, PC and Conservative). But that doesn't alter my overall conclusions.

the lesser of two evils mentality means that even if you hate the Scottish Nationals and still like Labor, you will hold your nose and vote for the Nationals because your failure to do so would thrust the Conservatives into power.

In the UK, this is known as "tactical voting". It's been a feature of British politics since (at least) 1997, when there was an informal alliance between non-Conservative voters to force the Conservatives out. It's very hard to model in opinion polls, which is one reason why they were so badly wrong this time.

I disagree on the "upshot". There is nothing shameful or hidden about being, say, a Labour supporter in Cornwall (where tactical voting supported LibDems to keep Conservatives out). The Labour party simply doesn't devote many resources to seats where it is a distant third place (or worse). Scottish Conservatives do keep a low profile, but that's for reasons specific to Scotland (eg. visceral hatred of Maggie Thatcher).

I wonder if a big part of what is now going on in the election post mortem are different interests and the parties themselves trying to control the message and recover or shift expectations

If I've understood correctly, you are concerned with a shift in voter understanding as to which are the "top two" parties in any given seat. I'd agree this is an important feature.

As I've said, the key events were the rise of the SNP in urban Scotland, and collapse of the LibDems everywhere. In the former case, we might see a one-party state with the SNP instead of Labour, but the Scottish Labour Party (debased though it now is) has deep roots in the region. I think an emerging SNP/Labour duopoly is more likely. (Unless Scotland declares independence, in which case all bets are off.)

In England, the replacement of the LibDems will vary according to region. In the urban north, it could be UKIP (which came second in many safe Labour seats), or it could become a Labour monopoly. Some of the more prosperous (and less viscerally anti-Conservative) cities such as Manchester and Leeds might even provide openings for the Conservative party.

The southwest has relatively low UKIP support. It might have space for Labour, particularly in cities such as Bristol, but I think a minor LibDem comeback is more likely.

PS Yes, the original BBC series was called House of Cards. If you want more UK news and analysis, BBC News (general), Guardian (left-wing), Telegraph (right-wing), and Herald (Scotland) are useful resources.

I'm curious about the idea of the SNP and Labour competing in Scotland. The SNP's only logical coalition partner at the national level is Labour; the Liberal Democrats aren't getting enough seats ever and the Conservatives are unpalatable. In such a case, what would sustain a competitive party system, since either vote is a vote for Labour at Westminster? Rationally, the national Labour party should stop throwing resources at Scotland and only occasionally pick up seats when Scottish voters want to send a message to Holyrood.

Or am I missing something?

BTW, spelling fixed in the main post. I only used "Labor" once, I think.

Thanks for fixing the spelling. :-)

Scotland is in uncharted territory right now. The SNP has just gone from 6 MPs to 56. As Charles Stross pointed out on his blog, it's also had a massive increase in party membership, quadrupling in less than a year. What this means for the SNP's direction in the long term is anyone's guess.

It's true that in policy terms, SNP and Labour are fairly similar. Obviously, they differ strongly on the question of Scottish independence. This might become the dividing line in Scottish politics, like the Unionist/Nationalist divide in Northern Ireland -- but without the violence, or so I expect and hope.

A key rule in politics is that you can't please all of the people all of the time. For the moment, the SNP has effectively tapped into dissatisfaction with business as usual at Westminster, and with our modern economy and society more generally. It's made them extremely popular, but sooner or later they will have to deliver.

There is a rough parallel with the Bloc Québecois in Canada. In the early 1990s, it had spectacular success in pushing the established Liberal and Conservative parties out of Québec. It later declined, allowing a partial comeback by Liberals and Conservatives, and another spectacular rise by the left-wing New Democratic Party.

If the SNP achieve Scottish independence, there's no knowing what the Scottish party system will look like 10 years down the line, or what the knock-on effects will be for the rest of the UK. If they don't, at some point voters will start looking for alternatives. That might be an established party such as Labour, or someone else -- perhaps the Scottish Greens or a revitalised Liberal Democrat party, or some other force which isn't on anyone's radar yet.

BTW, as for "throwing resources": Scotland receives a generous share of UK public expenditure but that's not specifically a Labour party policy. Since the 1970s, Scottish funding from Westminster has been determined by the so-called Barnett formula. That has been maintained under both Conservative and Labour governments, and most recently under the Con-LD coalition.

Barnett isn't very satisfactory to either side -- the English and Welsh are displeased with high per capita funding for Scotland, while the Scots (and specifically the SNP) are unhappy because it is opaque, inflexible and controlled by the Westminster parliament. There is a consensus that Scotland should have more control of its own taxation and spending. Some of this will be implemented in the Smith Commission proposals made after the independence vote. In time it is likely to go further, but that will depend on negotiations between the SNP and other parties.

Sorry -- I didn't mean resources as in public spending; I meant resources as in campiagn resources: volunteers, databanks, GOTV infrastructure, and (as much as it applies in the U.K. context) advertising.

If it doesn't matter to national Labour who wins in Scotland, then why bother to throw resources at the party? That wasn't true for the Canadian parties in Quebec, where the Liberals could (and did) win without QC support, so picking up a riding in Quebec had the same punch as picking up a riding anywhere else.

In additional, the provincial Canadian parties are de jure separate from the federal counterparts. (In practice, that is most true of the Conservatives and least of the NDP.) So the provincial Quebecois Liberals had resources to draw on; moreover, their best talent didn't automatically move on to Ottawa. (Charlie Stross intimated that this was a serious problem for Scottish Labour.) Does Labour (Scotland) have an independent source of resources, either human or financial?

Of course, the SNP might make itself too radioactive for a Labour PM --- from here, it looked like the Conservatives were using the spectre of the SNP in government to terrify English voters. But is that likely to be the case?

Well Scottish Labour's problems of having their best talent move to Westminster might be partially solved by this electoral outcome. With such a loss, Labour is most likely going to want to win back some Scottish seats and that will probably now require some of the leading lights in Scottish Labour to stay in Scotland.

Additionally any further reduction in the number of Scottish seats once more powers are transferred to Scotland might have the knock-on effect of indirectly allowing the best of the remaining talent in Scotland to concentrate on fewer seats (and maybe win them).


For a start, you're assuming Labour are rational actors. It's difficult to overstate how much they and the SNP loathe each other. Also, Scotland occupies an important place in the Labour's psyche. It got its start there, and until last week there were seats it had held since the 1930s. They won't give up on Scotland in the foreseeable future.

Also, even if there's not much policy difference, a Labour PM would greatly prefer a reliable cadre of Scottish MPs from his own party, as opposed to an obstreperous SNP who could torpedo his government at any time.

Last but not least, you are correct that the Conservatives did their best to demonise the concept of a deal with the SNP. It probably helped put them over the top in marginal English seats. Arguably, the SNP is already too toxic for any but the loosest possible arrangement with Labour.

As for internal Labour party organisation... it's not my field of specialty, but AIUI they have historically been on a pretty tight leash from London. Jim Murphy has tried to create a little more distance, which caused significant friction with the UK leadership. And yes, Charlie's absolutely right that the brightest Labour stars have preferred to seek cabinet positions in London.

It's been seriously suggested that Labour might split into separate but allied parties north and south of the border. (The same has been said for the Conservatives, ever since their own Scottish wipe-out in 1997.) The result would be similar to the CDU/CSU split in Germany. So far it hasn't happened but it might be of some help.

Two weeks ago, Labour were cautiously optimistic about forming the next government. Now, they are severely traumatised in Scotland, and only slightly less so on a UK level. All the likely candidates for a new leader are English, and may not regard Scotland as a very high priority. But it's hard to really predict Labour's reaction, we'll have to wait and see.

@JH: Labour have a long-term problem with their talent pipeline in Scotland. It's my (subjective) impression that ever since the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999, they've been less successful than the SNP in attracting bright young recruits, and now it's starting to bite them.

To the extent that Labour has any talent left in Scotland, their first priority will be the Holyrood elections in 2016. The SNP is likely to retain its overall majority, so Labour will be struggling to win enough seats to be seen as relevant. It's really too early to say what their strategy will be for the 2020 Westminster election and beyond.

@Iainrobertsblog: Okay, understood. Seems like a very uncertain time then for Labour in Scotland.

Perhaps it might be best if Labour did split into separate parties in Scotland and England & Wales. While such a relationship would indeed be similar to the CDU/CSU situation in Germany, it would also (only very vaguely) resemble the Labour Party/SDLP relationship in Northern Ireland. The Labour Party is in essence a party restricting itself to Great Britain and it can get along with the SDLP in Northern Ireland since the SDLP (while nationalist and advocating Irish reunification) does accept that Northern Ireland is a part of the UK and is quite okay with devolution for Northern Ireland while it remains a part of the UK.

So any separate Scottish Labour Party (SLP) would have to be free enough to define its own policy with regards to Scotland (which might well be "eventual independence once the majority in Scotland want it, but as much autonomy as possible until then") in order to attract talent away from joining the SNP.

Because as it is right now the SNP seems to have taken up both the right and left of Scottish nationalism/devolutionism, leaving first the Tories and now Labour with the prospect of basically being excluded from Scotland. A separate Scottish Labour Party which could be nationalist in the way the SDLP is nationalist in Northern Ireland could perhaps woo the left wing away from the SNP, leaving the SNP as the right wing of the political spectrum north of the border.

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