The journalist Kevin McKenna wrote recently about his take on Jim Murphy’s pitch to regain the votes of “Glasgow Man”. I’ve been thinking about that a wee bit this past week as I’ve been chapping doors in various neighbourhoods in Glasgow. I always enjoy having conversations with the voters I meet, finding out what’s led them to their political views. Often, it’s through their own experiences as much as what’s featured in the media. I’ve spoken to both men and women in the past week who have shifted in their views, some over a short period of time, some over the past ten years. The vast majority were shifting away from Labour and towards the SNP.
I was most struck by an older Glasgow Man, who I recall our team canvassing during the referendum. He had a union flag up at that time, Vote No stickers on his door. He was solidly Labour and definitely No. I had a wee moan to the canvass leader who dispatched me to his door – I was sure it would be a waste of time. I was wrong. The man came up to his gate, I introduced myself. He thoughtfully reached out and took my leaflet. I asked if he’d made up his mind how he’d be voting. He paused for a moment, sighed heavily and told me that he’d always been a Labour man, voted Labour all his days, but was thinking – for the very first time – of voting for someone else, of voting SNP. I enquired a wee bit further, said I’d remembered him from before. He felt let down by Labour and thought Scotland’s corner would be better fought by the SNP. It took me a good ten minutes to pick my jaw up off the floor! I don’t know if he’ll definitely vote, or if he’ll make the change to vote SNP, but I know for sure that if Labour are losing this type of guy, they’re in serious bother.
The other Glasgow Men I’ve met in the past few days tell a similar story. They were Labour, they were always Labour in their hearts and in their heads. They shake their heads with deep regret that the party they belonged to has gone. The contrast between those working class men of modest means and the revelations about the speakers fees commanded by Labour MPs like Jack Straw tell you everything about how the Westminster system has gripped and deformed the Labour party.
Those Glasgow Men have found a home quite easily in the SNP. When you look to Nicola Sturgeon’s statements challenging the cosy consensus on austerity and tax avoidance, you can see why. What many of these Glasgow Men are telling me on the doorstep is that by selling Scotland out on independence, by holding hands with the Tories and big business, Labour have torn away a great opportunity for Scotland. It’s so moving to hear them speak about how they hoped independence would be a chance for their children to do better. They hope still to see independence in their lifetimes. They are going to vote SNP to make sure that Scotland’s cause isn’t forgotten. They are chatting to their pals – other Glasgow Men – in the pub, and taking them on that journey too. I don’t see Labour winning them back before May, if at all.
And what about the Glasgow Women? In case you were wondering, I’ve been speaking to them too. They’ve been angry about trident, they’ve been scathing about Milliband’s lack of guts. They are interested, they are engaged. They don’t need Labour’s pink van – and it’s taken the US show Last Week Tonight to nail exactly why.