My constituency is one of the SNP’s most coveted prizes. If they win in Midlothian they can win almost anywhere. This is Gladstone’s old seat, where the modern political campaign was born. He wrested it away from the Conservatives in 1880, after a series of stirring speeches on the government’s foreign policy failures. On Thursday the SNP are hoping to pull off a similar upset.
The momentum behind the nationalists is incredible. Everything I’ve seen and heard in the last couple of weeks points to an SNP victory here. My entire family is voting for them. My mother suggested that I should do the same. ‘Give your dead grandfather a vote,’ she said without irony. A straw poll of my neighbours reveals that the rest of my street have become nationalists too.
The fact that the local SNP candidate was apparently caught fronting an organisation called Labour for Independence doesn’t seem to bother many people here. But in Scotland this election isn’t about personalities. The vast majority of the MPs we send to Westminster this month will be almost completely unknown. The incumbency effect means very little now in this changed landscape. Just ask Michael Moore, who may be about to forfeit David Steel’s old seat. Or poor Danny Alexander.
The nationalists’ phenomenal success has inspired many people to vote tactically. Countless Conservatives and Liberal Democrats I’ve spoken to have already voted Labour by postal ballot. Incredibly one of them is a sitting MSP from another party. ‘An evil thing known is best,’ he said by way of explanation.
There is evidence to back up the anecdotes. According to a recent YouGov poll one in seven Scots are considering voting tactically. The possibility of the break up of the country has invigorated unionist parties before, and to some extent it’s doing so again. ‘We are at least used to living in a Labour fiefdom,’ one true blue Conservative told me. ‘But if the nats get another referendum we’ll probably lose.’
There are three new websites dedicated to facilitating tactical voting. It certainly seems to be on the rise. But will it be enough to fend off the nationalists? Not in Midlothian. Even if everyone who voted Conservative in 2010 suddenly turns red it won’t be sufficient. And it is quite a representative constituency. In the referendum 43.7 per cent of us voted Yes. The national figure was 44.7 per cent. Electoral wonks and SNP strategists will be keeping a close eye on the results here in the early hours of Friday morning.
Tactical voting could save a few key Labour seats, which will be important for their activists’ morale if nothing else. In East Renfrewshire Jim Murphy could just hold on if YouGov’s poll is accurate. But that’s a rare example of a straight red/blue marginal. There are only a few of them in Scotland, and that could change in a few days. Labour is doomed north of the border, even if there is a phenomenal amount of tactical voting.
Scotland is on the verge of becoming a one-party state. There isn’t a single seat the SNP can’t realistically take. What does this mean for the United Kingdom? It would take a Blair-like figure to win a majority for Labour without the party’s Scottish coterie. And Miliband is no Blair. Nothing is certain in this election, but it’s hard to see how Ed Miliband can walk into Downing Street, even if Scottish Tories try their best to send him there.