Hamish Macdonell

Balls and Miliband to rescue Labour’s Scottish campaign…

Balls and Miliband to rescue Labour's Scottish campaign…
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Can Ed Miliband and Ed Balls save Labour in Scotland? The two Labour heavyweights have decided to move in to rescue their party's disastrous campaign in Scotland — with Balls being sent up north to sharpen his party's teeth. A desperate measure for a desperate situation: Labour has not only blown a 10-15 point lead over the SNP in just a few weeks, but now languishes some 10-13 percentage points behind. A mammoth, humiliating defeat looms.

Until now, Labour has liked to portray its campaign for the Holyrood elections as a totally Scottish affair: run in Scotland, organised in Scotland and led by Scottish politicians. Not any more. Senior staffers in Ed Miliband’s office started briefing Scottish hacks last night that Miliband is now going to take a much more "hands on" approach to the campaign. Miliband has only made one, brief appearance in the campaign so far. But he and Ed Balls are due to be in Scotland this week to push a more strident "anti-independence" message.

Gordon Brown has also only appeared on the campaign trail once so far, and that was to meet a few voters within easy reach of his home. But he is also due to take a more active part in the Scottish Labour campaign this week.

Will it work? Scottish politicians are rightly wary of involving Westminster leaders too much because they tend to run against the semi-autonomous spirit of devolution. The leader of Scottish MSPs, Iain Gray, will know he risks being ridiculed as someone who needed to be saved by his party bosses from London.

Yet Labour managers must have weighed up these risks and decided it was still worth sending for the cavalry — in the form of Balls and Miliband. And this is not without risk for Miliband. With Labour seemingly heading for defeat in Scotland, he will now be associated with a campaign that may well end in disaster.

But even damage limitation has its merits. It may be an even bigger disaster for Miliband if his Scottish party goes down to a humiliating and emphatic (and avoidable) defeat in its first real-world test after his election as party leader.


In another desperate attempt to rescue the campaign, Scottish Labour today re-launched its campaign, ditching the theme of "vote Labour to oppose Tory cuts," for a relentless, an-independence barrage.


The aim is simple: use a scaremongering argument to woo the wavering Lib Dem voters who have always been seen as the key to this campaign. So far, Alex Salmond has done far better than Labour in winning them over. His "I stand up for Scotland" claim has resonated far more with those who want to protest at Westminster-inspired cuts than Labour’s message.


Now Labour want to frighten those disillusioned Lib Dems back to the unionist fold with warnings about the break-up of Britain, but it is probably too late to make much difference.


Hamish Macdonell writes on politics for Caledonian Mercury, Scotland's first online newspaper, www.caledonianmercury.com