The next General Election is going to be closer than Labour optimists believe. Rishi Sunak is stealing some of their policies and pushing populist policies on crime and refugees.
Every seat will count and 20 odd from Scotland would come in handy for Labour. They have a chance of beginning a Tartan turnaround not only because the Scottish Nationalists are in trouble but crucially because the SNP is failing to deliver on central policies like health and education.
Nicola Sturgeon built an extraordinarily high level of support for the SNP on the twin promises of a better governed Scotland and independence. She failed to deliver on both. Many Scots will continue to consider that independence is the top priority but there are surely others who will realise that Westminster intransigence means the game is up for now and give Labour UK, a chance to help deliver better services north of the border too.
It is good news that a Muslim has been elected leader of a major party in Britain, but that is where the praise for Humza Yousaf ends. He won narrowly, has a poor ministerial record, is going to keep trying for gender reform and insulted his able opponent Kate Forbes by offering the former Finance Minister a post in rural affairs which she rightly refused.
Nicola Sturgeon kept a lid on dissent, perhaps too tightly. It blew off in this campaign, taking the shine off the SNP. It is Labour’s opportunity.
ALL CHANGE IN CUMBRIA
On Saturday local government in Cumbria undergoes its first shake up in 50 years with the return of a couple of old names. Two unitary all purpose authorities are to be set up. Cumberland in the north and west will embrace Carlisle, Allerdale and Copeland district councils. Westmoreland in the east and south will incorporate Barrow, South Lakeland and Eden councils in an authority stretching from Alston to Barrow.
The Labour leadership of Cumbria County Council went to court twice to try and stop the reform saying it was a Tory power grab. Well, it didn’t turn out that way in last May’s elections for the shadow councils. Labour won a solid majority in Cumberland and the Lib Dems did even better in Westmoreland.
The aim of the shakeup is partly to streamline services and accountability and partly to prepare the ground for devolution. However, as in Lancashire and Cheshire, the issue of elected mayors will rear its head again. Will voters in the new authority areas buy the government’s bribe of major powers and money in return for elected mayors?
At the other end of England, the Cornish have just said no to handing power to an elected mayor.
So the stop start, piecemeal reform of local government continues leading to a confused pattern that, business in particular, finds difficulty in dealing with.
Added to that, the local enterprise partnerships that replaced the unfairly criticised regional development agencies, are themselves being abolished.
It is to be hoped an incoming Labour government will return to the regional government, regional assemblies and unitary council model of John Prescott and then leave it alone.