Saturday, 5 May 2007

SNP Victory Over Labour - Embarrassment for Brown

The SNP is victorious. The SNP won a total of 47 of the 129 seats. Labour was just one behind on 46. Britain's political map was reshaped in a dramatic result last night after the Scottish National Party ended Labour's 50-year dominance of Scotland. This is certainly to cast a shadow over Gordon Brown's expected "coronation" as Prime Minister.

Labour took a kicking from voters across Britain in the final electoral verdict on Tony Blair's decade at Number 10. This defeat was highly symbolic for not only Labour but Blair and Brown as well. Mr Brown regards Scotland as his political power base. He had taken a central role in Labour's unsuccessful campaign to halt the nationalist advance.

Labour cabinet ministers, including John Reid, the Home Secretary, and Hazel Blears, the party chairman, gave television and radio interviews however Brown attempted to distance himself from Labour's defeat in Scotland and setbacks in the rest of the UK. Instead Mr Brown issued a press release in which he promised that Labour would "listen and learn" the lessons of its defeat.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said last night that Labour had lost its "divine right" to rule Scotland. "Scotland has changed for good and forever." But it will not be smooth sailing for Salmond as he attempts to put together a coalition that will enable him to become Scotland's First Minister. The SNP's narrow victory threatens uncertainty and potential instability, particularly if Mr Salmond seeks confrontation with a Government led by Mr Brown.

Mr Salmond will need the support of at least two other parties to form a majority government. The most likely candidates are the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. However a rather large stumbling block for the other parties support will be Mr Salmond's commitment to hold a referendum on independence within four years. Yesterday the SNP leader appeared to slightly change his tune on this issue by saying there was scope for "flexibility". Jack McConnell, the Scottish Labour leader and current First Minister, refused to concede defeat last night. He pledged to "keep all options open" and said Labour would be "reflecting" on how best to move forward.

Mr Blair attempted to minimise the repercussions of the worse electoral performance of his premiership. He claimed it provided "a perfectly good springboard to go on and win the next General Election."

David Cameron passed his first big electoral test as the Conservatives won 860 council seats in England and emerged with the strongest showing in local government for almost 30 years.

Blair, Brown and Labour can try to convince themselves that the result was not a disaster. The British people have spoken and Labour's era of sleaze and corruption has passed. As the results show the people are looking for new direction and are ready to send Labour packing. It is a shame that Brown will not have the courage to call a general election when Blair resigns.

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