LABOUR is targeting major resources on just three constituencies in Scotland, party sources have indicated, suggesting Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for power will have to rely on winning seats from the Conservatives in England.
And the Tories are planning a direct strategy against Angus Robertson, the SNP’s deputy leader, one of a number of Nationalists they hope to oust on June 8.
Senior party insiders have revealed that Scottish Labour will concentrate its limited resources on seats it feels it has a realistic chance of winning back; many of those it lost to the SNP two years ago now have majorities of around 10,000 or more.
Consequently, Scottish Labour will be centre its campaign on just three constituencies:
* Edinburgh South, where in 2015 Ian Murray was the only Labour survivor against the Nationalist landslide which saw the party ship 40 of its 41 Westminster seats
* East Renfrewshire, Jim Murphy’s old seat, where the SNP’s Kirsten Oswald has a majority of 3,718 and where the Labour candidate this week was announced as Blair MacDougall, the former Better Together chief, and
* East Lothian, where Nationalist MP George Kerevan has a majority of 6,083 over Labour.
One party insider explained: “We know we’re facing an uphill battle in Scotland and there is no point in wasting resources, so we have to focus them on those seats where we have a realistic chance of winning.”
The latest UKwide YouGov poll, undertaken this week, shows Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party gaining some ground but remaining 16 points behind Theresa May’s Conservatives.
The pollster placed the Tories down three on 45 per cent, Labour up four on 29, the Liberal Democrats down two on 10 and Ukip up two on seven.
Electoral Calculus, the political forecasting website, has predicted Labour will experience a complete wipe-out in Scotland with the SNP winning 46 seats, down 10 on 2015, the Tories winning 11, up 10, and the Liberal Democrats securing two, up one.
Given a poll this week suggested the Conservatives would be the largest party ahead of Labour in Wales, if Mr Corbyn’s party does not bounce back in Scotland, then it looks likely he will have to rely on gaining power by convincing swathes of Tory and Liberal Democrat voters in England to switch to his party.
Earlier this week, a spokesman for the Labour leader emphasised the volatility of UK politics and polling, stressing how during the campaign when his party’s message would be “less mediated” the party leadership was confident support for Labour would grow.
But he also acknowledged: “We have the fight of our lives on our hands.”
This appears nowhere more so than in Scotland, where Labour has just one MP, faces more humiliation in next week’s local elections, possibly losing its former heartland of Glasgow to the SNP, and this year has been polling around 15 per cent behind the Tories on 28 and the SNP on 45.
Meanwhile, evidence that Scottish Tory confidence is rising - one poll last weekend suggested Ruth Davidson’s party would win 33 per cent of the vote, gaining a dozen seats – is that Conservatives in Scotland have their sights on the Moray seat of Angus Robertson, who leads the SNP at Westminster.
He has a majority of 9,065 but the local authority area had, at 49.9 per cent, the highest Leave vote in Scotland in last June’s referendum and where, in the 2014 independence poll, 57.6 per cent of people voted No.
One Tory source said: “We believe we can put him under a great deal of pressure. He cannot hide from EU questions his party has been trying to dodge - do they want to be in the EU, in EFTA, have a referendum, etc, etc – in an area with such a strong Leave vote.”
However, Mr Robertson hit back, making clear he was “looking forward” to defeating his Conservative opponent - for the third time in a row.
Last night in Leeds, another traditional Labour city, the Prime Minister sought to portray the election as a presidential contest, telling activists: “It may say Labour on the ballot but it’s Jeremy Corbyn that gets the vote.
“There are only two people who can possibly be Prime Minister on June 9; only two people who can possibly represent Britain in Europe. The choice is between five years of strong and stable leadership with me as Prime Minister or a coalition of chaos with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm, a weak leader negotiating Brexit and higher taxes, debt and waste.”
Her remarks follow the highly personal attack on the Labour leader by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, who branded him a “mutton-headed old mugwump,” who would be a threat to national security.
Mr Corbyn, on the stump in Essex, promoting Labour’s policy to build one million new homes in England, denounced Mr Johnson’s swipe, noting: “We're eight days into the election campaign and the Tories have been reduced to personal name-calling. I've never been involved in that and never will be.”
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