Scotlands Portillo Moment
In 1997, John Majors Conservatives lost an election. Tony Blair and New Labour swept to a landslide victory and the Tories were completely obliterated in Scotland.
It ushered in New Labour and the age of Champagne Socialism and the Spin Doctor.
But before Noel Gallacher was invited through the door at number ten, before we were told Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction ready to launch in a mere 45 minutes there was another event that came to define the result on mayday 1997.
In the Enfield Southgate seat Michael Portillo lost to labour.
It came as a shock to many politicians and commentators, and came to symbolise the extent of the Conservatives’ defeat.
Before the result Portillo was unable to answer the question :
“Are we seeing the end of the Conservative Party as a credible force in British politics?”
People still remember that moment and the phrase “were you up for Portillo?” came to represent a night blue turned to red and every Tory seat in Scotland vanished.
Now Scotland has it’s very own “Portillo moment” and it illustrates one of the reasons Scottish Labour find themselves facing a formidable SNP majority.
But it wasn’t Tom McCabe, Frank Macavety, Andy Kerr or Pauline McNeil or any other high profile candidate from the class of ‘99 losing their seat and it illustrates in part why Labour fared so badly in this campaign.
It was the reaction of shocked gasps of incredulity from the BBC Scotland election show panel to the taking of Shettleston that for me will define this election.
It was the moment it looked like something truly historic was happening.
The moment it started to look like the nationalists would win in a system which was set up to foil just such an event.
The SNP didn’t so much slip into Labours West Coast Citadel they stormed it.
The SNP also stormed the Lib Dems mainland strongholds.
All through the night Labour and the lib dems engaged in a back and forth trying to blame each other for their losses .
Labour repeated the mantra that the SNP had won because they had received the Lib Dems vote and the Libs suggested that the Labour campaign played a hand.
The Lib Dems election devastation is undoubtedly down to their involvement in a coalition with the Tories. Scotand has effectively punished them.
So what of Labour? Why didn’t the centre hold?
I think they have reaped what they have sown. There has been a gradual drain of talent from the Scottish Parliament. No more do they have the Dewars, The McCleishs or even the McConnells. They became the B-team, a reserve team party – the talent went to Westminster and the Scottish electorate felt that labour didn’t care. They felt betrayed and neglected.
Now Scottish Labour have to rebuild and they have to prove to their heartlands they haven’t abandoned them. Scottish labour cannot take the Scottish electorate for granted anymore.
This is an exciting time in Scottish and UK politics.
I look forward to see where the future takes us.