The political quote of the year for me thus far has been Humza Yousaf’s succinct assessment that the arrest of a former senior SNP figure was “not great”. Also very much “not great” from the SNP leader’s perspective is new MRP polling from YouGov which suggests the nationalists could lose 23 seats to Labour at the next general election.
This comes two days after a by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West was all but confirmed after formerly-SNP-now-independent MP Margaret Ferrier lost her appeal against a 30-day parliamentary suspension, which will trigger a recall petition. Overall, it’s been a good week for Anas Sarwar’s Scottish Labour (he’s said the polling shows it’s “clear that across Scotland people are are sick of the Tory and SNP status quo”), but it’s not all bad news for Yousaf – YouGov does have the SNP on track to take Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross’ seat of Moray. Ross has already announced he will be standing down at the next election.
Also standing down at the next election, we learned yesterday, is Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood. While not a member of the Socialist Campaign Group (SCG), Greenwood served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and was generally viewed as loyal to the former leader. The real story here is not Greenwood’s retirement, but what happens next: the timing of her announcement has raised eyebrows, coming a day after Wirral South MP Alison McGovern stated her intention to run for Birkenhead, teeing up a selection battle with the sitting MP Mick Whitley. The area is undergoing boundary changes and McGovern’s current seat will be dissolved, with a small amount of it transferring to what is currently Whitley’s constituency.
Whitley is a backbencher and McGovern a frontbencher oft-tipped for shadow cabinet promotion, so it’s not hard to guess who the party leadership would rather have in the PLP. Whitley is also an SCG member and McGovern a former chair of Progress, so there is a clear factional element to proceedings.
Whether the vacancy of Greenwood’s seat serves as a pressure release in any potential clash or only adds fuel to the fire remains to be seen: LabourList understands that McGovern intends to continue seeking Birkenhead, despite a source close to Whitley urging the shadow employment minister to set her sights on Wirral West instead. Either way, the path to the election is unlikely to be one of unceasing and harmonious comradeship on the Wirral.
Another factional selection story is unfolding in Copeland, where, in what has become a familiar dance, the local CLP has resigned after a local councillor from the left of the party failed to make the longlist. My colleague Katie Neame has the details here.
From down in the factional selection weeds to up in the big leagues: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves will today deliver a speech on ‘Securonomics’ in Washington, discussing Labour’s plans to rebuild industrial foundations and champion multilateralism, and Keir Starmer will face off against Rishi Sunak at PMQs. The PM will likely attempt to tout economic growth after it was announced this morning that inflation has fallen, but Starmer has fine ammunition in the form of yet more revelations about Boris Johnson’s ‘partygate’ conduct, a story that is likely to rumble on for some time.
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