Sunday, July 20, 2008

Labour and the Catholic vote

I came across this article by Geoffrey Wheatcroft via Paulie. Here's the thrust of the argument - you can read the rest yersels:
"Whether or not the Government holds Glasgow East on Thursday, this by-election helps explain why Labour retains a bedrock of support in Scotland. Religious faith may have faded, but sectarian loyalties remain: Glasgow East is a Catholic constituency, and Labour is the Catholic party."
Paulie suggests that it might be 'over-simplified'. I prefer 'largely bollocks' and since Wheatcroft's 'aren't the natives strange?' argument has been repeated elsewhere of late, I thought it might be worth explaining why.

Not all the article is bullshit. Wheatcroft rightly points out that "the Tories have been gravely damaged by the eclipse of political Protestantism." But he doesn't follow through the logic: Scottish voters, in the main, have long since abandoned the habit of voting on sectarian grounds; it is class that is the overwhelming determinant of voting behaviour - as it is in the rest of the country.

Any residual sectarian voting has been neutralised by the shift in the main parties' position on Northern Ireland: Major pursued a peace deal; Labour abandoned its previously rather silly policy of a 'united Ireland by consent'.

This leaves us here: there is absolutely no question that the Catholic Church is deeply interwoven into the fabric of Scottish Labour but I can't say this firmly enough: despite what commentators would have you believe, despite what the clerics wish was true - there is no 'Catholic vote' in Scotland. Certainly not the kind that can swing a constituency.

Catholics are more likely to vote Labour in the way that all religious minorities, with the exception of Anglicans, are - which is to say only slightly and while I'm too lazy to produce any data to support this, if this religious influence were controlled for income, I doubt it would register at all.

There is precious little evidence that Catholics even agree with the Vatican on issues like abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell research and the like - still less that their voting behaviour is influenced by them. Anyway, the convention in British politics - thank God, if you'll pardon the expression - is that Parliamentary votes on these questions are a non-partisan affair. Do all these London commentators think Glaswegian voters are so ignorant as to be unaware of this? Probably. But they're wrong.

I'll predict that Labour will hold Glasgow East. The reason for this has nothing to do with the proportion of Catholics amongst the electorate and everything to do with the proportion that are poor. Whether you like it or not, the working class are still more likely to give their vote to the Labour party. This is not the 'broken society' but the left-behind society and this is why you don't have to be Nostradamus to predict that the voters of Glasgow East will deliver a big 'fuck off' to Cameron and his decaffeinated brand of Victorian piety.

I'll also predict that whilst losing, the SNP will substantially increase its share of the vote. This will have nothing to do with the SNP's opportunistic and unscrupulous attempt to ingratiate themselves to the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland. I tell you this: if you've lived in Glasgow for the last twenty years or so, you can't fail to have noticed the increase in prosperity here. More people are working, own cars and houses, go on foreign holidays, eat out - shit like that. But the thing is, rising prosperity has actually made these areas worse in some ways for the simple reason that as soon as folks get sufficient income, they get the fuck out of there. Because hair-shirts are only the choice of garment for those middle-class people who aspire to be downwardly-mobile, in my experience.

So there's a fair amount of people who would like to give Labour a kicking on Thursday - but still more that possess a memory. The Tories hate Glaswegians. We hate them right back. This is why they don't have a prayer in this by-election. Fuck all to do with religion - everything to do with them being bastards. The SNP will do better with their boring, whining, mono-causal explanation for everything but not well enough. Because they used to get called the Tartan Tories; those of us that possess memories understand that this epithet was given for good reason.

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