A few weeks ago, the British Labour Party appeared to be advancing on all fronts. They appeared to be way ahead in Scotland, on the brink of deposing the minority Nationalist government at Holyrood. They were poised to take over 1300 council seats, they were likely to win the referendum on AV- a voting system that they originally proposed, in order to gain support from the Liberal Democrats, who support a fully proportional system.
Now the situation looks somewhat less bright, the expectations of major council gains remains, but AV may well fail, and the SNP have moved ahead in the Scottish polls. The question now seems to be whether the wheels have fallen off the Labour campaign, and if so, why?
Firstly, I must accept that the expectations for the Liberal Democrats remain grim. It seems highly likely that the party will be cleared out of several former local government strongholds, probably including Cornwall. Although there has been a modest recovery in poll support in Scotland, it still also seems probable that the party will lose seats at Holyrood, though the debacle may be mitigated by the concentration of Lib Dem votes in certain areas, while being wiped out in other areas. Nevertheless, those of us who have been in the party for decades will understand that we have been in more difficult positions before, and that we will now need to regroup and work our way back into wider public support.
For Labour, the loss of power at national government level should be mitigated by a recovery in local support. Yet the impact of several poor decisions by the new leader, Edward Miliband, now seems to be showing up in the polls.
I have been sceptical that Labour were as popular as they appeared- after all, the polls also show that it is Labour that gets most of the blame for the current economic crisis. Nevertheless, this first test for the ruling coalition may be decisive in some unexpected ways. It may be that Labour can still make huge gains in council elections- to the discomfiture of the coalition, it may also be that UKIP and other parties capitalise on the the demise of the Liberal Democrats protest vote against the Labour and Tory hegemony. It may yet be that the SNP can gain a majority at Holyrood.
That would certainly be a terrible night for the coalition. However, it may equally be that Labour are hurt just as much- particularly if they lose seats at Holyrood and if the AV referendum results in a crushing defeat for the Yes camp.
Liberal Democrats are unlikely to be celebrating. yet as a party we are resilient in defeat. Would that be true of the Conservatives, if they were panicked by a rise in the UKIP, or Labour facing a second successive defeat in Scotland?
All be be clear in three weeks.