Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
Labour kingmaker Pat McFadden MP says party must 'ignore' opinion polls

Pat McFadden photographed by Louise Haywood Schiefer

Labour kingmaker Pat McFadden MP says party must 'ignore' opinion polls

Labour election wins are "rarities" despite Humza Yousaf's claim that victory for Keir Starmer's party is "inevitable" at the next general election, the party's kingmaker has told Holyrood.

Pat McFadden MP worked with everyone from Donald Dewar and John Smith to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and is now the party's national campaign coordinator.

In a wide-ranging interview with Holyrood editor Mandy Rhodes, he said that despite predictions from Yousaf that a Labour general election win is "inevitable", he is taking nothing for granted. 

The Paisley-born MP said: "The SNP used to say there was no point in voting Labour in Scotland because we couldn’t win. Now they’ll say there’s no point in voting Labour because we can’t lose. Well, I am clear that Labour victories are a rarity, you have to earn them, you have to work hard for them."

McFadden has told his staff to "ignore" polling which shows the party growing in public support. He said: "They’re about as useful as looking in the rearview mirror of your car and trying to predict the traffic conditions up ahead. They just tell you what’s happened up till now.

"Do not ever be sucked into the idea that we are the incumbents, we’re not, we’re the challengers. Don’t let the media or the SNP or the Tory party turn Labour into the incumbents. The Tories are the ones with a 14-year record to defend. And we are fighting this from behind, we’re coming off the worst result we had in 80 years. 

"The arithmetic we’ve got to overcome is really challenging. But I do believe we’re back on the pitch. I do believe that Keir Starmer deserves enormous credit for taking a party that came off the back of that result and for turning it into a competitive force again. But we still have everything to prove. So, things are possible. But it’s a lot of work to turn a possibility into a reality."

McFadden said: "My job this year is to do everything I can to help Labour win, to change the government, and turn the page. And something else too; we've talked a lot about the SNP in Scotland, but the governance of the UK has for far too long been held hostage by the obsessions of right wing Tories, many of them nationalists in a different way. And I think we will be doing the public a great service by liberating the governance of the country from whatever the latest Tory obsession is going to be. 

"You know, when you go through a litany of them in recent years, Rishi Sunak is constantly having to negotiate positions, even calling them the five families. He's constantly having to negotiate positions with these groupings. 

"He had one big decision to make when he became Tory party leader, which is, am I gonna take these people on or not? He hasn't really taken them on, he's negotiated with them. And the only way we're going to stop the governance of our country from continuing to be dominated by this is to get rid of them, I'm afraid; to vote them out and let them try and sort it out in opposition. And one thing I can say with certainty about Keir Starmer is he's not a factional figure. He's not held hostage by anyone inside the Labour Party. He will put the country first every time. And that in itself, I think, would be an enormous relief and a change well worth having."

Asked if a general election victory for Labour would make a win for the party at Holyrood in 2026 inevitable, McFadden said: "No, I don't think anything is inevitable, but if we’ve won at UK level that has big implications on its own for Scotland. 

"We were the founders of devolution, we legislated for it, I was involved in it when it happened. I worked in number 10 when all that legislation was being formulated. I know it’s evolved since, but I was there at the start of it, and the vision of that was that in Scotland, and in Wales, and Northern Ireland you would have government closer to the people who were directly elected, but at the same time you would maintain the UK and the common bonds that have existed and, you know, we took the view and I still take it that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and that, together, we had something bigger than each of us had to offer to the world. I still think that’s valid today and if we are elected that’s the view that the Labour Party would take."

He went on: "My message would be, whether you voted yes or no in the referendum in 2014, at the next election the question is are you going to have a Tory government or a Labour government? Those are the only two possible outcomes, and we ask people in Scotland to vote to get rid of the Tories and vote for Labour. The question is, who runs the UK?

"I would dearly like to see a situation where we had a Labour government at a UK level working with a Labour administration in Scotland, led by Anas [Sarwar]."

Responding to McFadden's comments, the SNP's MP David Linden said: "This admission blows a huge hole in the Labour campaign in Scotland. By admitting that Labour governments are 'rarities', Pat McFadden has confirmed a central proposition of the SNP and the case for independence - that Scotland usually gets lumped with Tory governments we don't vote for.

"This will haunt Labour's campaign in Scotland all the way through to polling day.

"Voting SNP is the way to make Scotland Tory-free at the general election - and it's the way to get rid of Tory governments for good with independence.

"Labour are throwing away their policies under Tory pressure at Westminster. And they are now admitting that Scotland will always be trapped in a damaging cycle of Tory governments for as long as we are stuck under Westminster control."


Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Staff reporter - Police submit Operation Branchform report to Crown after Peter Murrell charged.

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top