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Will Labour be saved by the “90 minute nationalists”?

November 27th, 2006

Andy Nicol with calcutta cup.jpg

    Could retaining the Calcutta Cup impede Salmond’s party?

With the weekend ICM poll showing support for an independent Scotland both north and south of the border the conditions for a strong SNP performance in May’s election for the Scottish Parliament could not be better. Judging by the fierce attacks on Alec Salmond’s party by both John Reid and Tony Blair in the two days there can be little doubt that Labour is worried.

There is a Glaswegian friend of mine who has this theory, which I am sure that others have put forward, that the SNP does well in Scotland when the country is having a bad time on the sporting front – particularly against England. At one stage he was planning a PhD thesis on the subject and had assembled a mass of data which appeared to support his case.

    His argument was that if “England have been stuffed at Murrayfield or Hampden Park” then Scottish self-expression has been satisfied and there’s less need for the SNP.

He had an elaborate theory that one of the biggest boosts to the party was the ending of the annual Home Nations Soccer championship in the 1983-84 with its annual Scotland-England match. This took away what had become an annual Scottish ritual which left a void that only the SNP could fill.

It is interesting to correlate the SNP’s performance with the Scotland-England rugby union.

1980 District Council Election – 15.5% – 54 seats (Scotland lose to England)
1982 Regional Council Election – 13.4% – 23 seats (Scotland lose to England)
1983 General Election – 11.7% – 2 seats (Scotland win at Twickenham)
1984 District Council Election – 11.7% – 59 seats (Scotland win at Murrayfield)
1986 Regional Council Election – 18.2 % – 36 seats (Scotland win at Murrayfield)
1987 General Election – 14.0% – 3 seats (Scotland lose to England)
1988 District Council Election – 21.3% – 113 seats (Scotland lose to England)
1989 European Parliament Election – 25.6% – 1 seat (Scotland lose to England)
1990 Regional Council Election – 21.8% – 42 seats (Scotland win at Murrayfield)
1992 General Election – 21.5% – 3 seats (Scotland lose to England)
1992 District Council Election – 24.3% – 150 seats (Scotland lose to England)
1993 (Scotland lose to England)
1994 European Parliament Election – 32.6% – 2 seats
1994 Regional Council Election – 26.8% – 73 seats (Scotland lose to England)
1995 Unitary Authorities Election – 26.1% – 181 seats (Scotland lose to England)
1996 (Scotland lose to England)
1997 General Election – 22.1% – 6 seats (Scotland lose to England)
1999 Scottish Parliament Election – 28.7% – 35 seats (Scotland lose to England)
2000 (Scotland win at Murrayfield)
2001 General Election – 20.1% – 5 seats (Scotland lose to England)
2003 Scottish Parliament Election* – 23.8% – 27 seats (Scotland lose to England)
2004 European Parliament Election – 19.7% – 2 seats (Scotland lose to England)
2005 General Election – 17.7% – 6 seats (Scotland lose to England)
2006 (Scotland win at Murrayfield)

So if there is something in the theory then Labour will be hoping for big improvements the England RFU team. Could Gordon be shouting for the old enemy with the oval ball as well?

Mike Smithson






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