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View from the street: the eminently miss-able open goal



North and south of the border, many believe Labour has an open goal in terms of making gains against parties that have slipped.

The open goal analogy, on its surface, suggests a dead cert. But a more accurate description is a high-pressure situation where the cost of failure is vastly higher than the reward for success.

In England, Sir Keir Starmer has a robust-looking double-digit lead in the polls. There are rumblings of a new-Labour-esque landslide, and the Conservatives still seem slightly punch-drunk from the Boris Johnson champagne and the Liz Truss supernova.

And yet…

Meanwhile, in Scotland, Anas Sarwar is burnishing his business community credentials and is credited with turning Scottish Labour into a more unified force. Polls show he’s overtaken the Tories in terms of Holyrood vote share and is now hot on the heels of the SNP, with talk of a large number of Scottish Westminster seats turning red at the next general election.

In a further boost, he now faces a brand new first minister in Humza Yousaf, who only just squeaked over the line in the SNP leadership race and who faces a plethora of pressing challenges.

And yet…

As they bear down on their respective open goals, both Labour leaders are wrestling with the challenge of tempering expectations without undermining their ability to score.

A play-it-safe approach of not interrupting their respective opposition’s crisesmay work up to a point, but there is a risk this appears unfocused or contributes to a loss of momentum.

It is perhaps a curiosity, then, that the current discussion seems focused on the defence. There has been a lot said in the past few days about the first test of Yousaf’s Holyrood leadership coming in the form of an expected by-election for the Westminster seat of Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

Yes, it will be a de-facto test for the new first minister, but it will also be a huge indicator of where Labour is at electorally. UK Labour could do with Scottish gains if it is to win a majority, and Sarwar needs hard evidence to back up paper progress to date.

So, who can convert on a (likely) rainy Thursday night in Hamilton? We may be about to find out.

Politics isn’t a beautiful game by any stretch of the imagination but, as self-confessed football fans, Labour’s leaders in London and Edinburgh should be wary of the weird things that can happen when an open goal looms large.


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