Friday, November 13, 2009

SNP fail in Glasgow North East

I had for some time thought it was likely that Labour would win the Glasgow North East by-election. The biggest sign that they thought they were on to a dead cert was the fact that they were quite happy for Glasgow Labour MP, Tom Harris, to spend polling day evening tweeting from the Will Young concert at the SECC. I did cruelly joke that maybe they wanted him out of the way, but if you think the result is going to be close, you'll get every single pair of legs out there knocking on doors.

You would think, wouldn't you, that if the SNP were as good as their hype suggests, they would have given Labour a closer run for their money. After all, this was just a few miles from the seat where, last year, they snatched a memorable victory from Labour. It would have been a challenge for them to win as safe a Labour seat as you can get, but you would have expected them to come at least within 1000 votes. Instead they languished on barely a third of Labour's vote. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the Holyrood Government.

Since John Mason's victory in Glasgow East, however, things haven't gone well for them. They failed to win Glenrothes just over a year ago, something which again should have been easy for them especially as they hold the Scottish Parliament seat of Central Fife. They threw the kitchen sink at that campaign only to have their hopes dashed.

In a Council by-election in Inverness earlier this year, they got their backsides well and truly whipped by Liberal Democrat Alasdair Christie, barely getting a third of his vote. They made no impact whatever in an Aberdeenshire Council by-election won by Liberal Democrat Rosemary Bruce on the same day.

The Glasgow North East result, declared at just before 2am, was very disappointing for the SNP, signalling that the juggernaut which came to a standstill in Glenrothes is still in dire need of spark plugs. Westminster governments don't come much more unpopular than Labour at the moment, yet the SNP, who had actually contested the seat in 2005 unlike anyone else, so they had a bit of a base there,couldn't even get the same number of people to get out and vote for them. Their percentage did increase but not significantly. I expect they will privately be extremely disappointed with their performance.

They'll try and make themselves feel better by having a go at the Liberal Democrats for coming behind the BNP. That, I admit, was not a great result for us. We had a candidate who had just the right experience in social work and community regeneration that the community needed. She worked tirelessly during the campaign, getting out there and knocking on doors. Looking at our campaign from the outside, it seems to me that it was not as well resourced as other by-elections had been. We'll see when the election expenses are submitted, but I'd be surprised if we'd spent a tenth of the £100,000 limit. Labour and the SNP will have spent much, much more and I expect the Tories will have put in a lot more than we did too. You don't get such marked disparity of expenditure in a normal election where the limit is about an eighth of that. I wonder if they think that their money was well spent. They didn't stand in 2005, but the Scottish Unionist Party did, and got almost 5%. I suspect that people who made that choice 4 years ago would be more likely to vote Tory. The Tories got just over 5% yesterday. It's hardly progress.

We weren't able to establish ourselves quickly as the main challengers and so consequently found ourselves slugging it out in the midfield. It's not great, but it's not a result that causes me a huge amount of concern. It's not as if we were isolated at the bottom of the heap. There were only around 700 votes between the Tories in 3rd and the Greens in 7th. In 2005 just under 1000 were prepared to vote for the fascist BNP. This time it was just over 1000. While I don't like the fact that people choose to support their message of hate, there's no evidence of a great drift towards them. The contest took place in Tommy Sheridan's natural stomping ground yet he and the Scottish Socialist combined couldn't get 1000 votes where they had nearly 5,500 votes 4 years ago.

The SNP is not going to be able to hide behind the performance of others in this by-election for long. Their performance on every level was shocking and they will have to ask themselves some very searching questions. The whole campaign, from their botched selection onwards, was not of the required standard.

And as for Labour, a comfortable result in one of their safest seats is hardly indicative of a ringing endorsement of the Government. You would expect them to hang on convincingly in their stronghold, but at some time in the next 6 months, they'll be tested in the marginals, places like Edinburgh South, where Fred Mackintosh is just over 400 votes behind Labour, like Edinburth North and Leith, where Kevin Lang is mounting a strong challenge to Labour from a strong second place.

You can't extrapolate much from a by-election in a seat like Glasgow North East, especially after a campaign which failed to engage over 2/3 of the electorate. Labour were lucky to come up against a fairly incompetent SNP campaign in one of their strongholds and would be foolish to think that all is well in their world. The General Election with its wider media scrutiny and exposure will bring better fortune for the Liberal Democrats. It's the SNP who will be seriously worried at their failure to persuade people to vote for them.


Anonymous said...


Okay I admit it was a very poor result for the SNP and I did tweet yesterday that they would win around 32%, okay I was way off.

Couple of points though. The Libs came in on second place in 2005 for all of Glasgow. So as the second party of Glasgow (in UK terms) I would had thought the Libs would have won more than 2% of the vote for a UK seat.

You say the result is not an endorsement for the SNP yet every poll (I ken I keep going on about polls) show the SNP are well out in front of Labour, most recent by 10% so although (and I have even said it on my blog) that the SNP have made some major mistakes, they are however still by far the most popular party.

Another point around by-elections..

lol you did cherry pick the Lib Dem wins, very naughty hee hee!!

What about the SNP wins? Dundee, Kilbirnie,Milton and I think also in East Ayrshire oh and most recently Angus.
Hmm not a bad record for a party of power.

Yes I agree a bad result for the SNP but if this by-election was held in Livingston with the same outcome, then I would had said it was curtains for the SNP.

Still, 2%..wee shame ;)

Stuart Winton said...

Hi Caron - I think the hard left vote in 2005 was mainly Arthur Scargill's(?) Socialist Labour Party, who got over 4,000, as compared to a mere 47 last night.

I don't think Michael Martin as speaker used the label 'Labour' on the 2005 ballot paper, so the thousands of votes garnered by the SLP probably came from people who thought they were voting Labour.

On an even more pedantic note, I doubt if many juggernaut trucks use petrol engines, and diesels use compression rather than spark plugs to ignite the fuel ;0)

Anonymous said...

Hi Caron,

It's strange how in your post lambasting the SNP's poor performance you say that the SNP will try and make themselves feel better by having a go at the LibDem performance. Have a wee look in the mirror please.

A very bad result for everyone except Labour and, possibly, the Tories.

The thing about by-elections is that the SNP don't need them anymore and while the party of government (not the same thing as being the tail of a governing dog) they will always be vulnerable at them if the main opposition gets its act together.

That said, like it or not, the SNP still increased its share of the vote.

So, while the SNP certainly needs to look at its campaign tactics it is hardly suggestive that their overall strategy is wrong.

That problem lies squarely with your lot I'm afraid.

Indy said...

Are you for real?

Yes it was a pretty crap result for the SNP but at least we came second, as expected.

What happened to the Lib Dems?

This is all getting a bit silly really. SNP fail to gain Glasgow North East from Labour would be a bit like Labour fail to gain Banff & Buchan from the SNP. Hardly a shock.

Unknown said...

AMW as we discussed on Twitter, the SNP didn't win Livingston when they had a fabulous candidate against the shocker that Labour put up although certainly they gained ground. Nor did they capitalise on the open goal that was Glenrothes.

Stuart, you have a point on the left vote in 2005, but that part of Glasgow will usually have a reasonably high socialist vote. I also defer to your greater knowledge of engineering. I don't really care how they work as long as they do:-).

Anon and Indy, my point is that the SNP should have done a lot better, not necessarily win, which was always going to be a long shot.

I don't think most commentators would ever expect the Lib Dems to be challenging for a by-election victory in either Glasgow East or Glasgow North East. They did, quite reasonably, expect the SNP to put up a greater fight and as you said yourself, Indy, it wasn't a good result for you.

We were within a few hundred votes of what was expected of us - you missed the mark by several thousand.

There is, however, a challenge for everyone fighting Labour. They were absolutely brutal in their literature as a party with nothing positive to offer often is. We'll have to make sure that we deal with their nonsense properly with our own very positive messages.


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