Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath

2015 Result:
Conservative: 5223 (9.9%)
Labour: 17654 (33.4%)
Lib Dem: 1150 (2.2%)
SNP: 27628 (52.2%)
UKIP: 1237 (2.3%)
MAJORITY: 9974 (18.9%)

Category: Semi-marginal SNP seat

Geography: Scotland, Mid Scotland and Fife. Part of the Fife council area.

Main population centres: Kirkcaldy, Cowdenbeath, Kelty, Lochgelly, Burntisland, Kinghorn, Dalgety Bay.

Profile: Kirkcaldy is the biggest town in Fife, once the world leader in the manufacture of Linoleum but more recently an administrative, service and retail centre for the wider Fife area. Other settlements includes the coastal towns of Burntisland, Kinghorn and Dalgety Bay, and the former coal mining areas of Cowdenbeath and Kelty.

Politics: Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath was one of the safest Labour seats in Scotland, best known for being represented by former Chancellor and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but like many seats thought inpregnable it fell to the SNP in their 2015 landslide.

Current MP
ROGER MULLIN (SNP) Former education consultant and professor. Contested Paisley North 1990 by-election, 1992. First elected as MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 4258 (9%)
Lab: 29559 (65%)
LDem: 4269 (9%)
SNP: 6550 (14%)
Oth: 1166 (3%)
MAJ: 23009 (50%)
Con: 4308 (10%)
Lab: 24278 (58%)
LDem: 5450 (13%)
SNP: 6062 (15%)
Oth: 1698 (4%)
MAJ: 18216 (44%)
Con: 3013 (11%)
Lab: 15227 (54%)
LDem: 2849 (10%)
SNP: 6264 (22%)
Oth: 804 (3%)
MAJ: 8963 (32%)
Con: 4779 (14%)
Lab: 18730 (54%)
LDem: 3031 (9%)
SNP: 8020 (23%)
Oth: 413 (1%)
MAJ: 10710 (31%)

2015 Candidates
DAVE DEMPSEY (Conservative) Born Kirkcaldy. Fife councillor. Contested Cowdenbeath 2013 Scottish Parliament by-election.
KENNY SELBIE (Labour) Local government officer. Fife councillor.
CALLUM LESLIE (Liberal Democrat) Born Kirkcaldy. Educated at Balwearie High School and Edinburgh University. Writer and broadcaster.
JACK NEILL (UKIP) Educated at Inverkeithing High School and West of Scotland University. Student.
ROGER MULLIN (SNP) Professor and education consultant. Contested Paisley North 1990 by-election, 1992.
Comments - 361 Responses on “Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath”
  1. LAB 55.7%
    SNP 28.4%
    CON 9.4%
    UKIP 3%
    LIB 2.1%

    Lab Maj 5 488

    Not a bad guess there.

  2. Interestingly, in quite a few Scottish local by-elections (and two Scottish Parliament by-elections), the Conservative vote in these elections has risen slightly. I wonder why?

  3. They probably lent their vote to the SNP in 2011 to keep Labour out and are now returning to their natural preference.

  4. Apparently our ex PM is stepping down in 2015.

  5. a spokesman for Brown is denying this.

  6. He’d be a good Labour version of Ted Heath – still sulking on the backbenches 25 years after leaving Downing Street – if only he’d spend time on the job and take part in votes and debates. I think ex-PMs should remain in the house, personally.

  7. The statement almost sounded as a denial of the announcement of standing down rather a denial of standing down:
    “He is, and will remain, Member of Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and he has no plans to make any announcement to the contrary.”

  8. H Hemmelig- I quite agree. Brown et al could not have become Prime Minister without first being parliamentarians and so in an important sense, their power derived ultimately from their constituency electors. That is why I believe they should pay their dues after leaving Downing Street, health permitting.

  9. I really don’t think he has a great deal more to offer, actually. If that is the case, then he should gracefully retire and finally fade from view – not that his profile has been exactly high for the last 4 years. His ghost-like and resentful presence on the Labour backbenches achieves absolutely nothing. He is relatively young enough and certainly intelligent enough to go off and do other things.

  10. @Paul D:
    “Any word on Brown’s future? If Dedward Jr DOES become the next PM then I can’t imagine he’d want his predecessor lingering in the house. It would also be something of a rarity for a former PM to hang around in the house for so long (Thatcher, Major, Blair all left fairly soon – or in Blair’s case VERY soon – after finishing in the position).”

    Actually, I was surprised to read recently that Major stayed on in Huntingdon for a whole term (until 2001) after being defeated at the GE. Thatcher stayed on for two years in Finchley, until the next GE; Blair did indeed quit straight away and trigger a by-election.

    I agree with H.Hemmelig – if they want to stay in the house they should. If they want to do other things they should let someone else serve their constituents.

  11. Not sure what’s surprising about Major or Brown staying on for the full term. If you step down from the leadership as a result of losing the election, it might come across as petulant to resign from the house months after being given a majority that most of the now-government MPs could only dream of.

    On the other hand it’s a pretty comfortable position if you are willing to try and make the best of it, and can accept that those in the media who sneer would probably have sneered just as much if you had left. Limited expectation to attend, relative media silence is generally welcomed by your successor, and on the rare occasions that you do speak in the Commons it is generally either on something for which there is cross-party support (I haven’t read any criticism for Brown’s speech on Nelson Mandela), or for an issue relating to your constituency on which your profile can change the complexion of the discussion (jobs from a specific employer in the local constituency for instance).

  12. Jim Callaghan stayed in the House for 7 years after reliquishing the Labour leadership, as did Harold Wilson. More recently Ted Heath stayed there for no fewer than 36 years after losing the party leadership, and 37 after he ceased to be Prime Minister. Churchill stayed in Parliament for a further 2 full terms after leaving the premiership, not retiring until just before he died. Sir Alec Douglas-Home also stayed for a full decade after he left no.10, serving in the Heath government as Foreign Secretary before he went back to the Lords whence he had come in 1963.

  13. sorry the Heath figures should have read 26 & 27 years respectively.

  14. I’m no fan of Gordon Brown but he has so far been a pretty good ex prime minister. It benefits the country for ex-prime ministers to stay in the house for a term or two. It’s best for an ex-PM to keep a low profile so as not to appear to be criticising their successors.

    Contrast with Blair’s behaviour – flouncing out of the house before the removal van had even left no.10, and his grinning mug is still never off the telly. Not to mention advising Kazakh dictators and the shameless money grabbing.

  15. Well, he’s certainly kept a low profile. I don’t think however he’s particularly enhanced his reputation over the past 4 years and I can’t see why we would want to stay in the HoC much longer. He must be like a ghost drifting along the corridors.

    He’s not done or said anything very significant and his one noteworthy contribution in the Commons – a diatribe against News International in 2011 – did not go down well, bearing in mind his desperate attempts to court NI over the previous few years.

  16. * ‘he’ not ‘we’

  17. The next government is probably going to be the youngest and most inexperienced for centuries. The more Labour greybeards stay in the house after 2015 the better. As I said, we should not necessarily be expecting former Prime Ministers to be making big high profile contributions. They should however be available to advise their successors in private.

  18. I still don’t think Labour can win a majority despite recent events. And a Lab/LD coalition or Lab minority government certainly wouldn’t last five years. The next election after May 2015 probably won’t be May 2020.

  19. If we can get rid of the abomination that is the Fixed Term Parliament act, then hopefully it won’t be.

  20. That won’t be easy. Politicians hate the uncertainty of election timing – backbenchers especially.

    Perhaps if an excruciatingly close 2015 election causes a rerun of 1974-79, with the sick and dying being dragged through the lobbies night after night, it might persuade the required number of MPs to dump the Fixed Parliament Act. I’m not hopeful however.

  21. If we have a national crisis, how can we expect a Parliament to last the full five years?

    My view has slightly changed on the Fixed Term Parliaments, in that I think five years is a little bit too long for every Parliament. We never know what might happen during the term, so say there’s a major economic crisis, there would probably have to be an election within two to three years at least I think. Also, if a Parliament is really too close for comfort, it’s difficult to see really how any minority government can realistically last for about a year.

  22. Your view doesn’t matter, and neither does mine. 60% of MPs have to vote in favour to change it – many of whom prefer knowing when the election is going to be so they can plan their finances accordingly. They also prefer a guaranteed 5 years of salary and expenses. It’s going to be a hell of a job to change the act – both front benches will have to agree for a start.

  23. That’s disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful. That’s not how democracy should work.

  24. @Chrishornet
    “Not sure what’s surprising about Major or Brown staying on for the full term. If you step down from the leadership as a result of losing the election, it might come across as petulant to resign from the house months after being given a majority that most of the now-government MPs could only dream of.”

    Yes, after I made my comment I thought about it and I agree – you can’t just leave your seat because you’ve lost the top job, when you’ve just been elected by your constituents. The way Thatcher went she might have had good grounds to leave hers but I suppose that was one job they couldn’t force her out of.

  25. It should have been four years at the most. That was LD policy. The problem was the Tories only wanted fixed terms if they were for five years.

  26. I agree that five years is too long. Four years is better. It seems rather convenient to me that they legislated the Act as soon as they got in so we were stuck with them.

    The problem is when you have PMs like Brown and Major who prevaricate about calling elections so they can hang on as long as possible.

  27. I’m certain that there are instruments which could be used to get five year fixed parliaments either repealed or more likely changed to four years on 50%+1 of MPs.

    In theory a subsequent government could reverse that, but it’s far easier to defend going from five years of PM’s discretion on the election date to five years between elections, than it is to defend going from four to five year cycles in the absence of cross-party support.

  28. For me it’s the insolent assumption – with no reference to the voters – that MPs can vote themselves the maximum possible term of office which limits our say to just once every five years – quite rare in a modern democracy. Four years would have been so much better.

    And, as I’ve said before, most 5 year governments have run out of steam somewhere between year 3.5 and 5 which often makes the last 12-18 months of such governments a truly dismal spectacle – c.f. 1978-9, 1995-97, 2008-10.

    I also feel very strongly that the democratic legitimacy of such governments becomes exhausted and is in desperate need of renewal after 4 years – it feels such a long time since the last election. It’s happening again under this government.

  29. I think this parliament was an exception in which a fixed term was understandable (although five years wasn’t). I’m as anti-establishment as non-BNP voters come, but even I accept that this was a parliament in which the government needed a couple of years’ breathing room to take decisions in the knowledge that it would get a chance to prove that it had gotten them right before going back to the voters for their verdict. A string of emergency budgets from governments of different colours and combinations would have been worse than any party or coalition getting four years.

  30. Much as I feel distaste for a great number of this government’s actions, I think on balance it was better than a constitutional crisis and government changing hands every six months. That would only have fed UKIP (and also the BNP who might not have died such a silent death).

  31. I’m sure it’s not just the backbenchers who want the certainty of fixed terms – presumably all the election officials up and down the country prefer it too, as in the “bad old days” a local authority would have just four weeks from the date the election was called to organise things, a pretty daunting task. I know they’d have an inkling about when an election would be called especially if the government is running towards the maximum term, but there is still an awful lot to do in a short space of time.

    That said, I like the uncertainty and thought it was a shame the Act was brought in. 5 years for a fixed term is also too long, I agree. However, aren’t there circumstances around which an election can be called early? Certainly most commentators at times when the coalition was looking rocky suggested it might break down, triggering an election?

  32. That is very unlikely to happen. Politicians in this country generally try to avoid or put off elections wherever possible (with some notable recent one-off exceptions).

    Far better to muddle through in chaos than to expose themselves too early to the uncertainties of an election – see John Major in 1995/6 and Gordon Brown in 2007-9.

    I think a four year fixed term would have been so much better.

  33. “Certainly most commentators at times when the coalition was looking rocky suggested it might break down, triggering an election?”

    That would have required either a Lib Dem destruction of the coalition (which at the time seemed like suicide, but in hindsight might have worked out slightly better for them), or Tory backbenchers voting to bring the coalition down against the Conservative hierarchy’s wishes (and unlike some three-line whips, the Tories would have been entirely within their moral rights to edge an individual out of the party for taking that course of action).

  34. The fixed term Parliament Act is not entrenched in any way, it can be repealed through normal primary legislation with a normal majority.

    The 60% thing is to call an early dissolution under the provisions of the Act, but the Act itself could be repealed using normal procedures.

  35. I think we’d have to take it on trust that Brown’s valuable contributions are behind the scenes – I’ve never seen him on televised PMQs and his attendances are few and far between.
    Actually not that keen on fixed-term Parliaments. As for local authorities having plenty of time to prepare, hopefully it will avert shambles such as we saw in 2010 – but not holding my breath.

  36. No indeed – the 2010 fiasco was about cost-cutting rather than unexpectedly high turnout if the authoritative Kavanagh ‘British General Election of 2010’ is to be believed, as it usually is. In any case, the turnout was only a rather modest 65%. There have been more cuts to LAs since that time of course.

  37. I’m not sure it was cost-cutting necessarily, more a combination of people planning poorly in terms of registering their vote (I got up five minutes earlier and voted before setting off for work) and difficulty in recruiting quality personnel. Certainly I found myself frustrated at some of the muppets I was counting with who’d obviously been drafted in late and whose attitude was shocking. Myself and my counting partner ended up having to recount every pile the counting pair next to us were allocated – they might as well have not bothered coming!

    Fortunately my table was a lot more efficient at this year’s locals.

  38. In fairness Jason, if you start work at eight (or conceivably as late as nine with a significant commute) then it’s perfectly possible that the last two hours are the only viable time to place your vote, depending on how convenient it is to get to your polling station. I don’t dispute that the majority – but not all – of those caught up in the mess in 2010 went to the polling station much later than they could have, but equally I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone anticipate the process taking 30 minutes or so at a busy time.

    That said, in my experience voting early is a very pleasant experience. No tellers outside (in an urban marginal like my seat you would expect to run into one), more staff than voters, no kids or pets to contend with, and I suspect the staff are more amenable than might be the case twelve to fourteen hours later.

  39. Voting early is great. In fact because I showed up at 7:01 on May 22 and my polling station was in student accommodation they were very surprised indeed to see me.

  40. If MP’s can’t be bothered to attend Parliament they should resign or be sacked- end of.

  41. I’d agree with that, Chris. I’ve always voted on my way out in the morning, and found it very pleasant. I recognise that’s not an option for everyone though.

    I’ve always said I prefer the ritual of going down to the polling station to postal voting (I was still up north when they had the all postal voting experiments).

  42. anthony wells-

    such a sane voice.

    there’s an old principle that not parliament can bind its successor…the fixed term act could always be repealed by a simple majority in the house after the next election…it’s good that you’ve pointed this out.

  43. Oh, Labour hold by the way. I’m a great believer in sticking my neck out with predictions. 🙂

  44. But it’s inconceivable that the fixed term parliaments act could be repealed, it’s as an entrenched part of the constitution now as things like the bill of rights and the parliament act.

    I opposed the fixed term parliaments act when the bill was going through parliament, because it’s effectively ended what used to be one of the key prerogative powers of the crown. Call me a bit old fashioned, but I always thought that the prerogative to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister and the prerogative to summon and dissolve parliament were what gave the Queen the role as guardian of the constitution. Hopefully this will never happen, but if in years to come we have a PM who for what ever reason starts to act like a dictator, we might end up regretting removing the sovereigns right to dissolve parliament. And people may not realise it now, but it has seriously limited the way in which the queen is ultimately responsible for the good governance of the country. And if people are given reason to realise that (like in a constitutional crisis), then it could seriously damage the public perception of the role of the monarchy overall.

  45. Well done Chris – putting your money where your mouth is!
    I like voting early but I did so on general election day 1979. This was in Cambridge & it was a mile’s walk to the polling station where I was I think the 4th to vote. Though it was a sunny May day, it was early in the morning & the cold wind whistled across the fens making it a bitterly cold walk – good pathetic fallacy for what I felt as a Labour supporter as the results came in. I have voted once for a victorious candidate in a general election – I voted for Ron Leighton in Newham NE in 1992.

  46. of course the fixed term act can be repealed…nothing is set in stone.

  47. Barnaby: IIRC you’ve also voted in Brighton and Richmond.

  48. That is correct Andy. Cambilge 1979, Brighton Pavilion 1983, Richmond 1987, Newham NE 1992 & Richmond Park since then. I have of course voted in many local, Euro & mayoral elections in all of these places too at various times. Coincidentally my parents had a vote in Brighton Pavilion in 2005 & voted Labour there.

  49. Sorry for going back off topic but in fairness I’m one of the few contributors to actually state how I think this gripping race will go.

    Barnaby: the GE is the one election where I have a very specific line of reasoning which is unshakeable.

    I can’t vote for an MP, regardless of how broadly I agree or disagree with that party’s manifesto, if I think they won’t have the guts to walk through the opposition lobby when party policy is clearly not in the best interests of their specific constituency. I don’t care if I think they are head and shoulders above most of their peers in other respects (and that is certainly my view of Harrington in terms of the ways he has used his influence outside of the Commons), I just can’t bring myself do it. For that reason I have voted for the winning candidate even less frequently yourself, and might well be one of the few people in the country who didn’t vote LD in 2010 but could do so in 2015.

    I have voted for both major parties in other elections though.

  50. Out of the 5 general elections I’ve voted in, I’ve only voted for the winning candidate in 2 (Richard Shepard in Aldridge-Brownhills in 2005 & 2010). I voted for Maureen Hicks in Wolverhampton North East in 1992 and I honestly can’t remember the names if the Tory candidates I voted for in Walsall South in 1997 & 2001.

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