Glasgow East

I don’t normally post on election results, I’m a bit of purist about it – as Danny Finkelstein posted more lengthily back before the local elections, local elections, by-elections and so on aren’t representative so don’t actually tell us much we don’t know.

The 24 news channels today are full of graphics showing the sorry few Labour MPs who would remain should the swing last night be replicated across the country. I remember Peter Snow used to do similar things at by-elections during the Major government, which normally showed something along the lines of only two Conservative MPs surviving and Charles Wardle and Sir Norman Fowler fighting out for the leadership.

It was, of course, all a bit of fun. In this case especially you can’t project the 22.5% swing to the SNP across the whole country, since it would mean the SNP getting 22.5% of the vote in every English seat. (For a bit of fun, if there was a 22.5% swing from Labour to their nearest challenger in every seat in Great Britain Labour would be left with about 20 or so seats, with Yvette Cooper the only cabinet member to survive the purge). Technically there was a 9.2% swing from Labour to the Conservatives in the Glasgow East by-election, which co-incidentally is pretty much in line with the national polls.

The real importance of by-elections to national politics (obviously they are important for the constituency itself) is the impact they make in terms of publicity, media coverage and the public’s perception. Gordon Brown and Labour are presently enduring almost back-to-back news coverage about how unpopular and moribund they are, that’s not going to do them any favours.

It’s also worth commenting on the two opinion poll conducted in Glasgow East over the campaign. They weren’t very good were they? Both showed Labour with a lead in the teens. I think there is a limited value in trying to tease out what went wrong though, while I remain dubious about whether ICM should use their normal re-allocation of don’t knows in by-election polling, in this case I am really not surprised at all that polling in a constituency which such extreme social deprivation went wrong. I tend to assume that the most excluded, the people on the very margins of socity, tend not to show up in polls. Those same people make up a very large proportion of the electorate in East Glasgow. In fairness, ICM’s poll was also done realitively early in the campaign and opinions could have switched.

Later on this evening we should get the final YouGov poll before summer, most if not all of the fieldwork for which would have been done before the result was know. It’s probably lucky that Populus’s monthly poll isn’t due this weekend (they may not even do one this month, they skipped the August poll in the past), that could have produced a truly frightening figure for Labour.

16 Responses to “Glasgow East”

  1. I don’t think the YouGov poll will be out until next week, probably Friday in the Telegraph, as I am a panellist and completed it yesterday. The poll remains open to invitees until Monday.

  2. A terrible result for Labour by any reckoning. The national mood is strongly against them and they’re being squeezed on 2 fronts, by the Tories for the traditional swing voters and in Scotland by the SNP in their heartlands. The natural reaction of Labour members will be to that that Glasgow East may be re-gained in 2010 but Labour should bear this in mind, the Tories once lost Berwick in a by-election by a similar majority to last night’s. 35 years later, Alan Beith is still there!

  3. “The real importance of by-elections to national politics (obviously they are important for the constituency itself) is the impact they make in terms of publicity, media coverage and the public’s perception.”

    Not in this case. The SNP are on the way up, there is depressing news for Labour almost every day, and this result will have a big effect in Scotland on the morale of party workers in both parties.

    There comes a point in a battle where one side just gives up. The day before, if the soldier refuses to fight he is shot as a deserter. The day after, if the officer insists, it may be the officer that gets shot.

    Labour are in denial. It is not rises in the cost of living that has turned voters against Labour. The Unions are nearer the truth.

    It certainly isn’t the price of petrol in a constituency where only the drug dealers have big cars.

    Nor is it because the undeserving poor are threatened with work or loss of benefits (though it was another own goal for Labour to raise the issue in a half baked way at a critical point in the campaign).

    No, the problem is the undeserving rich, and the fact that the People’s Party have been soft on the rich, rather than that they have been hard on the poor. That may be expected of the Conservatives, but there is both socialism and envy at work here.

    A decade of labour spin has diminished its efficacy. Labour’s words of solidarity with the deprived does not go well with the John Lewis list, financial sector salaries or Non-Dom tax status.

    The rich ye have with you always. People understand that: but they do not expect a Labour government to be more responsive to their wishes than to the needs of core Labour supporters.

    Even if NewLabour’s analysis were right, and they could never have been elected were it not for appealling to Middle England by shifting to the right, they need to accept that an unavoidable consequence is that they lose Scotland – and so does the UK.

    The Scottish Labour MP’s who helped in the campaign should now go home and prepare for independence.

  4. Was it really such a low poll? Consider Peter Cairns’ experience of canvassing. Maybe there was a large number on the register who wern’t really available to vote.

  5. This is now the fifth “exceptional” bye election victory won by the SNP. I think we can say that where the SNP is perceived to be a credible or best chance challenger against the candidate of an unpopular mid term government,they can overturn a larger majority than would be likely in other circumstances.

  6. I would be interested in any comments re the new political landscape now emerging through the rise of the SNP?

    Is there likely to be a counterbalancing Scottish Unionist Party aligned say to the English Conservative Party? This appears to be the case in Northern Ireland where the Unionists are talking to the Conservative leadership about closer ties: it takes us back to the 50’s and 60’s. The political focus will be one of those who want Union and those who do not!

  7. I thought the turnout was very impressive. Had the seat existed at the time of the 2001 election the turnout probably wouldn’t have been much different to the 42% recorded last night.

  8. That 9.2% swing to from Labour to Conservative, considering where it happened, is almost worse than the result itself.

  9. No Yougov yet but reporting a ComRes/Indy poll

    C 46 (+1)
    L 24 (0)
    LD 18 (+2)

  10. John Charlesworth:

    “Is there likely to be a counterbalancing Scottish Unionist Party aligned say to the English Conservative Party?”

    There is Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party and has been since the beginning of the last century. It once had more than half of the popular vote but now has only 20% at best because it is associated with the UK Conservative party. Ironically it is less London dominated than the other two.

    PR in the Scottish Parliament has given it a new lease of life where they have learned faster than the others how to operate where there is a minority government and they have a widely respected and level headed leader.

    Were it not that they are “The Party of Thatcher” and perceived as London led, they could rebrand and be in coalition with the SNP. What they need is independence – not for Scotland – just for themselves on the Bavarian model. Until they rebrand, or Scotland is independent, the main factor in their fortunes is the Grim Reaper’s cull of their core vote.

    In their heyday, the Conservative Party in Scotland were the one-nation variety: decent respectable Presbyterian middle class burghers and farmers with the values that go with that: duty, fairness, concern for others. These people were repelled by the selfishness and greed of the free market fundamentalists and English Nationalists in the UK party. In farming areas they have long since gone over to the LibDems. Angry and bitter East coast fishermen are solidly SNP.

    Some of those that are left lie to pollsters. They are too ashamed to say they support the “Party of Thatcher.”

    The party will continue to lose support very gradually till after independence, when it is possible the SNP may split. NewLabour will certaonly disappear leaving room for Old Labour and Socialists to re-emerge. There is a place for them in a PR Parliament of an independent Scotland as an alternative to the LibDems and Greens as minor coalition partners.

    Meantime, however, Conservatives will at least double their FPTP Westminster seats by taking Dumfries and Galloway from Labour. Elsewhere they are often a poor fourth.

    The party is aging as well as shrinking and credible candidates are hard to find.

    They do not benefit from the unpopularity of Labour because the SNP is seen as a more effective and more distinct opposition which is not London led.

    You may well think that the above reads rather like an obituary. So it should. That is implied in your question.

  11. Peter Duncan does seem well placed to take Dumfries and Galloway for the Conservatives from Labour’s Russell Brown, especially since Alex Fergusson increased the Tory vote in Galloway and Upper Nithsdale last year. Peter is a very active local councillor(and former MP) so has a high profile locally. He is likely to benefit from any anti-Labour swing.

    It will also be interesting to see how Dumfries and Galloway vote in the proposed independence referendum. The region, along with Orkney, voted against giving the Scottish parliament tax varying powers in the 1997 referendum.

  12. John B Dick

    Many thanks. Once the ruling SNP gets independence (if it actually achieves that goal) it will split. Every democracy has more than one party. The Opposition could come from some alliance, along the lines you have described the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (maybe under a new banner) to try to bring the union back together.

    Anyway interesting and thanks for your perspective.

  13. I suggest that if independence is achieved for Scotland there is no way a ‘Unionist’ party would come into existence; it’s key platform after all would be ‘unpatriotic’ and so ‘traitorous’. As such, a fundamentally untenable position and unelectable. I do not think the SNP would split, rather that a conservative / moderate party would evolve to balance the SNP which is left / centre. But given the demographics of Scotland with a tradition of left wing support I would see such a party spending a long time in opposition.

    I think the key issue would be the voting system which would be used. STV, first past the post, PR, the Australian system… I note the Australian preferential system ensures that the most hated party has real trouble getting elected. If one wished to wipe the Conservative and minor Socialist parties from an indeepndent Scottish Parliament that would be one way to go…

  14. John Charlesworth

    In the PR Scottish Parliament, unlike FPTP Westminster, we have had two large parties, two medium sized potential coalition minor parties, 2-3 small parties. There have also been independents.

    Even if there were only one large party (e.g. the SNP immediately after independence)it would still be very unlikely to have an overall majority. It would then,as now, if not in a formal coalition, need to find support from one or more of the smaller parties, on a program by program or case by case basis.

    That’s a different sort of opposition from Tweedledum and Tweedledee two sword’s length apart at PMQ.

    Cross party co-operation, not artificial confrontation, would be the norm. The committee structure, and even the seating in the chamber is designed to foster this, and the existence of the ties to Westminster are an impediment we would be well rid of.

    The opposition could just as easily come from the left as the right. The socialists have had a setback due to legal problems, but sooner or later they will be back.

    The Greens may be the party of the future.

    Conservatives, representing the landowning interest were the first political party, then the interests and talent of non-landed wealthy entrepreneurs was recognised as deserving of a place in government and the precursors of the LibDems looked after their interests. The educated and property owning middle class were admitted to the franchise and ultimately universal male householder suffrage needed the Labour party to represent the latest tranche of the electorate.

    Now, it looks as if the interests of any social class are secondary to environmental issues, so maybe in the medium term the Greens will advance in the PR parliament which facilitates the formation and growth of new parties. This is very difficult under FPTP as the SDP found.

    I do not think that there will be any unionist party in Scotland after independence. We need a Conservative voice, and may have more than one, but if Scotland is happily in the Eurozone and England out of the EU, that will be accepted as immutable.

  15. I think that people are reading too much into the SNP win. While there certainly is a movement for independence in Soctland, I do not think it anywhere near as certain as some are making out.. All the polls suggest that support for separation is actually pretty static at around 30%.. I agree that a lot could happen in a campaign or a few years, but for now the majority still want the union…

    Perhaps the conservatives should allow the Scottish party to be independent and allow them to fight as an autonomous, Scottish, unionist party…

  16. Alasdair Cameron:

    There are a few strongly in favour of independence but the pro-union case is not made, in Scotland or England there is only dodgy statistics and negativity. Most Non-independence opinion is soft. They may not fancy independence, but that is not the same as having a commitment to Unionism.

    So long as the SNP government don’t do anything silly, they can rely on NewLabour and English Nationalists to do their work for them. NewLabour will continue to be in denial, believing their own spin when nobody else does.

    Scottish Conservatives should have been autonomous for the last decade, but forgot that Unionism is not a Conservative principle, just a habit. If all three Scottish parties were autonomous the London leadership and media would be in therapy. They couldn’t cope with the Established Church distinction, or the old Scottish Office, never mind devolution.

    What were the assumptions that lay behind your use of the word “allow”? Think how that might sound north of the border if DC said it.

    YouGov isn’t doing too well either.