North East Fife

2015 Result:
Conservative: 7373 (16.3%)
Labour: 3476 (7.7%)
Lib Dem: 14179 (31.3%)
SNP: 18523 (40.9%)
Green: 1387 (3.1%)
Independent: 325 (0.7%)
MAJORITY: 4344 (9.6%)

Category: Marginal SNP seat

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

Main population centres: St. Andrews, Cupar, Newport-on-Tay, Newburgh, Auchtermuchty, Anstruther, Ladybank, Pittenweem.

Profile: The "East Neuk" end of the Fife peninsula, this is a prosperous rural area, popular with tourists and for second homes and far less industrial than other parts of Fife. The electorate is spread across a large number of small towns, the largest is St Andrews, home to the famous golf course and Scotland`s oldest university.

Politics: North East Fife has a long Liberal tradition - it was once represented by Herbert Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister. The Liberal MPs here in the 20s and 30s were part of the factions who backed the National Government and would eventually merge into the Conservative party after the Second World War bringing this seat with them - it was represented by a National Liberal MP from 1929 until 1961 and the victor of the 1961 by-election stood as a Conservative and National Liberal candidate. With the final extinction of the National Liberals it remained a Conservative seat until 1987 when it was won by Menzies Campbell, later to serve as Lib Dem leader. The similar North East Fife seat in the Scottish Parliament was gained by the SNP in 2011, and the Westminster seat followed in 2015.

Current MP
STEPHEN GETHINS (SNP) Educated at Dundee University. Former consultant and advisor to Alex Salmond. First elected as MP for Fife North East in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 8715 (22%)
Lab: 6869 (17%)
LDem: 17763 (44%)
SNP: 5685 (14%)
Oth: 1032 (3%)
MAJ: 9048 (23%)
Con: 7517 (19%)
Lab: 4920 (13%)
LDem: 20088 (52%)
SNP: 4011 (10%)
Oth: 2020 (5%)
MAJ: 12571 (33%)
Con: 8190 (24%)
Lab: 3950 (11%)
LDem: 17926 (52%)
SNP: 3596 (10%)
Oth: 1030 (3%)
MAJ: 9736 (28%)
Con: 11076 (26%)
Lab: 4301 (10%)
LDem: 21432 (51%)
SNP: 4545 (11%)
Oth: 485 (1%)
MAJ: 10356 (25%)

2015 Candidates
HUW BELL (Conservative) Business consultant and former RAF officer.
BRIAN THOMSON (Labour) Born St Andrews. Chartered town planner. Fife councillor since 2012.
TIM BRETT (Liberal Democrat) Educated at Gravesend Grammar school For Boys and Bristol University. Former NHS manager. Fife councillor since 2003.
STEPHEN GETHINS (SNP) Educated at Dundee University. Consultant and former advisor to Alex Salmond.
Comments - 392 Responses on “Fife North East”
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  1. I wonder if Sir Ming will stand again. If he doesn’t I think this could be a pretty interesting seat to watch at 2015.

  2. Does anyone think the Lib Dems will hold this for that long when Campbell eventually retires?

  3. Depends how the dust settles after the indy referendum. I think a lot of the non Labour seats will be hard to predict until nearer the election as we dont know what kind of state the SNP will be in till then.

  4. It really is a safe Lib Dem seat for a while I think because of Sir Menzies.

  5. True Shankly. As far as I’m concerned, one of the most important factors will be how the SNP handles itself if the referendum doesn’t go their way, and to be honest I’m fully expecting it will be a No vote. If the SNP keeps itself composed and steady, that’s the best way to go. Honestly, I think they should keep Salmond on as leader – it may seem odd since he failed to deliver their main objective, but he’s the best thing going for them atm, there isn’t really anyone else of his calibre in waiting, and it shows stability if he stays on.

    If however the SNP turns in on itself, boots out Salmond unceremoniously, and basically descends into bickering and recriminations, I fully expect that to be a big punch to their chances in 2015, let alone in the 2016 Holyrood elections.

  6. The SNP won this easily in the Scottish Parliament election.

  7. I think finances may also play a large part on how hard the SNP campaign in 2015.

    They may well be a bit skint after the referendum and will be saving thier groats for the more important Scottish election in 2016.

  8. Menzies Campbell’s electoral record in East Fife and North East Fife-
    1979- 10, 762 (23.0%, +10.4%)
    1983- 14, 944 (40.2%, +17.2%)
    1987- 17, 868 (44.8%, +4.6%, 1, 447 (3.6%) majority)
    1992- 19, 430 (46.4%, +1.6%, 3, 308 (7.9%) majority)
    1997- 21, 432 (51.2%, +4.8%, 10, 356 (24.7%) majority)
    2001- 17, 926 (51.7%, +0.5%, 9, 736 (28.1%) majority)
    2005- 20, 088 (52.1%, +0.4%, 12, 571 (32.6%) majority)
    2010- 17, 763 (44.3%, -7.8%, 9, 048 (22.6%) majority)

  9. A closer look at the result here in 1979 (East Fife)-
    Henderson (Conservative)- 20, 117 (43.0%, +4.2%)
    Campbell (Liberal)- 10, 762 (23.0%, +10.4%)
    McLeish (Labour)- 9, 339 (19.9%, +3.0%)
    Marshall (SNP)- 6, 612 (14.1%, -17.7%)

    Majority- 9, 355 (20.0%)

  10. Is that Henry McLeish that is the Labour Candidate?

  11. BBC reporting that Ming Campbell will stand down in 2015.

  12. Certainly makes this seat more interesting, but I can’t see anything other than an LD hold myself.

    As with Michael Moore’s seat, the Tories will also lose votes at the same time as the Lib Dems, and both Labour and the SNP are realistically too far behind to win.

  13. I agree. Some of the forecasts of SNP gains assume they will do as well for Westminster as they have done for Holyrood; that’s a very unlikely thing to assume. LD hold for me.

  14. I agree, should be a Lib Dem hold but with a smaller share of the vote and with both Labour and the SNP going up, certainly pipping the Tories for second place.
    It is a pity that Ming Campbell never served in government, he has a good head and heart.

  15. Well I don’t agree with all of this mutual backslapping.

    Take away a minimum of 5% for Campbell’s lost personal vote and it’s got four way marginal written all over it. All of the parties ought to be at odds longer than evens, which means its odds against the LDs retaining it. If the SNP get any momentum at all they’ll be favourites and the Euro elections could provide that platform when the votes in the parliamentary constituency are tallied up. I’ll be surprised if any party gains more than 30% here, so 30% should be enough to win it.

  16. Horseshit

  17. Do you think the Tory share has much further to fall? 22% or so must be something of a nadir already (ok they got 19% in 05). The party performed poorly compared to the rest of the UK in 2010 so maybe it won’t do as badly north of the border as it does elsewhere next time around.

  18. Tories are down to a core vote in Scotland now, it might decline slightly due to the grim reaper but overall I think you’re right. They’ll stay above 20% here I think.

  19. 2012 locals (warning two wards are split but are mostly in this seat)
    lib 8180
    snp 7689
    lab 4785
    con 3805
    other 3860
    not too bad for the libs

  20. no, exactly. The SNP almost invariably do worse at Westminster elections than local or Holyrood ones. I can see them getting 2nd place from the Tories perhaps, but I can’t see them winning.

  21. The Lib Dems also almost invariably do worse at Westminster elections than in local ones. With under 29% of the total, those stats do nothing to suggest that they’re particularly secure.

  22. Campbells decision has at least piqued some interest in what would otherwise have been a safe LD seat. As Phil pointed out a combination of Ming’s personal vote + general malaise of the LD’s should mean a significant drop in their share of the vote; however this is fairly strong Tory territory – they held the seat for over 20 years before Ming came to the fore and they should certainly increase their share a bit as Tory-inclined Ming voters return to the fold. SNP did do well in Holyrood and the locals, albeit I take on board Barnaby’s and other’s comments about that. Labour should also push up a bit on the back of a national increase in vote share.
    Could be interesting but I would hazard a guess at something around LD 31, Con 24, SNP22, Lab20. Narrow LD hold with the potential of a 4-way marginal at the subsequent GE!

  23. I think that’s a bit wide of the mark. This might have been “fairly strong Tory territory” 30 years ago but not now. The majority of people who voted for a Tory MP here in 1983 will now be in the graveyard.

    I would be fairly confident that the SNP will get second place, but they are too far behind to be able to win. I think the Lib Dems will be higher than 31%.

  24. Apart from 2010 – where there was an ever so slight increase – the Tory vote here follows the same pattern as in the rest of Scotland over the past couple of decades – continual decline to a point of irrelevance

    In 1992 the Tories polled 13,803 more votes than Labour. In 2010 that figure was 1,846 – in what is a middle class seat

    Campbell has built up a formidable majority here and I would have thought the SNP would be the main beneficiaries of his departure – but unless the Lib Dems pick a horrendous candidate they should be okay, bearing in moind that in all likelihood they will be accompanied in much of the camaign by Campbell himself

  25. What I can’t quite understand is why Campbell was as successful as he was at working this seat from 1979 all the way through to when he first won the seat in 1987- It was clearly a level of dedication similar to that of Ray Michie in Argyll and Bute, but when you consider that there was a big idiosyncratic rise in the Liberal vote in East Fife it does surprise me slightly that the Liberals were the beneficiaries of the SNP collapse- Particularly seeing as they were now well above even their February 1974 level. What is it? I would assume it is Campbell’s personality that has always struck something of a chord here with the well-grounded students, academics and retirees in such an affluent constituency-Maybe it’s similar to some other Scottish seats- Where Labour or the SNP aren’t going to win, their voters switch support to the candidate in the most favourable position to defeat the Tories.

  26. Incidentally, when I was talking about the idiosyncratic rise in the Liberal vote, I was referring to the result in East Fife in 1979.

  27. This is a very genteel seat, and has some similarities with the Borders. The SNP have not up to now done so well in the most genteel parts of Scotland, where the Liberals have long been the main alternative to the Tories in most cases. And this seat has a long Liberal tradition, as Anthony mentioned in the profile of the seat above.

  28. So would the Lib Dems still have won this seat with a candidate other than Menzies Campbell?

  29. Herbert Asquith was the MP here too – so it has well established Liberal leanings!

  30. Don’t get me wrong I’m fully aware of the Liberal traditions in this seat that go way way back even before the Second World War.

  31. Harking back to the days of Herbert Asquith isn’t going to tell us much about the result here in 2015, which is what we were discussing before the discussion got diverted, save for the very obvious fact that a long liberal tradition is likely to make the Lib Dem vote a bit stickier than in other seats.

    The only unknown is whether the SNP will be able to surge from 4th and win the seat as they did at Holyrood. My guess is that this is unlikely, especially in the most likely scenario of a No vote in the referendum next year. There is no prospect of either the Tories or Labour winning here.

  32. This will probably be one of a number of seats the LDs hold next time with around a third of the vote, which is a bit ironic given their dislike of an electoral system which makes that possible.

  33. Which was the Scottish seat in 1992 that was a close 4way? Was it Lord James Douglas Hamilton’s, or am I just remembering him because he inherited and renounced a Peerage to avoid a by-election at the end of the Major years?

  34. The seat you’re thinking of is Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber- that was the closest four way seat I think anywhere in 1992, and not just in Scotland.

  35. Those confidently predicting the Lib Dems to retain the seat should pause to reflect on the results of Lord Ashcroft’s polling of marginal seats back in Jan-Feb 2013. He broke down his sample of nearly 20,000 and published results specifically for the sample of 782 people in Scottish seats won by the Lib Dems, including NE Fife.

    Responses to standard VI question:
    Con 20%, Lab 30%, LD 12%, SNP 30%.

    An amazing response, given that this is a sample from Scottish seats that the LDs won in 2010.

    Responses to a further question (after a tactical voting prompt) “thinking about your constituency and the candidates most likely to stand there, which party are you most likely to support”
    Con 16%, Lab 26%, LD 20%, SNP 31%.

    Prior to Ming Campbell’s resignation, I’d have thought that the second set of responses was the most relevant to NE Fife. But with Campbell’s personal vote having disappeared, I’ve changed my mind.

  36. We are two years ahead of the general election.

    Two years ahead of the last general election, Lord Ashcroft’s “marginals polls” were predicting a Tory majority of over 100.

    I don’t think there are many people who don’t expect the Lib Dems to lose quite a few of their Scottish seats, but I would be pretty confident that they’ll hold 4 or 5 out of 11 and that this will be one of them.

  37. The Results said:
    “The seat you’re thinking of is Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber- that was the closest four way seat I think anywhere in 1992, and not just in Scotland.”

    I think it was the closest 4-way marginal in UK election history wasn’t it?

  38. HH – I will accept your point about the Tories having no chance here, given the gradual Tory decline in Scotland as a whole in the last 30 years or so. However, as Barnaby described it earlier, it is a very genteel seat and I think a reasonable number of non-Liberal types who gave a personal vote to Ming, would incline back to the Tories now he isn’t standing. I will adjust my prediction to reverse the Con & SNP percentages, but still think the LD vote will drop off significantly, given both the national fall in LD support from 2010 and the loss of the personal support for Ming. Revised prediction: LD 31, SNP24, Con22, Lab20

  39. “Two years ahead of the last general election, Lord Ashcroft’s “marginals polls” were predicting a Tory majority of over 100.”

    Ashcroft’s marginal polling emerged from the last GE with some credit. The Conservatives outperformed the eventual national swing in most marginals as his polling had indicated that they would. It was their inability to sustain their lead in national opinion polling which deprived them of a majority.

    So it boils down to whether the LDs may be able to stage a substantial recovery in their still disasterous national polling between 2013 and 2015. I’m sceptical about that, although they’ll be helped where they have a sitting MP with some personal following. NE Fife is no longer one of those seats.

  40. Manchesterman – that’s a reasonable point, but it’s necessary to remember that until 2010 the LDs were totally dominant in the constituency at all levels, not just in the parliamentary seat. It is more than a personal vote for Campbell.

  41. You say that but Harrogate was i believe similarly ld dominated locally before the popular local mp retired and then the tories took both the council and the parliamentary seat. For somebody as respected as ming i imagine the local lds will have a considerable boost.

  42. “He broke down his sample of nearly 20,000 and published results specifically for the sample of 782 people in Scottish seats won by the Lib Dems, including NE Fife”.

    So the Ashcroft figures rest upon an average sample size of around 70 per seat. That makes the margin of error about 10%. Not sure that tells us much about anything.

  43. ‘We are two years ahead of the general election.’

    Actually we are barely 18 months ahead of May 7th 2015!

  44. The Scottish LibDems win seats far above their level of support in Scotland nationwide. This is partly because of their traditional support in certain seats, including this one, partly (outside Edinburgh) because they have held onto support where they have had a good chance whilst their support collapsed to the SNP in other areas, and partly because of personal votes.

    This seat is one with a very strong university presence, with Sir Menzies Cambell being the Chancellor as well as a graduate, which helps explain his support. St. Andrews is a higher education enclave which perhaps looks abroad as much as to the rest of Fife. Many of the staff and students are English too. So this is hardly natural SNP territory.

    The natural alternative to the LibDems in this seat are the Conservatives, but given their weak performance in Scotland they would have an uphill task.

    Don’t totally write off Labour, if the student vote goes in their direction (there are some signs at the other end of the UK that this is happening) and the LIbDem vote collapses to all the other parties. But the collapse in the LibDem student vote likely in England and Wales might not happen here because of the (scandalous) situation that students in Scotland don’t pay the same fees as in the rest of Britain.

    The result will be affected by the candidates who are standing, particularly if the LIbDem candidate has connections with St. Andrews University (I can’t imagine they would find it hard to find such a candidate).

    The likeliest result would look to be that the LibDems will retain this seat with a reduced majority; but I wouldn’t agree with the description of this seat as “very safe.”

    One final point. The Scottish results in the 2015 Westminster election may depend very considerably on the result of the 2014 Independence Referendum. If the Scots vote for independence, SNP would have a better chance of winning this seat.

  45. A verrry big IF though!

  46. Would they bother to even contest the election, if Scotland voted for independence? Possibly I guess for the settlement?

    It would be a bizarre situation and one I have not seen discussed but what would happen if Scotland held the balance of power after a narrow 2015 vote but had already voted for independence?

  47. On the subject of different Holyrood and Westminster voting patterns is there any comparisons abroad between federal and provincial patterns from the likes of Quebec and Catalonia?

  48. DW is right to point out that it would be a bizarre situation if the Scots, in particular the SNP, were to stand in the Westminster election after voting for independence.

    It would not only be the election that would be bizarre but perhaps even more so Scottish MPs in parliament voting for matters in which they had no long-term interest. Perhaps like the Scottish parliament just before the Union in 1707.

    But as Manchesterman says, it is a big IF.

    But given the grotesque over-representation of Scotland until the last redistribution, and from an English perspective gross economic favouritism towards Scotland as compared to England, one is tempted to ask what is new.

    The honourable thing would be for Scottish MPs to abstain on any matters relating to UK after independence, as they already do on English only matters. The Scottish parties ought to declare their position on this.

    In relation to my last post, we might also note that there is currently a bizarre position in that the considerable number of students at St. Andrews University previously resident in England, who are presumably voters here, pay hugely greater fees than those from Scotland. This is grossly inequitable. What has Sir Menzies done or said on this, and what effect has it had on voting intentions in ths constituency?

  49. “from an English perspective gross economic favouritism towards Scotland as compared to England”

    I’m not a big fan of the SNP but I have to say that your statement is unsubstantiated crap. If there is any “gross economic favouritism” in the UK, it undoubtedly favours the south east of England way more than Scotland.

    Maybe you are referring to the geography of public spending, which is a completely different issue, and in which case you should have said so. Even this is not necessarily in Scotland’s favour however, depending on how you account for oil revenues

  50. The obvious example of what I am referring to is student loans.

    I have not noticed any “gross economic favouritism” towards Thanet or Sheppey, for example.

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