Open (speculation) thread: What do you think will happen in Glagow East – and will it matter?

by Stephen Tall on July 24, 2008

What is it about parliamentary by-elections? You wait ages for one, then four come along at once. Hot-on-the-heels of Crewe and Nantwich, Henley and Haltemprice & Howden is Glasgow East, theoretically at least a safe Labour seat. Here was the result at the 2005 general election:

David Marshall, Labour 18,775 (61%)
Lachlan McNeill, Scottish National Party 5,268 (17%)
David Jackson, Liberal Democrat 3,665 (12%)
Carl Thomson, Conservative 2,135 (7%)
George Savage, Scottish Socialist Party 1,096 (4%)
Labour majority: 13,507 (44%), Turnout: 48%

It’s clear enough this is the proverbial two-horse race for first position, with the SNP apparently breathing down the Labour party’s neck. It would take a swing of more than 22% from Labour to the Nationalists for an upset to happen. Difficult, but certainly not impossible: 22% was exactly what the SNP achieved in the 1999 Hamilton South by-election prompted by George Robertson’s elevation to a peerage, though Labour clung on with a three-figure majority.

A lot will almost certainly depend this time on turnout. Fewer than half the voters turned out for the general election, so how many will show up to cast their vote today? The party which best motivates its supporter base will most likely emerge victorious.

Labour sources seem to be quietly confident of victory – but, then again, so they were in Dunfermline in 2006, when Willie Rennie sensationally snatched a famous by-election victory for the Lib Dems. There has been a marked complacency among Labour campaigners in Scottish constituencies in the past which suggests that all is up for grabs today.

For the Lib Dems it’s hard to know how to judge our result, given that it’s likely voters wanting to give the Labour government a kicking will choose to do so by voting SNP – which suggests our 12% vote in 2005 will get heavily squeezed. The Tory vote, already small at 7%, is more likely to be resistant.

In Hamilton in 1999, both the Lib Dem and Tory votes fell – indeed, the Lib Dems finished in sixth place, well behind the Scottish Socialist and Independent candidates: apparently it was “the worst placing in a by-election by any major party since the Liberal candidate in the Glasgow Camlachie by-election, 1948 also came sixth.” Yet our poor showing there had little significance for the party as a whole in Scotland.

In Ian Robertson the party has been fortunate to have an excellent candidate who – it’s widely acknowledged – has represented the Lib Dem cause well. Whatever vote Ian gets, he personally has come out of the campaign well.

In any event, the only real national significance of the Glasgow East result is whether Labour holds on, and what this means for Gordon Brown’s fortunes…

Is a Scottish Labour victory, however tight a squeak, good for the national Labour party, as it makes it less likely Gordon Brown will come under renewed leadership pressure? Or would that be a bad result for Labour precisely for that reason? After all, as John Rentoul notes on the Indy’s Open House blog, the polls suggest that Mr Brown is a drag on Labour’s ratings:

Cameron lifts his party, Brown drags his down. Labour is popular, Brown is not. Labour MPs will ponder those facts over the summer, whatever happens in Glasgow East today.

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No, I’m sure they don’t spend their time looking for discrepencies in IP addresses – but if someone complained and said “that post isn’t me” then they could check. And you might not need an email address, but if someone normally uses one and doesn’t and the IP address doesn’t tally then it’s likely that it’s not them.

It seems maybe I’m about to be proved wrong about your membership of the party, and for that I do apologise. P’raps I got you wrong: you must have a pretty joyless time in the Party, and I’m sorry for that too as no one wants to be a member of something that just frustrates them.

by Grammar Police on July 25, 2008 at 1:22 pm. Reply #


Paul Walter has regular discussions with his commenters on exactly this point, perhaps you could take some advice there.

He usually follows the line that if you’ve got nothing positive to say then its not worth saying, so anon should at least try to play the game of being constructive.

by Oranjepan on July 25, 2008 at 1:28 pm. Reply #

“you must have a pretty joyless time in the Party”


Apart from the new right-wing line coming from the leadership at Westminster, the party I’m involved with locally is much the same as it always has been, and to a large extent is run by the same people who were running it 10 or 20 years ago.

For that reason, I am doubtful that the silent majority is particularly enthusiastic about the new policies. Though, to be fair, a lot of ordinary party members and helpers are not highly “political”, in my experience.

But I really do think some of the younger members confuse the febrile arguments that go on in cyberspace with the flesh-and-blood realities.

by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 1:39 pm. Reply #

In fairness, I don’t really mind if Anon wants to post negative things – these things sometimes need saying, and people can decide how reasonable they are and can hone their arguments against them if they so choose. What I do object to is deceit for some imagined political gain – trying to make out that members and activists are demoralised and leaving – and plenty of people do it on political sites.

Undoubtably though, one remains happier if one makes constructive comments.

by Grammar Police on July 25, 2008 at 1:50 pm. Reply #

I agree with a lot of that Anon, many members and helpers are not especially political – and posting on sites like these is certainly a tiny minority sport. Things can and do get much more “heated” online, a distinct disadvantage of the medium.

by Grammar Police on July 25, 2008 at 1:54 pm. Reply #

“In fairness, I don’t really mind if Anon wants to post negative things”

Big of you!

But having just apologised for suggesting I was a Tory, apparently now you’re going to characterise my posts as “negative”.

Can’t you just accept that some people in the party have opinions that are different from yours?

by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 2:02 pm. Reply #

Oh, ffs. I was responding to Oranjepan, who suggested that “anon should at least try to play the game of being constructive.”

With pretty much every post of yours I’ve seen, you have made some criticism of the Party. So I think “negative” is a fair characterisation of your posts overall. That was _one_ of the reasons I thought you were lying about being a member.

Pretty much every other poster on this site has different views to me, and I by no means support everything that the Party does.

by Grammar Police on July 25, 2008 at 2:24 pm. Reply #

Anon, while you’ve got our attention and before you lose it why don’t you tell Gram and me what you do want, eh?

Seeing as this is a thread about the by-election maybe we could get back to the topic and ask how relevant is it in the overall scale of events?; will the SNP retain the seat at the general election?; was it the sun(shine) wot swung it?

by Oranjepan on July 25, 2008 at 2:37 pm. Reply #

Anon, I hate to barge into your little mutual admiration session with Grammar Police, but it would be rather helpful if you picked a pseudonym a little more distinctive than the default. Although you have a rather singular tone, we are not mind readers so can’t reliably map posts to their originators.

by passing tory on July 25, 2008 at 2:44 pm. Reply #

Be my guest PT, be my guest!

by Grammar Police on July 25, 2008 at 2:53 pm. Reply #

Ref Anonymous: I can confirm I’ve received an email with name and confirmation of party membership from this poster. (I’ve not actually checked the party membership records but have no reason to disbelieve what he says).

However, as I’ve said to Anonymous, it would, as several others have suggested, be more polite, helpful and credible if he were to adopt a slightly more distinctive pseudonym than the one he’s currently using.

by Stephen Tall on July 25, 2008 at 3:09 pm. Reply #


Thanks for confirming that.

by Anonymous on July 25, 2008 at 3:14 pm. Reply #

Staying on topic, and as I’m on my way to Chester from Glasgow East…

The Tories will have got their core vote out in parts of the constituency like Mount Vernon – very nice, thank you very much. I agree with those who have concluded that you can only squeeze their vote so far. There was no sign of an active presence on the streets.

On the other hand, there were SNP activists everywhere. Their tails are up and they rightly believe that, in the central belt, Labour are there for the taking. Alex Salmond is running rings around the old Labour dinosaurs and the Nu Labour technocrats.

Labour should be hearing alarm bells. They have paid so little attention to their campaign machine that, when the lever marked ‘go’ is pulled, it breaks off. Rumours of catastrophic falls in membership numbers imply that they simply don’t have the activist numbers of years gone by. To be blunt, a lack of inspiration generates a lack of perspiration.

I know that the campaign team in Glasgow East are genuinely disappointed. They did what they could, didn’t hype up expectations and showed a lot of spirit. The lessons learnt will be put to good use, I suspect.

So, what will happen? Labour will probably gain the seat back, as I don’t believe that the SNP can resist the temptation to take on Labour everywhere. On the other hand, if Alex Salmond can keep the show on the road in Holyrood, there will be Labour losses.

Otherwise, the result says little that we didn’t already know. Labour are unpopular and the public want to give them a kicking. My only question is, are we going to get our studs on and join in?

by Mark Valladares on July 25, 2008 at 3:35 pm. Reply #

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