Friday, November 13, 2009

What conclusions can we draw?

Apologies for my absence yesterday. Life intervened. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

I shall ignore the plethora of appearances by Daniel Hannan MEP, who still seems to be the Conservatives' not so secret weapon against UKIP in the struggle for the eurosceptic vote. It did not work in the euro-elections and I see no real reason why it should work now.

In fact, the only bit of news on the British political front would indicate that it is not working and the Conservatives are not really gaining the requisite amount of support. Except that I am not sure that the results of the Glasgow North-East by-election gives any indication of what the overall result next spring is likely to be.

Naturally enough, the Labour Party is crowing. Having been written off completely, they are back and, according to Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, this shows that they can catch up with the Tories and win their fourth election. As Simon Johnson puts it:
But the party’s claims it is a ringing endorsement of Gordon Brown and a taste of things to come when the country is going to the polls need to be taken with a dollop of salt.

To give some context, the area has had a Labour MP for 74 years and Michael Martin, the former Speaker, won up to three-quarters of the popular vote during his 20 years representing it.

Willie Bain, the victorious Labour candidate, also ran an ‘insurgents’ campaign’ by protesting decisions made by the devolved SNP administration in Edinburgh.

Even though it was a Westminster by-election, the decision to go negative worked and is likely to repeated across Scotland next spring.
Glasgow North-East is not exactly a constituency where the Tories were ever expected to do well, except, maybe, by the party's strategic command that seems to have taken leave of its senses. Coming third was all they were going to achieve though barely skimming the required 5 per cent to save their deposit is a poor result by anybody's reckoning.

The other problem is that the turn-out was 33 per cent, the lowest in any Scottish by-election, and those tend to be lower than general election turn-outs anyway.

The media mantra is that this shows disgust with the expenses scandal. That may be true but it also shows disgust with politics in general as well as a dawning realization that it really does not matter against whose name you put that much-valued cross.

How much of the anti-Conservative turn was due to Cameron's prevarications over that referendum, how much to the sympathy with Brown because of the Sun's "persecution" and how much to Glaswegian disgust at the way "our Mick" was treated by those toffs is hard to tell.

A much more interesting problem is that of the SNP, who confidently expected to win the seat. Instead, they were beaten by more than 8,000 votes. That, of course, is the penalty you pay if you insist on running devolved governments - people start resenting you and vote for the one they see as the credible Opposition, in this case the Labour Party.

The SNP is not happy and is accusing
Labour of negative campaigning on "grudge and grievance".
Dear me, how shocking. The SNP would never think or even dream of running a campaign on grudge and grievance (nice alliteration). Dear me, no.

The SNP is also insisting that they can win 20 seats next spring because, presumably, the Labour Party will stop with its campaign of "grudge and grievance". Yes, well, pigs might fly.

So that's the Conservatives losing out and the SNP. The Lib-Dims did even worse, thus proving that the famous disgust with the expenses' scandal has not turned to a pro-Lib-Dim movement. They came sixth with 474 votes and 2.30 per cent of the vote, behind Solidarity.

Apart from Labour only the BNP did at all well. It is true that they lost their deposit but only just and they came fourth, close behind the Conservatives with 1,013 votes and 4.92 per cent. Does this mean that the BNP will become the protest vote collector of choice in urban areas? Again, hard to tell but they do have something to celebrate.

Here are the results in full:

Labour - 12,231 votes (59.39%)
SNP - 4,120 votes (20%)
Tory - 1,075 votes (5.22%)
BNP - 1,013 votes (4.92%)
Solidarity - 794 votes (3.86%)
Lib Dems - 474 votes (2.30%)

Total votes cast - 20,595
Voter turnout - 32.97%
Rejected ballots - 43
Does this get us anywhere? Probably not but expect reams and reams of discussions and explanations, based very often on no evidence whatsoever.

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