13 Nov 2009

A Bad Bad Night for the SNP

Glasgow North East was a dreadful result for the SNP and a pretty good one for Labour.

Cast your minds back to last May when Michael Martin announced his resignation and ask yourself if there would have been a single person in Scotland predicting Labour would out poll the SNP by 3 to 1 in this by-election? Cast your minds back further to July 2008 when the SNP won in the neighbouring, and near identical seat of Glasgow East.

Some SNP bloggers this morning seem though to be turning their focus, not on a bad bad result for their party and the cause of Scotland's freedom, but on turnout, "unthinking" labour voters, the constituency itself, and on successful Labour candidate Willie Bain.

First of all let me say Willie Bain was a good candidate - local and plausible, and as far as I can make out a cut above the average Scottish MP, all parties. Why the SNP chose to make him an issue is beyond me. In almost every respect he topped the SNP candidate: Certainly on quite a few big issues - the Royal Mail for one - Willie was prepared to ( allowed to!) take issue with his party's line, unlike David Kerr.

But this was not a by-election won or lost by individual candidates, nor was the depressingly low turnout of 33% any surprise. ( no lower than should have been expected). The surprise - the thing that needs focused upon - is why the SNP did so badly: 20% of the vote in a "two horse race". Or indeed, not even 7% of those eligible to vote.

As for attacks on the "unthinking masses" who did vote labour - at least they voted. And I'm sure they mostly did think first. They just found what the SNP was saying to them, and how it was saying it, unattractive.

I was not there, nor do I have any pearls of wisdom to offer the SNP - other than this: Dismiss the implications of this result at Scotland's peril. Learn from it instead.


Anonymous,  Friday, November 13, 2009  

Voter turnout, at 33.2%, was a record low for a Scottish by-election.

A truly shocking statistic made even worse by the state of this particular constituency, the poverty of ambition that resides there, the lack of aspiration, the constituents acceptance of their lot and the willingness to continue to vote for a party that has failed the area so miserably is an affront to those that have fought & died to give us these freedoms.

The inability to imagine change, to envision real progress and that this area can really improve has been shown to be completely missing from Glasgow North East and must surely be a matter of concern for all political parties and in particular the Labour Party who have represented these people for so long.

Will anything change, I doubt it.

It will take big ideas to change Springburn and no party offered that change during this campaign, no-one other than Tommy Sheridan offered an alternative vision to the failure of the last twenty five years and yet the voters flatly rejected that vision in favour for a campaing run negatively with no real policy content.

Waking the Dead

It would be interesting to see the demographic of those that voted, Glasgow City Council reported over 6000 registered postal votes, a rise of some 2000 over the last two months which accounts for 30% of votes cast, surely some kind of record in there too.

Equally chilling is the revelation that over 4000 extra voters have been added to the electoral register in the last month, accounting for 25% of those that voted.

Lastly, it's been reported that the Police are investigating two alleged incidents of voting fraud in the contest. The investigation is focusing on two 'known' incidents at polling stations where voters turned up and when they identified themselves they were told their names had already been scored off the list - somebody had been given a vote in their name.

Officers are investigating "alleged personation".

This alone is pretty worrying given the very low turnout, how many others may have been fraudulently used to cast votes?

rullko Friday, November 13, 2009  

I don't think the SNP did make Willie Bain an issue. I didn't see a single SNP leaflet that even mentioned him. By contrast, David Kerr seemed to be the focal point of the Labour campaign.

Alan Smart Friday, November 13, 2009  

I did not see any leaflets, but certainly following SNP leaning blogs and speaking to SNP people on the ground , I was struck by the personal hostility to Willie Bain. And even this morning "monkey in red rosette" stuff is everywhere.

Looking in from afar, but with a good deal of experience of previous Labour candidates in by elections, I was struck by how relatively fresh Willie Bain appeared, and fairly articulate with it. And 100% local, indeed something of a local boy made good success story.

Im not sure of the sources, but there did seem to be sustained attempts to somehow or other present him, and, because he worked there, as some sort of foreign import from London. An imposter, indeed.

If this were not driven by the SNP campaign I apologise, But, wherever it originated, SNP bloggers and "cybernats" in general were very quick to jump on board. Just go look.

Cruachan Friday, November 13, 2009  

I would sum it up as:-

Wrong candidate? - probably
Wrong campaign? - definitely
Wrong media? - no change there
Wrong voters? neglected and misguided, but no fools
Wrong Union. - we all know the answer to that.

Yes an SNP win was perhaps always out of reach, but a radical change in tactics and message is needed for the UK election or the target of 20 MPs is just hot air.


Administrator Friday, November 13, 2009  

Step back from it.

Labour retain a seat in a by-election. Having previously won it with a majority of 10,000 Six months before a general election they now hold it with an 8,000 majority.

There was an element of the SNP bloggers reacting to Labour's negative and frankly silly attack on Kerr by quite rightly enquiring into his residential status, work in London, agent for Baron Springburn and local branch secretary.

Where the SNP campaign failed, was in allowing Jim Dornan to be so easily bounced. Having money problems in Springburn is not a rare problem. His 'local' status as councillor would have worked far better than Kerr's, lowly-born-local-boy-makes-good schtick.

However, what was really missing was the central plank of using the by-election as a means to talk about the referendum and what an Independent Scotland would mean for those parts of the constituency which have been left to rot.

Alan Smart Friday, November 13, 2009  


I thought it odd that Jim Dornan stood down for the reason stated - as you say, id have thought personal finacial difficulties could almost be turned into an asset. And then to replace him with a guy the local party had just rejected....

On more strategic matters, it will be interesting to see how the SNP responds to this setback. The realities of a UK General election contet will see it struggle to be seen as "relevant". Maybe this will be the time to put independence and a referendum pledge to the top of the party's agenda: Trying to outbid the two parties that can actually form UK governments of specific policy promises might appear hollow and serve only to highlight the SNPs "irrelevance". Putting the party core objective, its unique selling point centre stage might make sense, mobilise the core vote and attract some new ones.

......but I aint defending Perth and Kinross!

Chris Thursday, November 19, 2009  

Interestingly if you compare the Glasgow East and Glasgow North East results, the main difference is a drop off in SNP support.

The constituencies are reasonably similar and the difference in result is not due to the 1,300 more people who voted Labour. But the 7,100 less people who voted SNP.

In fact if the SNP could have motivated as many people to vote as they had done in Glasgow East the turnout would have been 45%: a little bit higher than Glasgow East.

In these circumstances talk of a monkey in a red rosette is really a bit of a cop out from the SNP. Their candidate failed to connect with the electorate as he was seen as untrustworthy and looked like a smooth politician.

I think the people chose the best candidate in Willie Bain: whereas in Glasgow East there were two good candidates, a fact reflected in the close result. He ain't no monkey and the people of Springburn especially will have a decent MP for the first time since the war.

Alan Smart Thursday, November 19, 2009  


your analysis I think is a sound one, but i think a little unfair on David Kerr, who i think as a candidate was ok - he has i think been painted as a bit of a villan after the event - ironically by SNP folks. But like Margaret Curran for Labour in Glasgow East, undermined by the cirscumstances of the selection - but that was not his fault. (or Margarets!)

Willie Bain was undoubtely a very good candidate, only time will tell how he cuts it as an MP. The SNP under-rated him for sure, indeed their attacks on him came across as a bit snobbish

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