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Friday 13 November 2009

Glasgow North East By-election Result: Labour see off SNP Challenge and Tories narrowly trump BNP

The Labour Party have held onto former Common’s Speaker Martin’s Glasgow North East Seat with Willie Bain increasing their share of the vote from 53.3% to 59.3%. The SNP failed to repeat the coup that they pulled off last year in capturing Glasgow East, coming in second slightly increasing their share of the vote from 17.7% to 20%. Turnout was a record low for Scotland, a mere 33.2% compared to 45.8% at the 2005 General Election, evidence perhaps of voter disillusion with politics following a turbulent year for Labour and the mainstream parties.

The BNP very nearly managed to grab the headlines, for it was for a time thought that they would take third place, but in the end it was a close call, and they came in fourth with 1,013 votes just behind the Conservatives with 1,075. A considerable amount of publicity, most of it negative, was devoted to the BNP during this campaign, with representatives of the mainstream parties all lining up to voice their “abhorrence” of the party and its candidate. Labour of course played up the BNP challenge in an effort to galvanise its weary and disillusioned supporters. Nothing succeeds for an old Labour hand like a rallying call to “smash fascism” [sic]. This was not natural BNP territory, but the party did manage to increase its absolute vote as well as its share, taking 4.9% on this occasion compared to 3.2% in 2005.

The Liberal Democrats did not stand for election when the seat was last up for grabs in 2005, and their terrible result tonight (they came sixth with 2.3% of the vote) suggests that they should have saved themselves the expense of fighting the campaign.

Although Gordon Brown will take cheer from this decisive victory, its message cannot be transposed to the UK scene more widely, for in this by-election campaign Labour focused on many issues specific to Scotland, and was to a certain extent able to play the part of an opposition party owing to the SNP administration in Holyrood which has recently made some unpopular decisions in Glasgow.

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