GLASGOW East has a new MP, and I suppose the first silver lining I can think of is that he’ll only be there until the next general election.
Also, last night’s result says almost nothing about Scots’ support for, or opposition to, independence. In this respect, the Glasgow East result was no different from other contests that have taken place throughout the UK from time to time. Voters chose the SNP, not because they’ve had a sudden conversion to independence, but because they wanted to give Labour a kicking and they opted for the party best placed to do that. That’s what happens when governments are (temporarily, I hope) unpopular.
Councillor Mason and Nicola Sturgeon both described the result as “off the Richter scale” (a remarkable coincidence that they should choose the same phrase completely independent of each other even before the result was announced). So has the Richter scale been re-scaled? The swing against us last night was substantial – 22.5 per cent. But it was still significantly less than the swing achieved by the SNP in Govan in 1988 (33 per cent) – the last time we lost a by-election to the SNP (and we won that back at the subsequent general election). It was even less than the swing the nats secured in 1999 at the Hamilton by-election (27 per cent) – two years before our second landslide general election victory in 2001.
Having said all that, the SNP and my new parliamentary colleague, John Mason, won a very hard-fought campaign. They should be congratulated for that (I hope you could hear that through my gritted teeth…).