Silver linings (yes, there are some)

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…).

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23 Comments

Filed under Labour, Parliament, Politics, SNP

23 responses to “Silver linings (yes, there are some)

  1. Martin Cullip

    “Voters chose the SNP … 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.”

    Not just a kicking Tom, it appears they got the baseball bats out too. As for popularity, I reckon you could regain about 10 million votes by getting your party to do what you said you’d do in the 2005 manifesto. 😉

  2. You’re not taking this well are you Tom? Try deep breathing exercises and don’t read the rest of my comments……

    WILL LABOUR LISTEN NOW?

    Margaret Curran, the Labour candidate said:

    “I do believe the Labour Party has to listen and has to hear the message from the people of Glasgow East.”

    Well, what else was she supposed to say? It’s the same old codswallop; the same old slapping down of labour’s already downtrodden foot soldiers with the standard trite remark; the same old rhetoric to avoid supplying a proper answer.

    Two years ago, the BBC had the headline: ‘Labour will listen’ says Blears.

    “Labour will listen more to its rank-and-file members, Labour Party chairman Hazel Blears has pledged. She told a London conference, organised by left-wing think-tank Compass, that many rank-and-file were discontent with the leadership.”

    “Amicus union leader Derek Simpson said Labour was set for a general election defeat if it did not change direction.”

    After May’s local council election humiliation for Labour, Harriet Harman, said:

    “I think that we have got to really listen to what people were saying when they were expressing their views in the election yesterday.”

    “We have to reflect and listen to what people are saying – that is the whole point about having elections in our democracy.”

    Maybe they really are good at listening; they just don’t care to act on what they hear.

    So the answer to the headline, “Will Labour listen now,” is NO!

    Because they are bought and paid for by those with global corporate and banking interests. They have been commandeered to look after the interests of the few while enslaving the masses through overbearing taxation, intrusion into our lives, weakening of the family, Christian influence and strong, decent communities so that the elite they serve can micromanage us out of the chaos and confusion they create.

    Are any of the other mainstream parties much different?

  3. Stu

    Absolutely agreed that this has nothing to do with independence. Even if the SNP continue to win every election they stand in I still think the Scottish people value the union just as highly as the English do – a little sibling rivalry is being hotted up, but nothing that should really break the family bond.

    Re the Richter scale, since it is a logarithmic measurement. It’d be astonishingly difficult to come of the top of it. A swing of 100,000%, maybe?

  4. Richard

    So, not bitter at all then?

  5. wrinkled weasel

    Your arrogance in the face of a massive defeat is staggering. You should be contrite and ready to figure out just what you and your colleagues have done wrong. Instead you come out with this rubbish.

    If you don’t get the message now, you never will. Not that it means much, but I don’t intend to grant you any credibility you might have had by making the effort to comment on this blog again.

  6. Spookily reminiscent of the first by-election result that I can remember being aware of. On 15th March 1962 the governing party, which had been in power for about 11 years, lost on a swing of 22% to a minor party. That was at Orpington in the Tory heartlands and it was said to herald the “great Liberal revival”. That soon fizzled out and they got only 9 seats at the next general election. It was followed on 13th July by Britain’s “Night of the Long Knives” when the PM sacked 7 senior cabinet members. It was also followed by defeat for the Conservatives at the next general election but we can move swiftly over that bit of history if you’d prefer! I think I remember it partly because of the mild hype (the media didn’t use words like catastrophe or crisis lightly in those days when people could remember real catastrophes and crises) that surrounded the news but mainly because of the curious name of the winning candidate…

  7. PS There is a lesson from this election buried deep in the comments on one of your postings. It’s the one in which you were teasing the SNP because you saw one of their lone canvassers. As the commenter suggested, the way we canvass (one on “the board” plus some others knocking) is dreadfully wasteful of manpower. It means that one person does no knocking and the others often have to wait to deliver their result before being dispatched to another door. It can also lead to pavement-blocking huddles and, worse, people’s voting preferences being announced within earshot of their neighbours. And everyone has to walk past every canvassed house.

    Its only advantages that I can see is that it gives canvassers lots of time to chat to each other (when they could be “wasting” it instead chatting to the electorate!) and it avoids the loneliness of the solitary knocker. Similarly unsatisfactory time-wasting things can happen on GOTV expeditions. If you got some management consultants in they’d eventually come up with some recommendations for improvements. My fees are not nearly as high as theirs would be though!

  8. Richard

    In fairness, I think a lot of Conservatives and SNP supporters would genuinely like Gordon to hang on. He’s a one man vote losing machine, tainted with the War and a long-since evaporated reputation for fiscal prudence.

    Any change in leadership is bound to result in a slight up-swing for Labour just as a result of the extra publicity and airtime it gets the party…

  9. Tom, I’d like to know why you think Labour are unpopular at the moment. I can think of a number of reasons but I’d like to hear yours first. Maybe another blog post with the title “I’m Listening”?

  10. Alasdair

    “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…).” – not just gritted teeth but tight lips too I’m betting 😆

    However, I think you may be mistaken about winning this seat back. You need to bare-in-mind that Mason is already well established at a local level and managed to defeat the equally well establish M. Curran (albeit marginally).

    The campaign may not have been about independence yet Labour still attempted to use the threat of it as a scare tactic … this emphatically failed. To my mind this indicates a normalisation of the idea of independence and that any decision about it will be made at a referendum, this can only be a good thing (from where I’m standing) … the fear of independence is diminishing.

    Still, the campaign wasn’t about independence … it seemed to have more to do with the failure of Labour as a government and it’s leadership in particular.

  11. Every time Labour say they will listen but don’t and get pumped at the polls. It was said after Crewe and it was said by Brown this morning. Heck, it was practically the same speech again.

  12. Frank Davis

    Maybe Glasgow East will indeed return to Labour at the next election. But I think we’re witnessing a sea change in British politics. Just as most people felt revulsion for no-such-thing-as-society Toryism 20 years ago, they’re now feeling the same about the Labour nanny state in which there is no place for individuals, individual choice, and individual freedom. It won’t make any difference at all if Labour ditches Gordon Brown. He’s not the problem. He’s just a scapegoat. The real problem is Labour nannyism and control freakery. People want their lives back.

    And I want my pub back. As I bet thousands of people in Glasgow East do as well.

  13. Frank – you know my view on the smoking ban, which was supported as strongly by the SNP as by Labour in the Scottish Parliament. But I was out on the doorstep a lot in the campaign and I can honestly tell you that the words “smoking ban” and “nanny state” never once came near to being uttered by a single voter. Sorry to disappoint you.

  14. devorgilla

    The turn to the SNP is real. The Labour project in Scotand was always to manage expectaions, to keep them low, keep them in subservience, keep them dependent on handouts – paternalism.

    But Scottish aspirations are rising, even for a cautious lot like us.

    Even in the East End of Glasgow. You can’t put a genie like that back in the bottle.

  15. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom you just dont get it do you. Every time someone tells you what is wrong, you all come up with reasons why it is correct. People do not want a Labour government that thinks it knows best and takes your hard earned money off you and spends ( wastes) it on your behalf.
    It is just beyond belief how hard it is to make Labour understand.
    You have to trust people, and leave them alone to live their lives.

  16. Oor Wullie

    Tom, its not just the the size of the defeat in Glasgow East that is disaserous, it’s that thousands, yes THOUSANDS of Labour voters decided Labour was not worth voting for in a seat that has loyally returned a Labour MP in every election for almost 60 years. Listen to that for a minute

    This is not a mid term hic-up, the party is being rejected by rank and file Labour voter, its not indifference its positive rejection of what the L-Party stands for. If this has happened in a strong hold like Glasgow East what does that say for the rest of the country.

    So what policies have you pushed through recently that have affected the outcome, bearing in mind most voters have quite short memories. It can’t be the Iraq war, that’s old news.

    Laid-back commentators insisted that the Catholic vote was no longer so monolithic or cohesive as it used to be. That is absolutely true; it is greatly reduced. But with 20,000 Catholic voters in Glasgow East you can bet your boots that, even today, more than 365 of them rallied to their bishops’ call – and that was the size of the SNP majority.

    Do you think it might be true?

  17. Frank Davis

    I can honestly tell you that the words “smoking ban” and “nanny state” never once came near to being uttered by a single voter. – Tom

    You can say that it wasn’t uttered. But you can’t say that it didn’t come near to being uttered.

    Do people always say plainly what’s on their minds? No, they don’t. For example, I was watching something on TV the other night about working class Americans and their response to Barack Obama, and not one single one of them would say what their real problem with him was: that he’s black. Why didn’t they say so? Political correctness. They know what they’re supposed to say, and not supposed to say. They know that they’re not supposed to be bothered by the fact that he’s black. But they are. But they can’t say so. And so instead they pick on something else about him (vague policies, for example) and use that as a stick with which to beat him.

    Exactly the same applies to smoking. Most smokers know that they’re supposed to like the ban, that it’s a good thing, and everyone’s healthier, etc, etc. It’s almost a crime these days to say you enjoy smoking. And people know it. And so they look around for something else with which to beat the Labour party. Jobs. Benefits. Whatever.

    All you have to do is ask yourself how you’d feel if you were barred from pubs for being, say, a Scot. You’d be angry, right? Or bewildered. Or stunned Or crestfallen. There’d be a veriety of responses you might feel.. Now replace the word ‘Scot’ with ‘smoker’, and you’ll know how every single smoker in the country feels.about the smoking ban – angry, bewildered, stunned, crestfallen, etc, etc. You really don’t have to think very hard to realise that when you exclude a quarter of the population from pub and club and bingo hall society, they’re going to hate it. But they might not say so. They may feel strongly inhibited about saying so.

    Last night, as the Glasgow results came in on BBC, the anchor asked, “Is this really being caused by the credit crunch and rising fuel prices? Credit has only just started getting tight, and the fuel price rises are still working their way through the system. Is it something else? Have we missed something?” Well, yes, there is one huge thing, which nobody ever mentions, because it’s supposed to be a great success that everybody loves. I don’t for a moment think that the smoking ban is all that’s behind the growing revulsion for Labour. But I’m quite sure that it’s a considerable part of it. How do I know? Because I’m a smoker, and I utterly hate the Labour party now, and I’m so glad they’re getting slaughtered in election after election – none of which I’ve been able to vote in (yet).

  18. Frank – I’m sure that a short trip to Glasgow would convince you that “political correctness” would not prevent any Glaswegian speaking his mind on any subject that concerned him. I accept that this, for you, is the most important political issue today, but believe me, it was not a factor in Glasgow East. One of the main promoters of the ban here was Stewart Maxwell, a nationalist MSP who is now a minister!

  19. Frances

    “…a remarkable coincidence that they should choose the same phrase completely independent of each other even before the result was announced”

    I suppose it’s also just a remarkable coincidence that Margaret Curran used the phrase “a lot done, a lot still to do” during the TV debate – only about the eleven billionth time that this most silly of New Labour soundbites has been used since 2001?

  20. Frank Davis

    believe me, it was not a factor in Glasgow East.

    You’re kidding yourself. Of course it was a factor. It’s just how large a factor that’s unknown.

    Do you think that smokers like smoking bans or something? Of course they don’t. I’ve yet to meet a smoker who actually likes the ban. The response of smokers ranges from indifference through resignation to anger..Look, about 25% of the population are smokers. Smoking bans will always cost governments smokers’ votes. It’s just a question of how many. Even if it’s assumed that 90% of smokers don’t care, that still leaves 10% of them – a not insignificant 2.5% of the electorate – who do care, and who are likely to factor that into their voting choices along with everything else that matters to them..Whichever way the numbers are cut and shuffled, the smoking ban has always been a vote loser for the Labour party that introduced it. It’s only a question of how much of a loser.

    Why can’t you see this? Why can’t you just acknowledge that, yes, breaking that manifesto commitment to bring in a total ban almost certainly cost Labour votes, and will continue to cost them votes. I guess it’s because it’s not in the news, and the ban almost never gets mentioned in the media. And because organisations like ASH keep saying it’s a great success. And because it didn’t get mentioned on the doorsteps in Glasgow East. And so you think there’s no problem. You can’t see that, given that smokers have no voice, no political representation, no friends in the media or government, they have been silenced. But however much they may be ignored or disregarded or discounted, they’re still there. And they still vote.

    And you don’t need to remind me that you didn’t vote for the ban. I know that. I’m not trying to get at you, but at your party. I’m just a bit puzzled that, for all your good sense in not voting for the ban, you still can’t see just how damaging that ban is. But then, as everybody else on this thread seems to be saying, Labour doesn’t listen. And the next election will be the end of it and its nanny state – no, bully state – for an entire generation..

    .

  21. INDYPAL

    I don’t think you should assume Labour will win back Glasgow East whenever the general election is called. The SNP campaign identified enough support to win the by-election and John Mason is a diligent and hardworking chap who is more than capable of building on that. I would expect him to increase his majority.

    Perhaps Labour might think of piling in resources and activists to win back Glasgow East but that would leave other Glasgow seats vulnerable – including your own, where you have Malcolm Fleming to contend with.

    Like it or not the political earthquake that Alex Salmond was talking about is happening and it is far from over. (Incidentally I suggest that analogy is why John and Nicola referred to the result as being off the Richter scale. It’s not suprising if they all use the same terminology seeing that they have been out campaigning with each other so often these past weeks).

  22. Martin Cullip

    “Just as most people felt revulsion for no-such-thing-as-society Toryism 20 years ago, they’re now feeling the same about the Labour nanny state in which there is no place for individuals, individual choice, and individual freedom. It won’t make any difference at all if Labour ditches Gordon Brown. He’s not the problem. He’s just a scapegoat. The real problem is Labour nannyism and control freakery. People want their lives back.”

    Another poster that thinks just as me. Yet Tom still doesn’t listen or understand.

    Tom, you mix in different circles to me and no doubt hear nothing of the anger felt by people about their lifestyles being destroyed. They are not going to tell you personally as your Government has told them that they are all shameful for enjoying a drink, smoke, McDonalds etc. (the fact that Labour has manufactured those results isn’t widely known but they are doing it right now – the DoH are right now paying their own staff to come up with results that back up the DoH proposed legislation. So expect an 80% figure). How is THAT democratic?

    If Labour banned bottles of red wine in Covent Garden bars I’m sure you’d hear about it (and would probably act), you are sorely misguided if you think that those whose local pub, club or bingo hall are being shafted are not taking their anger out on you at the ballot box.

    Labour is all about listening ain’t it. Good Grief!

    10 million smokers, 25 million drinkers, 30 million who like fast food. Work it out Tom.

  23. rullko

    “The first silver lining I can think of is that he’ll only be there until the next general election”.

    Good to see Labour have abandoned Margaret Curran’s philosophy of not taking the voters for granted!

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