Thursday, 6 November 2008

Back in Time for Glenrothes Result

Having been indisposed for a few days, I've missed all the blog fun relating to events across the pond. But I was back in time for the Glenrothes result which, in my view, is possibly even more fascinating than the widely predicted outcome in the States.

Congratulations to Lindsay Roy and Labour on what, by any measure, was a very impressive result. By all accounts, Labour found a chink in the SNP armour on home care charges and exploited it to the full. There are some interesting observations to be made about this.

Firstly, I don't have a lot of sympathy with the SNP cries of foul play - the bottom line is that the SNP failed to recognise the threat of the attack and did not do enough to neutralise it.

Secondly, this type of 'negative' campaign would not have been effective had Gordon Brown's stock not risen substantially recently. Rather than attribute the result directly to his handing of the (at least in part) self induced financial crisis, his efforts gave Labour the context in which they were able to get their chosen message over.

Thirdly, the SNP vote advanced - even compared to last year's Holyrood election. So this type of campaign did not really impacted the popularity of the SNP Government but it did enable Labour to build a protest coalition against the SNP.

As I suggested a few posts back, this result may not be good for the Labour Party in the long run. I had to laugh when various Labour representatives on the TV tonight were accusing the SNP of being arrogant and taking the result for granted. The margin of Labour's win could very possibly see them slip back into their usual complacent ways as they reassure themselves that the last 18 months has been a temporary blip.

I am sure that many in the SNP would have thought that polling over 13,000 votes would have been enough for them to win. And, while there will be a lot of spin pointing to an end to what the media have described as a honeymoon, the reality is that the result demonstrates that the SNP are still as popular as last year, as well organised and well placed to profit from any downturn in Labour fortunes.

Jim Sillars suggested that the result might be a reality check for the SNP. Certainly, Alex Salmond could do with being reined in a bit. He is extremely effective when fighting Scotland's corner on genuine issues of substance. But he starts looking a bit high and mighty when he starts pronouncing on matters where there is no real need. Further, the result demonstrates that the SNP is as vulnerable to a protest coalition as Labour.

For the other parties, the Tories probably got about as much as they could have expected in the circumstances. The real losers, however, were the Lib Dems who couldn't even top the 1000 vote mark.

For me, this shows that the LibDems are nothing more that a vehicle of protest and their relevance is dwindling by the day. Yes they can win where they are the only obvious challenger to Labour but where they are not, their vote simply disintegrates. Contrast this with the SNP in Dunfermline 2006 where. despite the LibDem mega-win over Labour, their share of the vote actually increased.

Beyond all the by-election hoo-hah, what remains clear is that Labour still do not have much of a positive message. If the IMF are right, and the UK descends into the worst recession of all the developed economies, it is difficult to see what Labour will be able to do to hold back the tide at a General Election when it is their record alone that is being judged by the electors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to say I had the pleasure of meeting Lindsay Roy today at the Scottish Parliament - this was NOT a planned meeting as I was there discussing an issue with another MSP.

I was introduced to him and he seems very keen on issues such as financial exclusion (which I am heavily involved with) and the fact that those already financially excluded will more than likely have others come crashing down upon them also in the not so distant future.

I have to state that I have no allegiance to any party in particular. My allegiance will lie with MP's, MSP's etc who I believe genuinely do care and thankfully there ARE still some of them around.

I am very glad your blog was emailed to me - I find it very interesting and intend to follow your writings!