A political earthquake that will send shivers down London’s spine

Scottish Nationalists win by-election and give Brown another headache.

, by Anonymous

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A political earthquake that will send shivers down London's spine

On July 24, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has pulled off a historic by election victory in Glasgow East – the Labour heartland - leaving Gordon Brown and the Labour Party in complete disarray. The third safest Labour seat in Scotland and one of the safest in Britain has said NO to Brown’s disappointing and unpopular Labour Government, overturning a majority of 13,507, winning with an incredible swing of 22.54%

Implications on Gordon Brown

Glasgow East has become Labour’s third by election loss in recent months. The Conservative leader David Cameron immediately asked for a General Election, following Labour’s disastrous loss in their heartland and in Gordon Brown’s back yard. There is nothing to suggest however, that the Prime Minister will resign or call early elections, considering that Labour support has never been so low and currently stands at 15% behind the Conservatives. “Labour now has to start listening to its people” commented Margaret Curran – the Labour Party’s Glasgow East candidate.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond since the beginning of the campaign predicted “a political earthquake that would send shivers down Labour’s spine”. Last night, winning SNP candidate John Mason said his victory was “off the Richter scale” and that the result would send a clear message to Gordon Brown. There is no doubt that Brown’s future as Labour leader is being questioned by many but the party doesn’t seem to have many viable options to choose from.

If Brown goes by the autumn conference, the party would have 3 different leaders in the space of a year – hardly politically convincing, in Britain. If he stays and is unable to overturn his marked unpopularity and successfully steer the country through the difficult economic times, the party will be set to concede an unavoidable victory to the Conservatives. Now that – is something that may well send shivers down Brussels’ spine. Cameron is passionately against any sign of political union; he spoke against both the Constitution and Lisbon (which he believes to be the exact same document under a different name), has proclaimed Lisbon dead and plans to pull out the British Conservatives out of the European People’s Party EP Parliamentary group.

For Labour to win the next General Elections they would have to pull off something extraordinary. Whether this will result in electing a new leader, or better, addressing the economic difficulties of the nation (i.e. helping people deal with rising fuel and food prices), the road to victory is all uphill.

Implications on Scotland

Independence did not feature high on the SNP’s campaign agenda in this election but rather the socio-economic factors were particularly stressed. Glasgow East contains some of the poorest towns in Britain and has the worst life expectancy rate in the country – with males living to an average of 54 years. This is considerably lower than in many developing countries. Unemployment and crime rates are high and alcohol and drugs consumption well exceed the national average. It is not often that Glasgow East receives all this attention…..

Unemployment and crime rates are high and alcohol and drugs consumption well exceed the national average

The victory is undoubtedly yet another vote of confidence on Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government – extending his popularity honeymoon – and clearly, a vote of no confidence on Westminster. But to what extent independence was a driving issue in the election is yet unclear. Weeks before the vote, Salmond had described the by election as an opinion poll between the two governments. A recent Yougov opinion poll has indicated that in the next Scottish Parliament elections the SNP would win an astonishing 58 constituency seats leaving the Labour Party with only 8. Whether independence featured high or not, it is clear which Government the people of Glasgow East have expressed satisfaction with.

Conclusion

Some may say Gorden Brown has been struck by a never ending period of bad luck. That might well be true, following the recent death of John McDougall MP which will trigger yet another by election in Scotland, and if things couldn’t get any better – it’s in Gordon Brown’s very own back yard constituency of Glenrothes. But for the time being at least, the result of Glasgow East has created more pressure on the Prime Minister to stand down as leader before the next elections and/or change in policy direction in order to address the high cost of living. It has also given the Conservatives a head start in winning the next UK general elections.

In Scotland, the vote is evidence that the Nationalists are gradually replacing Labour as the number one party in the country with support growing even in Labour’s most faithful heartlands - which in the words of John Mason - will leave many Scottish Labour MPs “quaking in their boots”.

Image: Scottish nationalist flags, source: Telegraph

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Your comments

  • On 19 August 2008 at 14:08, by Brian Hill Replying to: A political earthquake that will send shivers down London’s spine

    Very good article Toni, you have captured the essence of the political scene in Scotland, in particular the fact that the SNP is slowly replacing Labour as the main party in Scotland, this after 5 decades of blanket Labour supremacy.

    Labour has been punctured over the years with sensational SNP by elections wins e.g. Hamilton 1968 and then the fantastic parliamentary breakthroughs of 7 and 11 MPs in the 2 General Elections of 1974 (Feb and Oct).

    But the damage was repaired each time and Labour marched on. However last years Holyrood breakthrough is proving to be permanent with the SNP Government and SNP leader Alex Salmond proving far more popular than Labour and PM Brown.

    Glasgow East and soon Glenrothes are hammering home the SNP’s supremacy over Labour and threatening Union with England.

    Scotland hopes to join Europe as an Independent nation before too long, between 2012 and 2015 I would say.

    Brian Hill Scottish and European

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