Friday, October 7, 2016
The business of politics is still winning; SNP by-election victory in a strong Labour heartland of Glasgow Garscadden proves beyond doubt that Scottish Labour need a new campaigning model, Labour’s vote dropped by 22.8%, SNP up by 15.6%, big fight coming up in 2017 for the control of the Council
Some time ago, I said to people in the Scottish Labour Party that what was needed in the party was a new campaigning model.
Later on, I found an article which mirrored some of my own thoughts, and some other people wanted to explore my idea further so I passed on some thoughts I had on the subject.
Elections aren’t won at the despatch box at Westminster or at the 15 minutes of Holyrood’s FMQs, they are won on the doorstep, every doorstep, not in the short campaign but in the long campaign over years.
When you do a campaign, you need to prepare a plan, understand the area which you are campaigning in, understand the local issues.
In my time I have seen a ton of by-elections, by-elections afford you several opportunities to learn, although most people just go along and pitch in without any regard for the learning process.
At a Labour meeting held not too long ago, someone said something quite extraordinary, that the party had forgotten how to campaign, if this was a throwaway statement, you might have thought not much about, however looking back, it echoes what I said about the need for a new campaigning model.
Yesterday was polling day at the Garacadden/Scotstounhill by-election in the north west of the city, the election was held because of the tragic death of Councillor John Kelly during the summer. In some of the by-elections I have done, when the sitting councillor dies, the incumbent party usually stands a very good chance of retaining the seat.
In Garscadden, a breakdown of first preference votes was:
SNP: 42.6% (+15.6)
LAB: 38.8% (-22.8)
CON: 10.2% (+7.6)
GRN: 4.8% (+2.1)
LD: 1.9% (+0.8)
UKIP: 1.7% (+0.8)
Garscadden in 2012 was a Labour stronghold, they won 3 out of 4 seats, the other held by the SNP. Since 2014, we have had two referendums, Scottish independence and the EU, and on top of that two major elections, Westminster and Holyrood.
The political landscape of Scotland has changed and will continue to change in the future.
Online, a commentator called John Irvine wrote:
“Labour has just lost its 2nd safest ward in Glasgow, based on the 2012 result (62% Lab - 27% SNP)”.
“Near annihilation awaits next May”.
It is true that the Scottish Labour do face an incredibly hard task to hold on to the City of Glasgow as their polling suggests that they have lost a lot of support, however, although you can gleam some information from the Labour defeat, you have also to acknowledge that the party is having problems connecting with the voters.
Scottish Labour spent 5 whole months doing nothing prior to the election because of the Labour leadership contest, CLPs were forbidden to meet, no work could be done, no planning could be done and no campaigning could be done.
Another thing of interest was that the turn out in the Garscadden by-election was incredibly poor at 24%, by-elections unless there is a huge local issue tend to be quiet affairs in some cases.
For the SNP this is a victory, for Labour a disaster, especially when the count went to the last round and they lost by 100 votes.
So, for the benefit for the Scottish Labour Party again, you need a new campaigning model.
Finally, it is shaping up to be a rather big fight for Glasgow Council in 2017, and it also appears that some people who are currently Labour Councillors might find themselves on the end of a rather sticky wicket if they don't apply themselves to the task in hand.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University