Just the one by-election this month, so it gets a post all on it’s own. Thursday’s Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay by-election in Fife was in some senses classic STV – a party “defending” from third place, with a reasonable prospect that whoever came 2nd could win on transfers, and so confuse everyone on Twitter. I was absolutely certain that Labour weren’t in with much of a chance of keeping a councillor in the ward, so I viewed this as a Con-SNP contest leaning in the Conservative’s favour. I also reckoned that given they had won the MP seat for a portion of the ward a month later, Labour might have shown at least some recovery though.
Sure enough, it was the blues that came out on top on the day. But I was wrong on Labour recovery; in fact, their vote took a significant hit. Although turnout didn’t crater compared to 2017, it did drop a fair bit. It could be that Labour voters simply stayed home, as we know that lower turnout tends to favour Conservatives. Looking at the first preferences;
- Con – 2309 (37.3%, +0.7)
- SNP – 1741 (28.1%, -2.7)
- Labour – 744 (12.0%, -4.8)
- Lib Dem – 566 (9.1%, +4.1)
- Ind (Total) – 561 (9.1%, +1.8)
- Ind (Collins) – 521 (8.4%)
- Green – 257 (4.2%, +0.7)
- Ind (Macintyre) – 40 (0.6%)
- Libertarian – 13 (0.2%%, +0.2)
So a big dip for Labour and a smaller dip for the SNP, balanced out with minor increases for the Tories, Greens and Independents and a big jump for the Lib Dems. Given their history in the area, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Liberals had put some welly into this by-election. If they keep that up, it’s not impossible to imagine this ward falling 2 Con, 1 SNP, 1 Lib Dem in 2022.
Bear in mind that widened gap between the Conservative and SNP candidates though, because if we look at the final head-to-head round between them;
- Con – 2839 (45.9%, -2.6)
- SNP – 2327 (37.6%, +2.1)
- Didn’t Transfer – 1025 (16.6%, +0.5)
The gap actually narrowed. The SNP were still far too far behind to win, but it’s notable that compared to last year, there was an increase in the proportion of people willing to transfer to them against the Tories. That was also clear once the SNP candidate was eliminated; last year, had the Tories wound up in that situation they’d have collected preferences from 59.6% of voters. That dropped to 52.4% on Thursday. In the context of this ward, that doesn’t mean much. But if attitudes to the Tories are hardening like this even in one of their strongest wards, it bodes ill for elsewhere; remember Selkirkshire? Take this as a timely reminder that whilst the Tory revival has been remarkable, many voters still view them with suspicion.