First off, I have to apologise for taking so long with this one – as per usual, I had been waiting for the council to release the full data, but they’ve mistakenly posted the Preference Profile Report for the Coatbridge by-election instead. Although I e-mailed the council to ask them to correct it, they haven’t yet done so, and then writing a full post totally slipped my mind.
The awkward double-whammy of council elections followed by snap UK GE in 2017 resulted in a handful of freshly elected Labour councillors also being elected as MPs. The Thorniewood by-election was prompted by the resignation of one such MP, Labour’s Hugh Gaffney, who had for two years held a dual mandate for the council and for the Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill seat. Typically extremely Labour friendly, my feeling was that with them in the doldrums, it was going to be a very close race with the SNP.
The first preference gap between the two parties did narrow significantly, bringing Labour out of absolute majority territory but not taking them low enough that they lost. First preferences in full;
- Labour – 1362 (44.3%, -5.9)
- SNP – 1202 (38.7%, +0.4)
- Conservative – 296 (9.6%, -1.5)
- Liberal Democrat – 168 (5.5%, +5.5)
- Green – 46 (1.5%, +1.5)
Compared to 2017 the first preference waters were muddied slightly by the presence of candidates from the Lib Dems and Greens. Though neither party was in with any chance of winning, they did make up the lion’s share of the positive swing here, with the SNP up only very marginally. On the other side, Labour’s decrease was the most substantial in percentage terms but compared to their result over the border in East Kilbride the other week is pretty modest, whilst the Conservatives registered another rare by-election vote share decrease.
Looking now at the votes for the final head-to-head at stage 4;
- Labour – 1528 (49.7%, -3.9)
- SNP – 1271 (41.3%, +1.2)
- Didn’t Transfer – 275 (8.9%, +2.6)
Much like with first preferences, there’s a slight closing of the gap compared to last time here, but nowhere near enough to change the result. By this round Labour were only, to use the technical term, a bawhair away from clinching it.
As ever with a good ol’ machine count, there’s a whole rake of juicy data available we don’t get for any other election. That means we can get the full picture of second preferences per party.
For long-time followers a lot of this will be familiar. The three largest parties always see a lot more only preference votes than the smaller ones, and here that’s taken to the point where most Labour voters opted not to use any later preferences. Contrary to the usual Twitter suspects grumbling about “Unionist tactical voting”, which actually means people just using the system as intended, more Labour voters put pro-Independence parties as their 2nd choice than pro-Union parties. Similarly, whilst the SNP were more popular than the other parties put together for Green voters, for SNP voters whilst the Greens were the most popular choice, pro-Union parties in total took more next preferences. A useful reminder, as these charts often are, that voters aren’t as simple as highly partisan Twitter folks are.