Yesterday we had the first by-election in a Scottish Westminster constituency since Inverclyde in 2011 – though, very fortunately, this one arose in less tragic circumstances, making it a rare treat. SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts since 2015, Neil Gray, had opted to make a move to the equivalent Holyrood constituency, and per newly adopted party rules was therefore required to vacate his seat.
The party had hoped this would allow for the election to fall on the same day as last week’s Holyrood elections, and made a bit of a point out of the cost savings of doing so. Awkwardly enough the returning officer had other ideas. Concerned with the difficulty of counting yet another ballot under the space restrictions of a pandemic, they opted for the 13th instead. That meant this one took place in much more muted circumstances, with much lower turnout.
It also was rather lower profile than that Inverclyde vote in 2011, or Hartlepool in the North East of England which did come last week. The circumstances for this one were frankly less interesting for media observers. Unlike 2011, it wasn’t following a shock SNP victory at Holyrood but instead a widely expected SNP victory, and unlike Hartlepool, it wouldn’t be an augur Labour were in deep trouble, as they’ve been there since 2015 in Scotland already.
The SNP had won this much more comfortably in 2019 having been run close in 2017, and I expected that especially following their results last week, they’d quite easily hold the seat.
There were no surprises on the day, as that’s exactly what happened. Looking at the votes in full they were:
SNP - 10129 (46.4%, +1.3)
Labour - 8372 (38.4%, +6.4)
Conservative - 2812 (12.9%, -4.7)
Liberal Democrat - 220 (1.0%, -2.6)
Social Democratic Party - 151 (0.7%, +0.7)
Scottish Unionist - 59 (0.3%, +0.3)
Reform UK - 45 (0.2%, +0.2)
UKIP - 39 (0.2%, +0.2)
Note that in the 2019 Election the Greens received 1.7% of the vote.
SNP candidate Anum Qaisar-Javed has therefore become SNP MP for the constituency, seeing off Labour’s Kenneth Stevenson. The SNP vote share did increase slightly, but Labour managed to close the gap quite substantially, likely bolstered by the same tactical voting that saw Labour gains and Conservative declines in the Central Belt at Holyrood last week.
Everyone else had a very poor time of it and lost their deposits, with the Lib Dems really not very far ahead of the Social Democratic Party, the modern incarnation of which is effectively a rump of a rump! Meanwhile, Reform UK and UKIP languish at the mere fifth of a percent that they roughly achieved last week, coming behind the Scottish Unionists.
That brings us very neatly to the end of a much shorter piece than usual, given how simple Westminster votes are! It’s at least a nice little break from the Holyrood stuff, which continues to slowly come together when I’ve got time for it.
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