Last Thursday’s other by-election was the heavily directional East Kilbride Central North in South Lanarkshire – unfortunately, the council aren’t very good at uploading the result documents, which has delayed this post. Prompted by the unfortunate passing of SNP-turned-Independent Councillor Sheena Wardhaugh, I reckoned that the SNP’s recent strength in East Kilbride plus Labour’s ongoing troubles in Scotland meant it heavily favoured the former. I even appeared in the local paper saying so!
The SNP did indeed win the seat – and in fact, came very close to doing so on first preferences alone. It just took until the Lib Dems were eliminated to see Grant Ferguson over the line, though that shows the strength of SNP support in the ward. Long term followers of Ballot Box Scotland will know single councillor by-elections often see every other candidate eliminated before the winner formally makes quota, yet here both Labour and the Conservatives were still standing at the end. First preferences in full;
- SNP – 1582 (46.5%, +4.2)
- Labour – 690 (20.3%, -11.3)
- Conservative – 498 (14.6%, -4.1)
- Liberal Democrat – 422 (12.4%, +9.9)
- Green – 153 (4.5%, +0.6)
- UKIP – 48 (1.4%, +1.4)
- Libertarian – 12 (0.4%, +0.4)
Effectively, everyone else gained at the Conservatives and especially Labour’s expense, with the latter shedding over a third of their vote. The primary beneficiary wasn’t however the SNP, but the Lib Dems. That’s a pretty impressive result for the party given East Kilbride wasn’t exactly an area of strength for them even before their collapse, winning just 5.6% in the ward in 2007 and generally coming in below 10% for the Holyrood constituency. I’m told they had a very good ground game this time around, but it seems inevitable that increase reflects a degree of Brexit dissatisfaction with the other two big pro-Union parties.
Looking at that uncommonly busy final round and comparing it to the final head-to-head of the 2017 recalc;
- SNP – 1743 (51.2%, +6.9)
- Labour – 837 (24.6%, -13.8)
- Conservative – 606 (17.8%, +17.8)
- Didn’t Transfer – 219 (6.4%, -10.9)
Given this had the Conservatives still standing the swing figures aren’t really comparable if we leave it there. Thanks to the big pile of data you get out of a machine count, we can eliminate the Conservatives to see what a notional SNP-Labour final round would have come out at;
- SNP – 1797 (52.8%, +8.5)
- Labour – 962 (28.3%, -10.1)
- Didn’t Transfer – 646 (19.0%, +1.7)
The overwhelming majority of votes the Conservative had picked up by the actual final round would just have gone straight into the Didn’t Transfer pile, so Labour still would have found themselves dropping a whole 10% even after transfers.
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.
A lot of stuff in here that’s pretty standard – strong mutual transfers between the SNP and Greens, absolutely no love for UKIP except from the Conservatives, and comparatively large single preference votes for the largest Holyrood parties versus more use of later preferences for the smaller. That Conservative to UKIP pile is actually quite interesting, as in every other by-election this year that had all three in it, more Conservatives have transferred to the Lib Dems than UKIP. Although Con-LD is only fractionally behind Con-UKIP here, it may represent a hardening of the Brexit lines. We’ll see if the pattern repeats in other upcoming by-elections or if it’s merely a blip.