Partick East/Kelvindale (Glasgow) By-Election, 18/03/2021

If you feel a bit stumped by any of the information here, or wonder how it’s possible to get this level of depth, you can check this little guide to how I preview By-Elections.

NOTE: This by-election may be re-scheduled at short notice due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Ward Profile

Saving the best for last, the fourth and final by-election due on the March the 18th is Glasgow’s Partick East/Kelvindale ward. Just like the other Glasgow by-election, this has come about due to the removal of a councillor for failing to attend meetings for six months. Councillor Tony Curtis had been elected for the Conservatives in 2017, but left that party in mid-2020 as he didn’t feel, as a gym owner, the party had given enough support to re-opening gyms during the pandemic. For whatever reason, he appears to have then simply decided to cease fulfilling his duties as a councillor rather than directly resign from the role, leading to his eventual disqualification in January.

Partick East/Kelvindale is one of 23 wards in Glasgow, and elects 4 councillors at an ordinary election. The Partick East refers more to the historic burgh of Partick, as the current Partick area is entirely within the ward. It also includes Partickhill, Dowanhill, Hyndland, Kelvinside, Kelvindale and (not marked with labels) bits of Claythorn and Anniesland in the west. This combination brings together some of Glasgow’s leafiest and most affluent areas in the north with student hotspots and more traditionally working class areas in the south.

The reason I say this is the best of this batch is that this is the ward I currently live in! Obviously, I’ve gotten to vote in nationwide elections that I’ve covered as BBS, but for a council by-election to pop up locally is very exciting. My excitement is tempered somewhat by the fact I won’t be able to attend the count due to coronavirus restrictions, but that’s pandemic life I guess.

For the UK parliament the ward is split between the Glasgow North and North West constituencies, both of which were typically Labour before flipping SNP in 2015. A large chunk of this ward will have been in the historic Glasgow Hillhead constituency, which was notable for the then Social Democratic Party’s success at a 1982 by-election. Roy Jenkins won it from the Conservatives and held in in 1983 as the last non-Labour seat in the city, before losing it to a certain George Galloway in 1987.

At Holyrood it’s a three way split, which is what happens when constituency and ward boundaries aren’t redrawn to the same cycle. The area north of Great Western Road lies within the Maryhill and Springburn seat which Labour held until 2016, most of the area south of it is in Glasgow Kelvin which the SNP won in 2011, and a small portion is in Glasgow Anniesland which was similarly an SNP victory in 2011 by the wafer-thin margin of 7 votes.

Boundaries and Recent Election History

In boundary change terms, this is the messiest ward BBS has yet covered. Glasgow gained an additional six councillors in 2017 which necessitated two new wards. This was one of those entirely new wards, incorporating parts of the previous Partick West (Partick itself plus the area around Anniesland College), Hillhead (the Dowanhill and Hyndland areas) and Maryhill/Kelvin (Kelvindale and Kelvinside) wards.

In the first STV elections in 2007, both the Partick West and Hillhead wards elected one councillor apiece from Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems and Greens, whilst Maryhill/Kelvin had a second Labour councillor in place of a Green. Given the Lib Dems won only 5 councillors city-wide in 2007, it speaks to the concentration of their vote that 3 of them were in this area. Indeed, this ward largely covers the three pre-STV single member wards that the Lib Dems won in 2003.

By 2012 the Lib Dem vote across the city had collapsed, and they lost all of their seats here. In Partick West, the SNP gained both a second seat and a lead in votes. With apologies for possibly reminding the unsuccessful candidate of this, this was also notable at this election as the only ward in the city where Labour didn’t elect every candidate they stood. They also gained a seat in Maryhill/Kelvin though Labour retained a lead in votes there, whereas in Hillhead Labour picked up the formerly Liberal seat despite the SNP taking a first preference lead.

Upon creation of this new ward in 2017, we saw a combination of demographics and recent voting trends produce a hyper-diverse ward electing one councillor apiece from the SNP, Conservatives, Labour and Greens. Conservative success was such that this ward ended up one of very few in Glasgow where Labour weren’t in second place. Although they didn’t win a seat, this was the Lib Dems best Glasgow ward.

Detailed 2017 Data

Although the diversity amongst voters made this one of the SNP’s weaker Glasgow wards, they still proved dominant enough to have the lead in every polling district, though the Conservatives did lead on the postal vote and were nipping at their heels in Kelvindale.

Looking at the other parties, Labour’s best results came in what I’d consider the small Anniesland chunk just by the station, whereas the Greens were strongest in Partick. Hyndland was the centre of support for the seat-less Lib Dems.

Looking at where second preferences went, there was exceptionally strong mutual transferring between the SNP and Greens even by their standards. Labour and the Conservatives were most favourable to the Lib Dems, whilst the Lib Dems narrowly preferred Labour to the Greens, with Conservatives only their third choice.

Overall, apart from the Greens voters for other parties were more likely to preference the Conservatives over the SNP, and Labour over the Conservatives.

Candidates

As with Baillieston, the ballot here will be the Holyrood 5 plus UKIP. These are all shiny new candidates who didn’t stand anywhere in Glasgow in 2017, or at either the 2017 and 2019 General Elections. That said, at least one candidate has some prior notability – Donald Mackay was (last I heard) the Scottish leader of UKIP, and contested East Dunbartonshire in 2019. He also stood in South Lanarkshire’s Larkhall ward in 2017. The full list of candidates is:

Blair Anderson (Green)
Naveed Asghar (Conservative)
Abdul Bostani (SNP)
Jill Brown (Labour)
Tahir Jameel (Liberal Democrat)
Donald Mackay (UKIP)

2017 Re-Calculation and Prediction

As ever, to get the best comparison between the original vote and a single seat by-election, we need to dig a bit deeper and re-calculate a result for electing a single councillor. Remember that in a single seat election under STV, a candidate needs 50%+1 of the valid votes cast (a quota) to win. For this re-calculation, that was 5259 votes.

Stage 6 (final head-to-head stage); 

SNP - 4690 (44.6%)
Labour - 3821 (36.3%)
Didn't Transfer - 2005 (19.1%)

We started this week’s previews with multiple knife-edge rounds in Bute, and we finish with a similar story here. At stage 4 of this re-calculation, the Greens are just 29 votes (0.3%) behind Labour. Their elimination took Labour narrowly (55 votes, or 0.5%) ahead of the Conservatives, to set up the final SNP-Labour head-to-head , which the SNP win 8.3%.

Given how close stages were, I did check the other possible final pairings. The SNP would have won a contest against the Conservatives much more easily, at 49.2% to 31.8%, whereas an SNP vs Green finale is much tighter at 36.6% to 34.4% Although the SNP’s lead over both Labour and the Greens in these scenarios is within the standard definition of marginal, I’d say it’s very unlikely either party would triumph.

The relative national polling for each party will likely see the SNP too far ahead of Labour, and the Greens are likely to feel the effect of both lower turnout at by-elections and a likely smaller student vote given the pandemic. Though I’d give the Conservatives a higher chance at remaining second throughout the count this time simply due to by-election demographics, transfers are least favourable to them.

Call: Likely SNP.

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5 Comments

  1. If you care to look into the detail, STV provides a veritable wealth of information about how peoples’ inclinations are trending beyond their immediate first choices, so “chapeau” to you for delving into it for our benefit, especially in this ward where there’s a lot going on under the surface (eg. how many Tory voters back in 2017 were willing to cleave to Labour and vice-versa – last echoes of Better Together?).

    One thing puzzled me though in your graph “2017 Second Prefs by First Pref Vote”. SNP and Labour, I seem to recall, and maybe other parties as well, fielded two candidates here, so some voters could select their first-choice candidate /and/ their second-choice candidate from the same party, if they wished. (There was even some debate at the time whether parties might stand to gain more – or not – by selectively promoting their candidates differently in different parts of a ward.) Yet the graph doesn’t indicate any such intra-party transfers at all. That doesn’t seem right. I don’t see how such second-pref (non-)transfers can be bundled-up with the first prefs somehow. Surely voters weren’t collectively so plug-ignorant that they all felt they had to select later-prefs from different parties, were they?

    Furthermore, the very obvious (and non-trivial) proportions of “no other pref” would be especially concerning to party organisers if their voters were so stuck in the past or otherwise misinformed that they didn’t realise they collectively missed out on having a “second bite at the cherry”, so to speak.

    • It’s not 100% clear in the labelling of the interactive chart, but I’m showing second (or, if you prefer, “next”) preferences per party rather than per candidate. So in this case the two SNP candidates (no other party stood multiples) have the sum of their next non-SNP preferences shown on the chart. Beyond the fact that a single-member by-election won’t have a second SNP candidate to vote for anyway, the purpose of the chart is to show the relative strength of preferencing between different parties. It’s not that, e.g, “80% of SNP voters stayed within that party before transferring outwith” isn’t useful or interesting information that has the potential to shift results at a full election, it’s just not the information this chart is intended to display.

      The 2017 re-calculated for one councillor chart shows lower-placed same-party candidates eliminated first, again to give the closest approximation to by-election conditions, and that is where you can see direct second preferences in this case from the lower-placed SNP candidate.

  2. HELP!!!!

    I have to vote for someone of some party tomorrow. I want to vote for someone who will take froward the issues I care about – rights health an accountable and transparent government and people doing the work they are paid to do. Social justice and “levelling up” as we lose our right to peaceful protest I lose my love of living here and my younger fantasy that I was living in a free country.

  3. Interesting nay fascinating as this is it gives me no guidance on what these candidates stand for.

    I run a small design company with no employees currently so I doubt my website would be of interest

    • Hi Fiona – at this point in time, Ballot Box Scotland is a one-man project focused entirely on the pure election data. It wouldn’t be possible for me to provide in-depth political coverage of candidates and issues in local by-elections across the country, and even doing so in the case of my own ward it would be a significant extra investment of time and effort I simply don’t have available!

      The best thing to do at this point is often to check social media pages belonging to the candidates, to see what they are saying.

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