Well, I say “final thoughts”, but really I mean “first and only thoughts” because this is the first time I’ve actually managed to find the time and motivation to write about tomorrow’s Glasgow East by-election.
It’s difficult to know what I am hoping for. The party I am most sympathetic towards — the Lib Dems — has a pretty low chance of achieving anything meaningful. And let us face it, the only reason Glasgow East has interested people is because Labour have a chance of losing a safe seat to the SNP.
Watching the SNP and Labour battling for votes in Glasgow East is like watching the two biggest bullies at school trying to win a popularity contest. You don’t want either of them to win, but deep down inside you really like it when one messes it up, even if it gives the other guy an advantage.
It’s been quite fun to see, therefore, both parties messing it up a bit. Labour’s woes have been pretty well documented. The former MP, David Marshall, is involved in a slimy corruption scandal. He pocketed half a mill in office expenses when his office was his house and his office staff was his family — while representing the poorest constituency in the country. Yes, that sort of brass neck would make me feel ill as well!
Then the candidate Labour were going to put up for the by-election turned out also to be very possibly a corrupt bastard as well. And the two people who “stood against” him magically disappeared — presumably because they were never intended to have a chance of actually being Labour’s candidate.
So Margaret Curran was parachuted in. She is actually quite good, though the “fourth choice” jibes are pretty damaging. This also leaves “the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament” in a bit of a pickle because she was going to be their leader. But that’s a worry for another day.
I said Margaret Curran is quite good. I meant that she comes across well on the telly. But of course since she is a Labour politician she is actually a honking liar. She said she’s lived in the east of Glasgow all her life, when in fact she has lived for years in a fancy house on the south side. And she mistook a 67-year-old Labour Party activist for a 93-year-old World War II hero “who looks not a day past 70, by the way”.
Not that the SNP’s candidate, John Mason, seems to be much better. In fact, he seems like the sort of person your mother warned you about. When asked about his views on an independence referendum, his answer was somewhat creepy.
When you ask someone to marry you, sometimes you have to persist.
John Mason also has a history of anti-English behaviour, demanding that a school remove England flags from a World Cup display. Given that the SNP is supposed to be trying to do away with the perceived anti-English element of the party — and does a good job of it, by and large — I am surprised that the SNP should give someone with these views a platform in an important by-election.
I don’t believe the SNP is an anti-English party per se (though undoubtedly many of its supporters are anti-English). But if they do not put a lid on this element more effectively might it become their Clause IV?
This is becoming a running theme of this blog, but I’ll say it again — you can’t blame people for not wanting to vote. And it looks like turnout will be very low in Glasgow East.
That is not just because the two front-running parties keep on fouling up. It is because of the decades of Labour neglect that have been inflicted on the area. Glasgow East is a part of the world that has been held by Labour since 1922. Yet it is in an utterly terrible shape.
The statistic about life expectancy in Glasgow East being roughly equal to that of the Gaza Strip is untrue. Life expectancy in Gaza is 71.01 years. In one part of the constituency, Calton, life expectancy is as low as 53.9 years. You can expect to live longer in Pyongyang than in Glasgow.
(Update: Bellgrove Belle pointed out in the comments that Calton is actually in the Glasgow Central constituency, not Glasgow East.)
It is staggering that this kind of poverty exists in the UK. And this is a seat that Labour have held for eight and a half decades straight. Labour is the party of the poor? If by that you mean they like there to be lots of poor people, then you are bang on.
You can blame the Conservatives all you want, but the fact is that in the 86 years Labour have represented the area, Labour have been in government for around 40 of them. And of course 11 of those have been the last 11 years. Given that it is such a poor area, you would have thought Labour would be eager to help them out. Given that Glasgow East is such a safe seat, where Labour have one of their most convincing mandates, you would think Labour would be eager and willing to repay their voters.
But no. As Fraser Nelson has shown, Glasgow East is the ultimate example of the utter failure of Labour and its policies.
Of course, it is also a shining example of the problems created by Labour’s best pal, the First Past the Post voting system. It was the very safeness of the seat that enabled Labour in the west of Scotland to become the arrogant, corrupt cesspit it became.
That is why David Marshall has absolutely no data on the voters of Glasgow East. He just didn’t care. It is the voters’ very loyalty that has meant that the Labour government has continued to ignore the area. “Not a marginal seat? Not a swing voter? Not interested.”
Given that these very voters are constantly lied to by the media and various other people that Labour is the only party that can act in the interests of the poor, it is no wonder that apathy is so widespread in Glasgow East. If I thought Labour — the party that’s been in charge since 1922 — was the best hope for change, I’d be pretty glum about it too.
The really depressing thing is that Labour will almost certainly win this election. That is partly because of the lies I’ve described in the above paragraph. Is it a cliché to say that a monkey in a red rosette would win in Glasgow East? That is the only conclusion you can come to when, time and time again, the voters keep on re-electing this bunch of failures that have done absolutely nothing for them. It is accurate to describe these kinds of seats in the west of Scotland as the modern equivalent of rotten boroughs.
As for the idea that Glasgow East’s voters will be confused between Margaret Curran and the SSP’s Frances Curran, thereby losing Labour some votes, I don’t buy that. The voters won’t be looking for the name ‘Curran’ on the ballot slip. They’ll be looking for the word ‘Labour’.
I was quite surprised therefore when at the start of the campaign political pundits based in London were confidently predicting an SNP win. I think they couldn’t imagine Labour winning any election in the kind of climate the Westminster Government finds itself in at the moment. But they didn’t count on the trusty voters of west central Scotland, who continue to vote Labour like a dirty old man who likes a good hard spanking.
It shows how out of touch the political pundits in London are with the rest of the UK. Since then, things have stabilised and received wisdom seems to point towards a Labour win, albeit with a hugely reduced majority.
Even though the SNP seem confident, I don’t see Labour losing. I think the SNP are making a big mistake by confidently predicting an “earthquake“. This will allow Labour to present a narrow majority (the most likely outcome) as a victory for them when it is anything but.
The fact that Labour’s victory is even in doubt is the real sign that Labour have failed. It shows that just now there is not really such a thing as a safe Labour seat. But the SNP have given them the perfect opportunity to bounce back.
What do I want to happen? Like I say, the choice between the SNP and Labour is a choice between shit and shite. I want neither party to win. I certainly want neither party to convincingly win.
As such, I want the result to be an extremely narrow Labour victory (1,000–500 votes or less). This would maximise the pain to both parties — Labour barely clinging on to what was one of their safest seats, while the SNP lose an election they predicted they would win. Fingers crossed!