25 July 2008


Bah, the fishheids beat us. It means rather more than previous Glasgow SNP by-election victories because the tartan Tories are now in charge in Holyrood, it says a lot about how general disillusionment with the government has spread – and it speaks volumes of the hopelessly complacent organisation of the Labour Party in its supposed Scottish heartlands.

The last is hardly new: I remember reports of safe Labour constituencies in Glasgow with tiny inactive Labour parties 30 years ago. The story of the sitting MP who tells the keen raw recruit: "Don't worry about canvassing round here, laddie. We put out an election statement then I do a tour on polling day in a loudspeaker car," might well be apocryphal, but it's not far from the truth as it has been for several decades: Labour's desperate high-profile campaigning efforts in Glasgow East were notable largely because they contrasted so dramatically with the norm.

In two years, the success of the SNP in one of the seemingly strongest of Labour strongholds might in retrospect be seen as a seismic shift, a pivotal moment in Labour's decline and fall in Scotland - mix your metaphors as you like. As for what it means for Gordon Brown right now, however, I don't think it makes a lot of difference. A Labour win would have done him good, but the narrow defeat after a recount is hardly a massive humiliation. I could be wrong, but Glasgow East suggests a lot of scenarios for the next two or three years, not many for the next couple of months. Unfortunately.

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