Glasgow North East

Now that Michael Martin has announced he is stepping down, there will have to be a by-election in his seat, although probably after the summer recess.

The political battlelines there will be very similar to next door Glasgow East, where John Mason of the SNP last year overturned a Labour majority of 13,507 to win by 365 votes ... a swing of 22.54%


I'd have thought that Labour would at least be up for it, but from this article in the Scotsman (which is most definitely not an SNP newspaper) it would seem they are already resigned to taking one on the chin.

Nationalists poised to break Labour's grip on Glasgow North East seat

The SNP are strong candidates to snatch the traditionally safe Labour seat of Glasgow North East in a by-election, political analysts have said. Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University said Labour would be fortunate to hold the seat if the SNP ran as competent a campaign as it ran in Glasgow East last summer.

The constituencies are very similar. They are both deprived, working-class areas with traditionally solid Labour votes, where no other party has done well for decades.

Having won in Glasgow East last year, however, the Nationalists will be confident of doing the same in Glasgow North East, particularly as Labour has become embroiled in the expenses scandal, while the SNP has avoided the worst of the fallout.

Prof Curtice said: "This is traditionally a very safe Labour seat but, at the moment, one would say that the SNP would win it if it can campaign as effectively as in Glasgow East."

Senior sources within Glasgow Labour have also admitted defeat. One said: "It is going to be brutal, and I think we are stuffed. We will either have to put up somebody with a lot of ability and fortitude or somebody who is willing to take the bullet. Willie [Bain] would fall into that category."

Another senior source said: "The party is reeling at the moment. We will fight this hard, but it's going to be very difficult to hold it."

The Scotsman, 20 May 2009

Labour are in free fall. The Euro elections will prove that. But far from bringing on an early general election, it means that there is no possibility of them calling it before next May. No government would call an early election unless it thought it would win. So, like the Major government, they can only limp on to the inevitable, bitter end.

There is however one important difference between 1996/97 and 2009/10. Labour currently have a comfortable working majority in the Commons. This means that they have a year left in which to put through whatever legislation they think is important.

One of those things must be to put through the legislation for the referendum on primary lawmaking powers for the National Assembly. If Labour do it, they have a chance of implementing their manifesto commitments in Wales. Not just as part of One Wales now, but after the Assembly election in 2011 too. That isn't certain, of course, but it is at least within the realm of possibility ... something Labour could fight for and have a fair chance of achieving.

The choice for Labour in Wales is simple. Say yes to having a referendum, and we can to some extent protect ourselves from the next Tory government at Westminster. Say no, and we're stuffed.

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Draig32 said...

I'm really not convinced that this government is going to last the year out. The wider issue now is that Parliament ITSELF now faces a crisis of legitimacy. The public (perhaps led to some extent by the media) are starting to shift behind the idea of an immediate General Election. All the other parties are calling for a GE to wipe the slate clean and restore legitimacy.

Some people are calling for consitutional reform, but I don't think the establishment (i.e. the three main parties) has the will or the means to enact real reform, so they will lance the boil by "wiping the slate clean" with a General Election instead, as a substitute. The pressure will be too great.

There is no historical comparison with any parliament in modern times, even the Tories "Sleaze" crisis in the 90s. This is a full-blown constitutional crisis, so Labour's majority is irrelevant. I give them till the end of the year. Tops. This government is like a rotting tree. It won't fall from without, it will collapse from within.

MH said...

Time will tell, Draig. I agree that we have a real crisis, and I also agree that "wiping the slate clean" would seem to be an easy way out of the crisis ... but actually wouldn't achieve anything in the way of real change.

From an electoral point of view, I'd be very pleased to see an early election. Labour will do badly and Plaid would pick up their target seats ... and would even be in with a shout of winning places like Neath because of Peter Hain's record of financial "irregularities", and the Rhondda because of Chris Bryant.

But what's happening now is the sign of a greater malaise with politics. This is just the straw that broke the camel's back. In my opinion real reform must lie first and foremost with getting a fair voting system, so that the House of Commons fairly represents the percentages that actually vote for each party. All the other problems, such as Parliament being able to hold government to account, stem from the fact that the FPTP voting system gives a minority party an unfair artificial majority in the HoC, which allows it to push through whatever legislation it likes.

But the chances of getting that sort of reform are virtually zero ... unless we happen to get a hung parliament where, if the LibDems are worth anything, they will insist on it as the bottom line price of any deal.

The current Labour government will simply go into "bunker mode". Gordon Brown is nothing if not stubborn. I'm trying to persuade Labour that they do still have something worth fighting for in Wales: namely to deliver on their commitment regarding a referendum ... while they still have the opportunity to do so.

For me, securing an Assembly with primary lawmaking powers while we have this chance to do so is much more important than Plaid picking up a couple of unexpected bonus seats in an early general election. Labour are going to slump so badly that the Tories will be in power in Westminster for at least two, if not three terms. That means we in Wales would have to wait another ten or fifteen years before we get another chance.

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