Saturday, 1 May 2010

A Look @: Clackmannanshire, Perth and Kinross and Stirling

Stirling constituency matches its local government boundaries exactly. Perth and Kinross is separated into two constituencies, sharing the second constituency with the entirety of the Clackmannanshire council (Clacks for short).




Swing Needed



Ochil and South Perthshire

Gordon Banks




SNP Gain

Perth and North Perthshire

Pete Wishart




SNP Hold


Anne McGuire




LAB Hold


Ochil and South Perthshire covers the tiny council of Clacks and about a third of Perth and Kinross. Clackmannanshire council is dominated by the SNP and Labour. At the last local election the SNP got 38.1%, Labour got 37.8%, the Conservatives got 10.8% and the Lib Dems got 5.2%, which produced a result of 7 SNP councillors, 8 Labour, and 1 councillor for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats a piece, with a single independent. The part of Perth and Kinross that is within the seat, however, is dominated by Lib Dems and Conservatives, albeit with a significant minority of nationalist support. Labour MP Gordon Banks is an unassuming sort. A typical Labour backbencher Banks has had very little to do with government, but has remained loyal over the years. He also had no trouble with his expenses. Banks is highly unfortunate, however, in that he holds SNP target number 1, and SNP candidate, Annabelle Ewing, requires only a 0.8% swing to defeat Banks. Annabelle Ewing is as SNP as they come, coming from a SNP political dynasty. Her mother, Winifred Ewing was the SNP's first ever MP, winning the 1967 Hamilton by-election, a breakthrough moment in Scottish nationalist history. Winifred went on to serve as a MEP and as a MSP, and served as SNP President. As the oldest MSP it was her duty to open the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Annabelle's brother is a MSP as was his wife (now sadly deceased). Annabelle herself was the MP for Perth until 2005, when the seat was abolished due to redistricting. She ran in this seat in 2005, so she will be familiar to the locals. The Lib Dem bounce appears to be affecting Labour more than the SNP in Scotland, and a win by Banks would be a real swim against the tide. All in all I think this is a very likely SNP Gain.

Perth and North Perthshire is an odd seat; a SNP/Conservative marginal in an election where neither has had a particularly positive campaign north of the border. The Perth and Kinross council which this seat is entirely within, is led by a SNP-Lib Dem coalition. On 37.2% of the vote the SNP received 18 councillors, to 12 councillors for the Conservatives who received 12. The Lib Dems got 19.7% and Labour got 8.5% to get 8 and 3 councillors each. Wishart has been a MP since 2001 when he won the constituency of North Tayside, since abolished. North Tayside, much of which is in this seat, was held by John Swinney. Swinney was leader of the SNP in the early 2000s, and has remained prominent. He represents the North Tayside seat in the Scottish Parliament and serves as head of the Finance and Sustainable Growth super-department in the Scottish Executive. Swinney will no doubt be prominent in the local campaign, which can only help Wishart. The Conservative candidate is Peter Lyburn who has a serious problem on his plate in the form of Douglas Taylor. Taylor was the Conservative candidate in 2005 and is running on the ticket of the Trust Party. The Trust Party is a new party backed by a former Tory donor. It appears well funded and well run and primarily campaigns on a populist anti-politics message. While they are only running candidates in two constituencies, I suspect Taylor will be prominent on the ground. Taylor may not even keep his deposit, but he will most certainly take votes from the Conservatives, and even a few percent may be enough to greatly damage Lyburn. The Lib Dem surge will also suck up moderates who may have otherwise voted Conservative and I can see Labour voters tactically voting for the SNP to keep the Conservatives out. Despite the wafer-thin majority and poor SNP campaign I think this one is certain to be a SNP hold.

Stirling is held by Labour MP Anne McGuire. In 1997 she unseated a Conservative MP, Michael Forsyth, who was Secretary for Scotland at the time. Stirling is emblematic of the sort of seat that the Conservatives lost in 1997 to the massive Labour wave and which they would desperately like to win back. McGuire has lost votes at every election since (from 47.4% in 1997 down to 36% in 2005) but the Conservatives have also been losing out (32.5% down to 25.1%), and there has been a fair Lib Dem rise. However despite that I think this is primarily a Labour/Conservative battle. McGuire has no big expenses worries, so this will probably be a fairly 'national' campaign in scope. The last local elections in Stirling were a popular vote triumph for the SNP, who won 29.2% and seven seats, but Labour won eight seats for 28.2%, with the Conservatives getting 25.3% and 4 councillors and 11.5% of the vote netted the Lib Dems 3 seats. Nonetheless, I am cynical about the chances of the SNP coming from fourth to take the seat, and this probably reflects the good performance of the SNP in the Scottish Parliamentary elections on the same day. However, it could point to a strong anti-Labour vote in Scotland and the SNP are sometimes, slightly unfairly, referred to as the 'Tartan Tories' by their Labour enemies. There is some truth in this however, in that the SNP and Scottish Conservatives do have a crossover in terms of supporters sometimes, but if SNP voters tactically vote it is hard to say how they will break. The Conservative candidate Bob Dalrymple is a marketing executive in the whiskey industry. He has previously contested the Stirling constituency in the Scottish Parliament where he lost 1.4% of the vote as the SNP were propelled from third to win the seat. While there appears to be a strong anti-Labour vote in Stirling, my suspicion is that it may split amongst the parties, and that Labour will hold by the skin of their teeth.


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