Friday, 16 April 2010

Look @: Edinburgh

Edinburgh is more affluent than the larger Glasgow. It also has a keen intellectual tradition, as one of the centres of the Enlightenment, the philosophical revolution of the eighteenth century. It is similarly famed for Edinburgh Festival. Edinburgh is in the midst of the Lothians region of Scotland on the East. As befitting an affluent Scottish city the Liberal Democrats are strong in Edinburgh, though in terms of parliamentary seats it, like most of Scotland, is dominated by Labour. The Lib Dems hold one of the five seats and are competitive in three more and will be keenly watching the city on election night. The last election gave the Lib Dems 17 seats, Labour 15 seats, the SNP 12, the Conservatives 11 and the Scottish Green Party got 3 councillors. In the Scottish Parliament Labour and the Lib Dems hold 2 constituencies a piece to 1 for the Conservatives and SNP.




Swing Needed



Edinburgh East

Gavin Strang





LAB Hold

Edinburgh North and Leith

Mark Lazarowicz





LD Gain

Edinburgh South

Nigel Griffiths






LD Gain

Edinburgh South West

Alistair Darling




LAB Hold

Edinburgh West

John Barrett




LD Hold

Edinburgh East is a three way marginal. Labour held, it is Liberal Democrat target number 60 and SNP target number 6. Only two wards on Edinburgh council are entirely within Edinburgh East, irritatingly they both elected 1 SNP, 1 Lib Dem and 1 Labour councillor a piece in 2007. Current MP Gavin Strang is standing down. He is Scotland's longest serving MP, having been first elected in 1970 and served as a junior minister under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, he was also briefly Minister for Transport directly after Labour's 1997 win. Since then he has been an occasional rebel, rebelling over Iraq and campaigning against plans to privatise air traffic control. Slightly more eccentrically he is also Chair of the House of Commons 'All-Party Group for World Government'. Gavin Strang was told he would not have to repay any expenses and therefore this shouldn't be an issue in the local campaign. The Labour candidate is Sheila Gilmore, a former councillor for eighteen years, turned 2007 Scottish Parliament candidate (losing to Conservative MSP David Letchie). The Liberal Democrats candidate is Beverley Hope, and 'Hope for Edinburgh East' will no doubt look great on the leaflets!. The SNP candidate is George Kerevan, Associate Editor of the Scotsman, Scotland's second best selling broadsheet newspaper. This will no doubt mean he gains a much larger amount of attention than would normally be the case. The higher profile SNP candidate is reflected in Ladbroke's odds: 11/4 to 12/1 for the Lib Dems. Also in the SNP's favour is the fact that the Edinburgh East and Musselburgh constituency which is roughly equivalent to this seat is held by SNP member Kenny MacAskill, Scottish Minister for Justice and a former SNP deputy leader at Holyrood. MacAskill was responsible for authorising the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet Al Megrahi, the Lockerbie Bomber. Spoiling things a bit for Kerevan is Robin Harper who is standing for the Scottish Green Party (which is a separate party from the Green Party of England and Wales). Robin Harper was co-convenor (co-leader) of the SGP until 2008, he was also the first Green MSP elected in 1998. In the Scottish Parliament the Greens have been a notable force, holding seven MSPs between 2003 and 2007. The Greens are now down to two MSPs, but Harper remains one of them and the SGP has a deal with the SNP. The maths is also such that the SGP can often be the deciding vote on legislation, and they managed to derail the SNP's budget recently, giving Harper a strong profile within the parliament. The SGP is capable of pulling votes from Labour, Lib Dem and SNP alike but ideologically their mixture of left-wing views and support for an independent Scotland places them closer to the SNP. Nonetheless Harper is incredibly unlikely to win, but he may very well improve on the SGP's 5.7% showing in 2005 which could be detrimental to the SNP. All in all this will come down to a SNP/Labour fight, however the behaviour of Lib Dem and Tory voters is key. They may stick with their party, tactically vote SNP to be rid of Labour, or tactically vote Labour out of fear of the SNP. There is also a problem in that the SNP and Lib Dems may wind up splitting the anti-Labour vote, or that Labour and the Lib Dems may split the anti-SNP vote. This is an extremely complex seat with a multitude of variables flying around, but amongst all the confusion I think the edge is with Labour, though I shall personally be looking out for this seat on election night as I think it is one of the most interesting in all the UK. Labour hold.

Edinburgh North and Leith is the seat of Mark Lazarowicz. Lazarowicz, the son of a Polish draughtsman, may have made a bit of a mess of things in response to the expenses scandal. First he promised to pay back half of the £5,000 he received for legal fees for an extension on his London flat, saying that the amount was "much higher than the public would accept". Then he claimed that repaying the money was an "overreaction" claiming "Why on earth am I bothering to pay back the money? That's actually the view which has come back from a large number of people I have been in contact with." His expenses claims on their own would not have been too much of an issue, but this apparent flip-flop on the issue will look negative to his constituents. Add into the mix that this seat is Liberal Democrat target number 17 and Mark Lazarowicz is fighting for his political life. The roughly equivalent Edinburgh North and Leith Scottish Parliamentary constituency is held by Labour. The Liberal Democrat candidate is Kevin Lang, a former assistant to former Lib Dem Edinburgh MP John Barrett, who needs only to secure a 2.5% swing from the Labour Party. Lang's website features a youtube video of him. I feel he comes across well, and if he can project the same thing on the doorstep he will do well. Spoiling Lang's parade is John Hein, candidate for the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is a remnant of the old Liberal Party who objected to the merger with the Social Democratic Party which formed the Liberal Democrat Party in 1988. Typically the party only performs well in Liverpool, but it could act as a spoiler. Not only is the Liberal Party ideologically similar to the Liberal Democrats, coming from the same ideological heritage, it has also been occasionally suggested that voters are liable to mix up the party with the Lib Dems at the ballot box. The Liberals have not run here before so I have no idea what their impact may be. Conservative Ian McGill and SNP candidate Calum Cashley are also in with a chance, but possible spoiler aside I think this seat is pretty likely to go Liberal Democrat. Lib Dem gain.

Edinburgh South is our second three-way marginal in Edinburgh, and the ninth most marginal seat in the UK. It is also Lib Dem target seat number 5. The Lib Dems need just 405 votes here, equivalent to only a 0.5% swing from Labour. The current MP is Nigel Griffiths who has been a friend of Gordon Brown since 1976, meeting him at University. When he became a MP in 1987 he defeated Michael Ancram, who was re-elected to parliament from the Devizes constituency in Wiltshire in 1992, which he continues to represent to this day, who subsequently served as deputy leader under Michael Howard. Griffiths got himself into a double bit of scandal in recent years managing to be embroiled in the expenses scandal, claiming £3,600 for a TV, Digital radio and DVD player which he justified with the need to watch Scottish TV and listen to Scottish radio in his London flat. The fees office refused this offer, however, claiming that "more reasonably priced options" existed. He also claimed expenses for three separate redecorations in 2 years. He was also accused of having cheated on his wife of 30 years, having sex with another woman in Parliament. Labour candidate Ian Murray, is a local councillor, would have trouble holding the seat on the best day, but considering his predecessor's misdeamnors and the nationwide momentum against Labour, Murray will be lucky to come second, as the Conservatives are also within a 4.5% swing of Labour. Ladbrokes gives both the Lib Dems and Conservatives higher odds than Labour in this seat! As such it is not so much a question of whether Labour will hold the seat, as this looks very unlikely indeed, but who Labour will lose the seat to. The roughly equivalent Edinburgh South seat is held by the Lib Dems at Holyrood. Liberal Democrat candidate Fred MacKintosh is a local councillor and the Lib Dems are billing him as a "local champion" language that bears striking resemblance to SNP campaign literature. The Conservatives have the largest number of councillors in Edinburgh South however and Conservative candidate Neil Hudson, a vet, will fight hard for the seat. Ultimately the seat comes down to a Liberal Democrat/Conservative fight with Labour almost certain to come third, however the Lib Dems will be targeting the seat particularly hard, and they are more likely to benefit from Labour defections and I feel they are more likely to win this three cornered fight. Lib Dem gain.

Edinburgh South West is the constituency of Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling. In these times of economic distress Darling has become a familiar face on our television screens and as part of Labour's campaign. Standing in Darling's seat is Colin Fox, a joint national spokesman of the Scottish Socialist Party, a far-left outfit which contains a large number of Trotskyists and which at its height had 6 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. Unfortunately for Fox the resulting fallout from the scandal surrounding the life of the SSP's most prominent member, Tommy Sheridan resulted in the devastation of the SSP, and the SSP is not the force it once was. Nonetheless Fox will no doubt fight a visible and high profile campaign and may act as a spoiler on Labour's left, though I personally suspect he will lose his deposit. Darling has generally been well received in his time as Chancellor, being seen as honest, dependable and competent. Jason Rust, the Conservative candidate, is a local councillor and a solicitor. Normally the 8.3% swing Rust needs to win Edinburgh South West would be a possibility, albeit an unlikely one for a Conservative candidate, but against one of the highest profile and most popular members of the Labour frontbench I am afraid Rust is unlikely to find much success. Labour hold.

Edinburgh West is the only seat currently held by the Liberal Democrats in Edinburgh. At the same time it is also the safest seat in Edinburgh and the second safest Lib Dem seat in Britain. Lib Dem John Barrett held the seat with 49.6% of the vote in 2005, a majority of 30% over his Conservative opponent David Brogan. Currently Barrett is Work and Pensions spokesman for the Lib Dems. Barrett has stepped down from the seat, despite being only 55, saying that he wanted a "fresh challenge". Lib Dem candidate Mike Crockart is the runaway favourite. Crockart is a former policeman, and fought the Edinburgh North and Leith Scottish Parliamentary constituency in 2007. His greatest threat is Conservative candidate Stewart Geddes, a former councillor. If you'd like to know more about Geddes, he has his own blog. While I suspect Geddes will cut into the Lib Dem majority, I cannot see him getting the 15% swing he requires to win. Lib Dem hold.

1 comment:

  1. I think we could be looking at a SNP gain in Edinburgh East. George Kerevan has been running an energetic campaign with some amount of colour and momentum. Labour's campaign while glossy (I'm talking leflets) is at times reacting to the SNP campaign. The Labour candidate has two strikes against her - whe a councillor her plan to transfer council housing was rejected by tenants many of whom live in Edinburgh East, she also failed to convince locals in the Seafield/Leith Links area that the Council could act to address the odour from the Seafield sewage works - that was left to the SNp's Kenny MacAskill and the SNP/LD council.
    The Libdems should be discounted in this race despite the Clegg bounce - they have no campaign as they are all in Edin South or North & Leith where I reckon your calls are good.