Sunday, 1 May 2011

Scotland Votes: Glasgow Part 1: Northern Glasgow

This post simply covers the seats roughly in Glasgow's North. The Southern seats are here and Rutherglen, and the regional seats are here.

It is a statement of Glasgow’s size as a city that it is so close to forming a Scottish Parlimentary region on its own. One seat in the region – Rutherglen is outside the council area of Glasgow itself, the remaining 8 seats all sit within Glasgow proper. Of course like all big cities, Glasgow is a beast that in many ways extends far beyond its borders and parts of the neighbouring regions can certainly be labelled as part of the metropolitan area.

Glasgow is Britain’s third biggest city, and the largest in Scotland, with a population of about 600,000, an urban area of 1.7 million and a metropolitan area of about 2.2 million. The area suffers massive inequalities, a 2008 WHO report found male life expectancy varying from 54 in Calton, Central Glasgow, to 82 in Lenzie, just outside the city. At Westminster Glasgow is a Labour Party stronghold, indeed Glasgow is perhaps Labour’s strongest area of the entire UK. Labour does not only hold all seven of Glasgow’s Westminster seats but only got below 50% of the vote in one of them (they got 44.5% in Glasgow North). In their best result they got 68.3% in Glasgow North East.

Things are a little less solid for Labour at Holyrood, but the party remains overwhelmingly dominant. After holding all 10 constituency seats in 1999 and 2003 they lost a single seat to the SNP’s Deputy Leader, Nicola Sturgeon, in 2007. That seat has returned to notional Labour control (barely) with boundary changes. In this post we’ll be looking at the four seats roughly in Glasgow’s North.




Swing Required

First Elected

Glasgow Anniesland

Bill Butler




Lab Lean

Glasgow Kelvin

Pauline McNeill




SNP Lean

Glasgow Maryhill & Springburn

Patricia Ferguson




Lab Lean

Glasgow Provan

Paul Martin




Lab Safe

Glasgow Anniesland is the seat of Bill Butler, who has held this seat since a 2000 by-election. He is also Shadow Minister for Sport. He is a committed member of the CND and has previously voted against his party on nuclear weapons issues. He also stood for the deputy leadership of his party in 2008. He got 40% of the vote across Labour’s electoral college, losing to fellow Glasgow MSP Johann Lamont. Butler lost to Lamont in all three parts of the electoral college but performed best in the trade unionist portion of the vote and worst in the MPs, MSPs and MEPs section. Based on current polls the 10.1% swing necessary for the SNP to take this seat is not outside the realms of possibility, but fairly unlikely. The SNP’s candidate, Bill Kidd, is a regional MSP in Glasgow. He’s a bit of a perennial candidate having represented the party in Holyrood and Westminster constituencies before. He is also on the party NEC. Beyond that he seems like a perfectly competent MSP and candidate but not like anyone who’s ever really set the world on fire. If the SNP win this seat it will be a function of their overall popularity not Kidd in my view. What’s more, local SNP activists no doubt have better fish to fry. Clearly, a Labour lean.

Glasgow Kelvin is more of the aforementioned fish, and a highly unpredictable fish it is too. Incumbent MSP Pauline McNeill won this seat with only 33.5% of the vote in 2007 as seven candidates split the vote between them. Notably the Scottish Greens stood in this seat (the only constituency seat they did stand in) and got 12.6%, on the old boundaries, coming third. The Lib Dems also got 12.1%. Considering the Greens are not standing in the seat again and the travails of the Liberal Democrats I think it is safe to say that there is a large vote here waiting to be squeezed. I should also note that this seat is a student seat. All three of Glasgow’s Universities, University of Glasgow, Strathclyde, and Glasgow Caledonian are within the seat. It is also the most prosperous Glasgow, both features which explain the low Labour vote and the strong Green performance. Incumbent MSP Pauline McNeil has held this seat since 1999 and is currently a member of Labour’s Shadow team. She has something of a way with words, Her 2007 victory speech was criticised as somewhat incoherent, and once stating of a local hospital that "They will take the maternity services away from the Queen Mother’s Maternity Hospital over my dead body.” Such passion, however, might be to her advantage. Her opponent is Sandra White, a long-time local SNP representative. She was a councillor for 10 years before being elected as a regional MSP in Glasgow in 1999. Since then White has contested this seat at every Holyrood election. She ran her opponent close in 2007, but its unclear how much this is down to Labour votes going to the Greens. That said, boundary changes have reduced McNeill’s notional majority and the polls currently heavily favour the SNP, indeed a uniform swing would see the SNP take this seat. The real deciding factor, however, will be where Green and Lib Dem voters go. My feeling is that with the way the campaign has gone and the state of the current polls they are more likely to go the SNP than Labour, especially with the more affluent and student base in this seat. That said Glasgow Kelvin has repeatedly failed to vote for Sandra White in the past, and I may be proven wrong. Nonetheless, I think this one is a SNP lean.

Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn is essentially a merging of two seats, Glasgow Maryhill, and Glasgow Springburn. Both were fairly solid Labour seats, with Springburn being particularly safe. Maryhill’s MSP Patricia Ferguson takes over this new seat. She served as Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister in the Labour/Lib Dem coalition executive from 2004 until 2007. She left the Shadow Cabinet after 2007, however. Her SNP opponent is Bob Doris, a regional MSP since 2003. He fought Glasgow Maryhill in 2007. At the time he achieved a fairly impressive swing, almost doubling his party’s vote, though he may have been aided by the absence of the Scottish Socialist Party who had come third in the prior election. As with Ferguson’s husband, Bill Butler in Glasgow Anniesland, the 8.6% swing necessary to take this seat is not out of question, but more than slightly unlikely. Labour lean.

Glasgow Provan’s Paul Martin is the son of Michael Martin, the former Commons speaker. Martin was a councillor in Glasgow from 1993, when he was just 26 and has represented Glasgow Springburn since 1999. A prominent member of his party he is a fixture on the Scottish Labour frontbench, a former Shadow Justice Minister who now serves as Iain Gray’s Chief of Staff. His new seat is notionally Labour’s safest in Glasgow. He is up against another SNP list MSP, however, Anne McLaughlin. That said McLaughlin is probably the weakest SNP candidate here, as she has only been a list MSP since 2009, following the sad death of list MSP Bashir Ahmad. She contested Glasgow Springburn in 2007, however, so she isn’t totally unfamiliar with campaigning or voters. As well as the SNP are polling and as badly as the Labour Party are doing I think it’s safe to say that if the Labour Party lose a seat as safe as Glasgow Provan then there will have been a total realignment in Scottish politics. It’s just not really likely to happen.


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