The real story from Glasgow North East

12:11 pm - November 14th 2009

by Septicisle    

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The story of the Glasgow North East by-election is not that Labour won an overwhelming victory, although it would have been if they’d lost, in what is a modern rotten borough for the party. It also isn’t that the Conservatives received only 1,075 votes, or indeed that the British National Party was only 62 votes behind, although it might be if Chris Dillow’s observation that heroin is probably more popular than the Tories was more widely disseminated.

Nor is it that unsurprisingly, being a “celebrity”, isn’t an automatic vote winner: John Smeaton got 258 ballots while Mikey Hughes, a former Big Brother contestant, got 54. It also isn’t, although it’s again interesting, that the Socialist Labour vote completely collapsed on the 2005 result, when they got an astounding 4,036 votes, down this time to an appalling 47, most likely because Labour was on the ballot when it wasn’t previously as a result of Michael Martin standing as the “Speaker”.

The real story ought to be the catastrophically low turnout, a derisory 32.9% (Wikipedia has it as 33.2%). This can’t be blamed on the lack of choice: all the main parties stood, as well as three various socialist sects, the BNP, three independents, and the Greens.

While turnouts at by-elections are usually lower than at a general election, you might have thought it would have been the opposite in this instance, as there was far more choice on the ballot than previously due to the main opposition parties traditionally not standing against the Speaker, with their voters coming out this time when they might not have bothered previously. Instead it dropped from 45.8% in 2005, which was already well below the average of 61%.

Did the expenses scandal have any impact? Unlikely. Instead it seems that the people of Glasgow North East, who were already poor before the recession, have lost all faith in politicians of every colour and creed. The only reassuring thing is that the British National Party didn’t do better than their 1,013 votes. The current consensus is that the turnout is likely to go up next year when there is an actual, genuine alternative to the current government: Glasgow North East might yet prove to be the rule, not the exception.

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About the author
'Septicisle' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He mostly blogs, poorly, over at on politics and general media mendacity.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Labour party ,Local Government ,Westminster

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Reader comments

Could it also be due to the fact that the people of Glasgow were going to elect an MP for, like, 6 months- hence quite a pointlessly costly exercise?

The story of the Glasgow North East by-election is not that Labour won an overwhelming victory, although it would have been if they’d lost


What’s the point? What’s the f****** point? I love voting, I find it an affirming experience but what’s my choice? 3 real possibilities, 3 whipped parties with liberal-capitalist policies that I wholeheartedly reject. Of course the turn out’s low because our options are a government that’s pumped out semi-Thatcherite policy for a decade and has happily screwed the school system, looks to privatise the NHS at every turn and introduced paid university education. They have done nothing to confine the level of debt people in their 20s and 30s ring up. Then there’s the Conservative party who will probably condemn us to a prolonged recession, will privatise more intensely and have a bunch of privileged incompetents in charge who have never budgeted in their lives. London is our best example of the hit the country is going to take if they’re elected. The Liberal Democrats might provide a local choice but barely effect parliament and are run by a self important oaf. The turn out isn’t a story because it’s obvious why people aren’t bothering.

I’d like to second that eh’, Sy.

It was a by-election in one of the safest seats in the country. I’m amazed that 32.9% of the electorate bothered to vote.

Yes, well, I didn’t maybe phrase that as well as I could have, but I’m sure you get the point.

I hope this is not the precedent set for the General Election, low turn outs are a destructive pattern that seems hard to break and enables more fringe parties to sneek in and do damage, like the BNP, without them increasing the number of votes they get, like the 09 EU Elections and the 04 EU elections when they did better in the two seats they won in 04 than 09.

Isn’t it interesting that the “real story” of any election result is *always* happens to fit in with the author’s political viewpoint. Couple of points:

1. You obviously don’t know what the term “rotten borough” meant. But then again most people who try to use it in a contemporary context don’t.

2. It’s not really surprising that the turnout was low, or even especially significant. More candidates on the ballot does not mean more choice for voters – most people in this part of Glasgow would only ever vote Labour and most of the rest vote SNP. All other parties are (in this part of Glasgow) fringe parties and joke parties. For a by-election in which the result was a foregone conclusion, the turnout wasn’t so bad, really – compare with similar constituencies in England over the past decade or so.

If the expenses scandal was a genuine factor it might well have led to people staying at home thinking all politicians are the same. There can hardly have been sympathy for the new Lord Martin of Springburn who has moved up to the House of Lords with a huge pension.

There was obviously some level of electoral fraud, this was only supposed to have affected a few people but who knows? Will the marked up registers disappear as happened in Glenrothes after another suspiciously large Labour win?

Labour also played their divide ‘n’ rule card, rather than protestants vs catholics, or Britain vs Ireland they came up with Edinburgh vs Glasgow on the back of the decision to stop the Glasgow rail link. This was actually necessitated by budget cuts from Westminster. Neither Edinburgh or Glasgow Airports have rail links, though they would have years ago if Scotland had had its fair share of public investment.

They also drafted in activists from all over Britain, something they won’t be able to do in six months time.

Joe – we won’t have unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud from people who are bitter at losing elections on here.

So provide some evidence to back up your claims, please, or the comment is going in the bin.

Voting fraud

Mr Martin – now Lord Martin – held Glasgow North East in the 2005 General Election with a 10,134 vote majority.

It has emerged that police are investigating two alleged incidents of voting fraud in the contest.

Council chiefs said the investigation involved three ballot papers – two cast at a ballot box at one polling station in the Dennistoun area and another cast at another polling station in the same area.

A council spokesman said: “We had two incidents at polling stations where voters turned up and when they identified themselves they were told their names had already been scored off the list – somebody had been given a vote in their name.”

He continued: “We checked our processes to ensure it wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t as far as we can see, so we called in the police.”

He said officers were investigating “alleged personation”.

The official register of all those who voted in the crucial Glenrothes by-election in November was lost within days of being handed over to the sheriff clerk in Kirkcaldy, it has been revealed.

THE official register of all those who voted in the crucial Glenrothes by-election in November was lost within days of being handed over by the returning officer to the sheriff clerk in Kirkcaldy, it has been revealed.

The loss has prompted an investigation by the Scottish Court Service, but Tricia Marwick, the SNP MSP for Central Fife, yesterday called for an independent inquiry.

“The marked registers are an essential element of any election campaign. They allow a check of who voted, but not how they voted, to confirm that the election was conducted properly,” she said.

“Without these records there is no evidence of either a fair or unfair election and that undermines the confidence of everyone who took part.”

She added: “It is almost beyond belief that a by- election which attracted media coverage throughout the UK, which delivered a surprise result and had a much higher turnout than anticipated now has no records to show who actually voted.

“There now needs to be the fullest independent inquiry.”

*Two* possible personations does not a rigged election make. And as for Glenrothes… the election was administered by Fife council. Fife council has a largely SNP leadership. And, the main point, in both elections the Labour victory was on a scale that the election result could not have been decided by fraud.

Well it all fits. If you look at tory performance in Scotland in recent years there are only two possibilities: either there is massive fraud going on or the Scottish conservative Party is less popular than syphilis.

Obviously it must be fraud.

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