In the 2010 and 2015 Westminster elections the Tories in Airdrie consistently polled around 7 or 8% of the vote, somewhere in the region of 3,200 votes. If there was one thing that Ruth Davidson did well, it was to identify her market. Right wing, traditionalist, pro-military British Nationalists. Step forward the Orange Order. ‘Colonel’ Davidson appealed to them and motivated them to rally to the Tories, a move which saw the Tory vote in Airdrie almost treble in 2017 and saw their candidate take almost 9,000 votes. So successful was this tactic that it took voters from the Labour Party and saw Neil Gray of the SNP take the seat with a majority of only 195. It did not go unnoticed among them that had they stayed with Labour they would have unseated the SNP candidate. They haven’t had long to wait and that lesson is still fresh in their memory.
Well organised and secretive with an extensive network of contacts, the above image and others like it are now being aggressively shared on social media and the Loyalists are being asked to be a bit less, well, loyal. It’s being accompanied by sentiment such as “hold your nose and vote Labour” because having spent years convincing themselves that Jeremy Corbyn is an IRA supported they now find themselves having to back him to oust the SNP. If successful it could see potentially thousands of votes switch from the Tories to Labour and could hand the seat to them, and is likely to be successfil given that the head of the Orange Order in Scotland is a Labour councillor in Airdrie.
Neil Gray’s only chance of retaining the seat now lies in the hands of the people who he failed to motivate last time, almost 10,000 voters who simply dropped away over a period of two years for reasons unknown. Outspent and outgunned by Labour last time in terms of manpower, things have not improved greatly and the restrictive nature of the campaign will not help. At present he has failed to meet his very low crowdfunding target which does not bode well as this campaign is all about leafleting and social media advertising. Without activists parties rely on paid for mailshots delivered by Royal Mail, not a problem to dark money Tories and Union funded Labour, but a real issue to an MP who can draw on neither of those. As an MP with a significant salary you might think that a fair chunk of that would be tucked away for such occasions. All will be revealed after the election, but in all likelihood Labour will again come out on top of the spending chart, followed by the SNP, with the Tories third and Lib-Dems and Greens at the coo’s tail. With the Lib-Dems spending a massive £88 last time (yes, really- £88!) the Greens should manage to outspend them at least, even though both are likely to lose their deposits.