From Sky NewsThe night of the 12th December into the 13th was a long and eventful one. As I was following the Scottish coverage I missed just how many big names went in our southern neighbours electoral battlefields. It was a night of big surprises, but in other ways delivered just what I expected.
What I expected was a Tory majority and that was exactly what the outcome was. Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” message was simple and repetitive and no attention was paid by many to the devil in the detail.
Corbynism is now dead and gone and we can “look forward” to another two or three Conservative governments before we get any kind of reprieve. Anyone who still believes that another Labour government is just round the corner really does need their head examined.
The SNP did exceptionally well in Scotland, better than I had expected to be honest. I was delighted to see Jo Swinson gone, and it will be interesting to see how much money the Lib-Dems threw at that seat.
Locally the SNP also did better than I expected. In Coatbridge Hugh “Two-Jobs” Gaffney became merely Hugh Gaffney as Stevie Bonnar took the seat back for the SNP, despite the ongoing infighting in the branch. In Airdrie the SNP’s Neil Gray saw off the challenge of Helen McFarlane of the Labour Party, and did so comfortably. Early in the campaign I had stated that the SNP lost around 10,00 votes between 2015-2017 and this was partially due to their failure to motivate those who had previously supported them to get out and vote. That’s not a mistake that was repeated this time, with Nicola Sturgeon making a number of high profile references to Indyref 2020. This wasn’t really repeated in local leafleting though and I thought this may be a weakness. It wasn’t perceived as such.
There was also much effort on social media at organising and directing tactical voting. Former Labour MP and now Scotland in Union Chief Executive Pamela Nash was the main proponent of this with her Tactical Voting Advisor being used to advise British Nationalists which way to vote. Such was the volume of chatter that I saw it as likely that if the SNP failed to enthuse it’s lapsed support then the Labour Party would be the beneficiary of those who had stated they were going to “hold their nose and vote Labour (in reference to Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged IRA support). So what happened?
Firstly, let’s look at turnout. In 2017 Airdrie and Shotts had 64,146 registered voters. In 2019 that had DROPPED to 64,008! That’s not much, but you would expect the registered electorate to rise, not fall. In the great scheme of things it’s not much, but then again it’s not far off Neil Gray’s majority in 2017. Of those registered 39,772 voted in 2019, up on 2017’s 38,002. So, with an extra 1770 voters turning out, how were those votes carved up?
The SNP increased their vote by 3,638.
Labour lost 1,368 votes overall.
The Tories lost 1,802 votes.
The Lib-Dems increased their vote by 617.
The Greens took 685 votes (didn’t stand previously).
Given that it’s unlikely that voters would switch from pro-Indy/Anti-Brexit SNP to anti-Indy/anti-Brexit Lib-Dems, we might see much of the Lib-Dem increase coming from Labour/Tory voters who were against Brexit.
We can probably put much of the remaining Tory loss down to tactical voting for Labour, and this could mean around 1,500 votes went to what they viewed rightly as the SNP’s main challenger.
Which begs the question: what happened to the Labour vote? If we assume that around 1,500 votes were lent by the Tories, then Labour retained around 11,200 votes from 2015, dropping almost 2,900 votes somewhere along the way. Were those voters simply not energised by Jeremy Corbyn this time round? Did they stay at home and not bother voting at all? Or did they switch to the SNP and Greens? Those are questions which Labour will no doubt be asking, but which the SNP must also ask too. Because they need to know whether their rise in this election came from lapsed supporters or people who switched from their constitutional opponents, and if it’s the latter, have they changed their mind on the constitutional question?
As for Labour, they need to ask the same question and decide where their future lies. At the head of the party is a wounded leadership still resolved to backing the union, but how much of the remaining rank and file are now open to independence?
And what of my predictions? I saw the British Nationalist tactical voting coming and had turnout followed similar lines at 2017 Labour would have comfortably taken the seat. What I didn’t see was the total collapse of the Labour vote which rendered the tactical voting null and void. Time will tell whether they rebuild to former levels or not. I wouldn’t put money on it though.