…or why no-one can be completely happy.
At any other time, Labour wouldn’t have to worry. A by-election in Kirkcaldy East (deepest Brown territory) cause by the resignation of an SNP councillor because of interesting business dealings in Austria. In 2012, the result was clear: Labour Candidates got just shy of 50% of the vote compared to the SNP’s 36.4%. Labour had half the electorate behind them. Easy, right:
In the end it was the SNP who were victorious – bagging 47.3% of the vote and Labour falling back to the 35% mark. This should leave SNP folk buoyant, they’ve just won a seat that they should have really lost. That’s true, but in the longer term, there are other considerations that might not make it quite so joyous.
Firstly let’s quickly look at the state of the ‘other’ parties:
- The Tories: Slight increase in %age support, but nothing big. It’s most likely down to the traditional low by-election turnout.
- The Lib Dems: Disaster. The Lib Dems have lost yet another by-election deposit and only lost a whole 2/3’s of their 2012 support. They also managed to get only a 1/3rd of the votes UKIP did. That itself is a terrible result.
- The Greens and UKIP: Both of the “minor” parties didn’t stand in 2012, so any support they got would be a gain for them. Both also lost their deposit but the greens narrowly (by 9 votes) pipped UKIP – based on polls, it should have been the other way around.
So having dealt with the minor parties, the swing here is important. For the SNP to win there had to be a LAB>SNP swing of 7%. They managed to bash straight through that got a swing of c.12.8%. Even on the low turnout – that’s a pretty good result. But, it possibly should have been better.
The most recent polling is placing the SNP lead somewhere around 20-25%. In 2010, LAB’s vote lead was 22% – meaning there has been a c.20% swing since the last General Election. Yet, in the by-election, the swing was only 13%. And this difference is significant. Come May, the SNP need a swing form Labour of 15% to really do substantial damage to Labour. 15% would see them take 20 seats from Labour. 13% would only give them 11 gains…which is not what the SNP are preparing themselves for. So while Thursday’s by-election sin was a good result on the night, more needs to be done if the SNP tidal wave is to strike in May.
Obviously, there are lots of caveats that must be made. It was a by-election last Thursday, which always suffer from decreased turnouts. A council election is not a Westminster election, so different factors can be at play. But, as a friend on twitter put it, this by-election can serve as a “straw in the wind” to give the general direction of travel, if not a precise landing point.
There are still 3 months to go until The General Election, and lots more is bound to happen that will change people’s minds…but as things stand, neither the SNP nor Labour can be truly happy with how things are.