Local elections: What Labour’s victory in Glasgow tells us

Glasgow City Chambers
Glasgow City Chambers. Picture: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Glasgow City Chambers
Glasgow City Chambers. Picture: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

It tells you something about the state of Labour in Scotland that stopping the SNP taking control of Glasgow City Council is seen as a triumph.

How are the mighty fallen indeed. One is reminded of the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaiologos, a master politician who had great military and diplomatic successes. He even managed to find an able and talented successor (something which eluded most Roman emperors in the east or west). Sadly, his “empire” was a tiny slice of western Turkey – so his triumphs were a very pale shadow of the Roman Empire, which stretched from the Persian Gulf to Carlisle.

However, a triumph is what the Glasgow result will be seen as by many – despite the wider decline of Labour north of the Border.

Had the SNP taken Glasgow it would have been seen as a milestone on the party’s juggernaut-like progress to 2014. Now, to reprise the Alex-Salmond-as-dictator theme, the result in Glasgow will be seized on as Wee Eck’s Stalingrad.

Neither picture is correct.

What we have learned is that the electorate – despite what many think and despite the meagre fare they are fed – are not donnert sumphs. They’re no’ daft and can tell the difference between different elections. Local issues affect local elections, national issues national ones.

The way people voted in the 2010 Westminster election told us nothing about the 2011 Holyrood election. The 2011 pattern has not been reprised in Glasgow in 2012. It would therefore be rash to throw this result forward to the independence referendum, where the Yes campaign will need to win in the West.

(One thing that will be different in 2014 is the turnout, which at time of writing is under 40 per cent. It is a damning indictment of Scotland’s local politicians that so few of the electorate feel engaged enough to vote.)

There is a lesson here for the Yes campaign, though, and it’s this: the SNP is a political party with policies and personalities that not everybody likes. Independence is a single issue, which can be separated from party allegiance.

Politics is often tribal, especially in Glasgow. Some people will never be persuaded to vote for the “Tartan Tories”, but they might well be biddable on the issue of independence.

The Yes campaign needs to reflect this if it is to win in Glasgow in 2014 (or sooner). It will need to prominently feature non-SNP voices to persuade non-SNP voters to say Yes.

  • Jacobiker1

    Some people re Gluttons for Punishment and clerly many in Glasgow are.

    • FrankyBoyA1

      Let’s see wht labour does now.   Keep their promises? I don’t think so. 

  • XenonTheMegablast

    “One is reminded of the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaiologos” 🙂

  • Allygally

    The Nats said they would take Glasgow. They said it would be proof of the onward march of “independence”.

    Eck campaigned for it. Nicola campaigned for it.  Political pundits campaigned for it (what a juicy story). The Sun campaigned for it over tea and tunnocks. The speeches were written, the limousines were ordered, the tartan bunting was bought, the champagne was on ice and the SNP’s ghostly rabbit logo was all but projected onto the walls of Glasgow City Hall. Rupe was invited and the streets were scoured for any other passing American billionaire to add lustre to the celebrations…..

    Alas, hubris, all uninvited turned up first…. sorry lads, time to burst a balloon or two…no not you Eck, the thought of that just doesn’t bear thinking.

    No, the balloon that we have to burst is the one emblazoned “SNP over all control in Glasgow”. Let’s prick it now, it’s getting in the way of that big red balloon with “Labour over all control in Glasgow” thats pushing its way in…. “pop” gosh, hardly a sound…pffssssssss the air’s all out now…

    • “The Nats said they would take Glasgow.”

      Feel free to give us quotes on that.

      The SNP have increased their total number of seats by more than any other party. They’ve increased their lead over Labour. They’ve reduced Labour’s lead over them in Glasgow from 23 seats to 17. They’ve won overall control of councils for the first time under PR. They’ll almost certainly have won the popular vote, unlike in 2007. Yeah, it’s an SNP disaster all right.

      • Allygally

         The failure to take Glasgow is the signifier.

        The disaster is still to come, it is slowly unfolding and it will take the form of the crumbling of the Eck in the crucible of RupertLove and realisation that he is the party and his political corpse it’s demise.

        It will accompany a realisation by the public of the failure of the SNP Government to do anything but promote “independence” has been five (so far) wasted years for the delivery of better public services.

        And the growing “independence” campaign will reveal the emptiness of that idiotic concept and the end of the “independence” nightmare, and THAT is the disaster for the SNP.

        •  So no, you don’t have any quotes? Didn’t think so.

          SNP: more councillors, doubled lead over Labour, cut Labour’s Glasgow majority by 25%, took outright control of councils for the first time. Bring on more “defeats” and “turnarounds” like that, please.

          • Allygally

             Too many word Spammo.

            The usual way to express what you’re tryng to say is to close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears and shout “NANANANANA CAN’T HEAR YOU!!! NOT LISTENING! HAHAHA SEE”.

            Try it.

          •  Whatever, councillor. I’m not the one trying to pretend that being 17 seats further behind than I was at the last election is a “victory” 😀

          • Alex Gallagher

             Neither am I. Nobody is.

            I’m saying  Eck’s honeymoon is over, and the SNP’s bandwaggon has been stopped in it’s tracks.

            It’s not derailed yet, but impetus is everything and the derailment will come when the Nats have to argue for “independence” instead of continually avoiding the question by arguing about the process, meawhile puffing themselves up as a “government” but refusing to take responsibility for anything and blaming everybody else for everything else.

          • BeltaneFire

            Deluded as always!

          • Alex Gallagher

             Comparing last year’s list vote with Thursday’s local elections, @scottishlabour are UP 5.2% while @theSNP are DOWN 11.3%. Tell me who won?

          • Richie Duncan

            Are you really Alex Gallagher the councillor?

            I hope the rest of Scotland’s Labour councillors aren’t as immature as yourself.

          • Tom Cochrane

            They are…

          • Alex Gallagher

            Make no mistake, Glasgow was the one they really wanted – and in truth
            expected – to win.

            Alison Hunter, the SNP group leader, said that a victory there
            would have been “another step on the road to independence”


      • Bob Leslie

        And the Sun said absolutely nothing! Allygally is living in a world of his own devising.

    • FrankyBoyA1

       Allygally, there’s nothing like self delusion and wishful thinking for comfort. You and the BBC have a lot in common.   You are both in denial. The SNP won the election with the largest vote and the largest amount of councillors elected and the largest amount of gains.  That’s fact not fiction.  Labour did not win Glasgow – they already had it.

      Bluster all you want – the wind is very fair indeed for the independence referendum and it will blow stronger yet.   Be prepared to wet you pant over the next few months.

  • bellebrise

    ” What we have learned is that the electorate – despite what many think and despite the meagre fare they are fed – are not donnert sumphs”
    I do not think that that is right.  If anything the results suggest the opposite.
    Glasgow has been held under the thumb of the Labour machine for fifty years.  A fiefdom ruled by a clique for their own benefit.  Scandal was never far from George Square although less reached the outer air than otherwise might have because of the controls and cover-up and the power that could be exercised from within the smoke-filled rooms. 
    Publicly funded departments have been hived off as companies with Labour placemen being positioned in well paid sinecures with no responsibility to the public; the name Mrs Jack McConnell ring any bells? Aleos are a very smart, cynical and undemocratic way to keep grubby mitts on lucrative reins.
    One might almost overlook all that if it were not that Glasgow has the worst slums in Europe, one of the most depressing city centres, appalling suburbs, high crime rates, a nasty social atmosphere, dismal health records (record death rates from preventable diseases),a level of drunkenness and associated bad behaviour that requires the Scottish Parliament to spend inordinate amounts of time attempting to legislate for improvement.
    And still the people vote for the party that gave them all that – the Labour Party.

    As for turnout, it would be worth looking at all the “Vote for Me” leaflets handed out and see what proportion of them had the candidates contact details; email address, telephone number or actual address.
    Rhetorical question – very few I think.  So how exactly do the members of the electorate engage with the would-be politicians?

    I do agree that this result has no bearing on 2014, although from her triumphant reaction to the results one would think that Ms Lamont also had that result in the bag.

    • FrankyBoyA1

       Exactly.  How the BBC and the paper media can get this wrong is incredible (or just plain Stalinistic).

      If the Glaswegians want more of the same who are we to say no to them?

  • Barbarian

    Your last sentence sums things up perfectly.

    However, the SNP is forever linked with independence, and there is a marked difference between governance and independence.

    And all this before the relationship with Murdoch turns nasty.

  • A very low campaign,and it did seem like it was just carried along,using the unionist parties as our advertisements as they were the ones who non-stop condemned everybody who wants independence.I think the real contest starts next week,just like Alex said.

  • scotspete


  • Alex Wood

    Excellent analysis.