With just over two weeks to the Inverclyde Westminster by-elections focus is slowly turning towards this two-horse race. While by-elections are often built up as of barometers of public attitude towards parties, leaders and politics, in truth, the vast majority of them tell us nothing and do little to change the tide of power or thought. The likelihood of this by-election being any different is slim.
Yes commentators will build the contest up as a means to discover whether Labour have steadied the ship or as further evidence of a nationalist tide sweeping across Scotland. Importantly, and what is often forgotten is Scots ‘get’ devolution. Think back to the General Election 12 months ago where Labour swept Scotland based on UK issues. Now think back 6 weeks to when the SNP swept across Scotland on a platform of Scottish issues. The issue for many is will this trend continue?
Regardless of the result, there will be a number of interesting sub-plots to navigate and understand. If Labour fail or see their majority significantly weakened how this will reflect on Ed Miliband (The Scottish Leader has already indicated he is stepping down in the autumn). The Scottish Elections were a disaster for him; the English Local Elections were not much better, the polls show him making little impact while his backbenchers continue to wonder if they have elected the wrong brother. Alternatively, if Labour maintains this seat with a significant majority, will we see a buoyed Miliband? It is also worth noting that since taking over as Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband has a 3/3 strike rate on by-election victories. With the Coalition Parties remaining unpopular and on the basis of the Scottish Elections where will their voters desert too? We’ve already seen an emboldened Alex Salmond, how will he and the party react either way?
As a reminder, the by-election will take place on Thursday 30 June, following the untimely death of the sitting Labour MP David Cairns. Dr Cairns enjoyed a majority of 14,416 following the last General Election. Compare that to his Scottish Parliament equivalent (boundaries are slightly different) Duncan McNeil who clung to his seat by only 511 votes.
The parties have already made clear that jobs and the rising cost of living will be the central pillars to their campaigns. Labour has selected the Leader of Inverclyde Council Iain McKenzie who saw off former MSP Dave Whitton to secure the nomination. The SNP have selected Anne McLaughlin the former fundraising manager and Glasgow List MSP. While the Tories have nominated Inverclyde deputy provost David Wilson and the Lib Dems the leader of their youth wing Sophie Bridger.