Saturday, December 6, 2014

Constituency spotlight : Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

A few hours ago, I received an email revealing that our local SNP candidate for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East has been selected (Stuart McDonald, in case you're wondering).  It reminded me of a vague plan that I had of doing occasional blogposts to assess the SNP's chances of winning individual constituencies.  So where better to start than with my own home patch?

Within my lifetime, the SNP have always put up Westminster candidates here more in hope than expectation.  That's in spite of the fact that there is actually a very long-standing SNP tradition in the town of Cumbernauld.  Perhaps because of its status as a New Town, Labour have never been able to weigh the votes here as they've customarily expected to do in most nearby towns.  The SNP even controlled the old Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District Council for a spell in the 1970s, and were very unlucky not to regain control in 1988 (Labour and the SNP won an equal number of seats, but Labour retained power after a cut of the cards).  Hopes of SNP control were dashed for a generation as a result of the Tory gerrymandering of local authority boundaries in the 1990s, which saw Cumbernauld and Kilsyth chucked into the huge North Lanarkshire authority, even though neither town had historically been part of Lanarkshire.  Logically Cumbernauld should have become part of East Dunbartonshire, and Kilsyth should either have returned to Stirlingshire, or gone with Cumbernauld into East Dunbartonshire.  But at the time John Major's colonial government was still deluding itself that Stirling and East Dunbartonshire were going to be Tory fortresses, which meant that the inclusion of large working-class towns without Tory representation was unthinkable.  So a cacophony of protests was totally ignored, and the whole area was conveniently chucked into a "big Labour dustbin" - albeit a Labour dustbin that was destined to vote in favour of Scottish independence twenty years later!

Cumbernauld's former Dunbartonshire connection meant that it was part of the old East Dunbartonshire constituency until 1983.  As a result, Cumbernauld (but not Kilsyth) does have a past history of being represented at Westminster by the SNP - Margaret Bain (later to become Margaret Ewing) was the MP for four-and-a-half years after winning by just 22 votes in October 1974.  In Holyrood terms, Labour won the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth seat comfortably enough in the first election in 1999, but thereafter came under severe pressure due to the success of the SNP's list MSP Andrew Wilson in providing a high-profile "shadow" constituency service.  In 2003 he defied gravity by almost snatching the seat on an enormous swing, but his failure to make it over the line meant that he was out of parliament altogether.  Four years later the SNP fielded the lesser-known candidate Jamie Hepburn, who suffered a small swing in the wrong direction against the national trend - although in truth that was probably just an inevitable unwinding of Wilson's extraordinary personal success.  In 2011, the dam finally burst, and Hepburn became the first SNP constituency representative in the area since Margaret Bain lost her seat in 1979.

(While I'm on the subject of Jamie Hepburn, I must just mention how impressed I was that he turned up on my doorstep on referendum day in a sharp suit, asking me if I'd voted Yes yet!)

When you bear in mind that pedigree, it's a bit startling - and sobering - to recall just how far back the SNP will be starting from at the Westminster general election next May.

Swing required for the SNP to gain the constituency from Labour = 16.7%

Any other parties in realistic contention? = No

Now here's the good news, which explains why the SNP are standing a candidate in expectation and not just hope for the first time in decades...

National swing from Labour to the SNP implied by the most recent Poll of Polls = 19.9%

So if an election was held tomorrow, it's logical to conclude that the SNP would probably win the constituency with a bit to spare - an outcome that would have seemed utterly impossible until very recently.  Unfortunately, though, the SNP wouldn't have to drop back very much over the next five months for the national swing to be too low, meaning they would have to 'over-perform' locally to still have a chance.  Could that be achieved?  Well, this was one of the highest Yes-voting areas in the whole country (I believe the result was Yes 58%, No 42% within the Holyrood constituency boundaries), so if anywhere is going to produce a significantly bigger Labour-to-SNP swing than the national average, you'd think this would be the place.

And I also don't think Labour are going to enjoy that much of an incumbency bonus - I'm not an avid follower of local politics, but Gregg McClymont doesn't seem to have made an impact since taking over in 2010, and in spite of his recent stint on the Smith Commission is probably still less well known than Jamie Hepburn.

Overall verdict = I'm cautiously hopeful.

29 comments:

  1. Well this ex Labour voter will not be putting his cross against Mr McClymont's name this time round. SNP all the way now.

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  2. Interesting article. I was just wondering though James, do you know what town/city had the highest Yes vote in Scotland? I'd always assumed it was Dundee, but Cumbernauld seems to have beaten that.

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  3. Alastair HutchisonDecember 6, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    The 2015 G.E could be the most interesting one since 1945. Probably even more so in Scotland. The north may have voted NO but apart from Kennedy and Carmichael I cant see the Lib Dems holding their seats up here. The only other show in town is the SNP. Even on a bad night I'd be shocked if the SNP didn't end up with 12+ seats. Whereas the Lib Dems will do well to hold onto 3.

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  4. As I have a Yes voting nephew in this constituency who voted Lib Dem at the last UK GE in the forlorn hope (as it has turned out, sadly) of gaining proportional representation for Westminster, I am confident that will be a new SNP vote at GE 2015

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    1. He is not alone. There is still a Lib Dem voters for Indy Group, they have a facebook page, and the message is loud and clear. They don't plan to vote LD this time. In the 2010 G.E 400,000 Scots voted LD. Those votes are up for grabs and the majority wont be voting Tory or Labour.

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  5. An interesting article James. Sadly there would have to be some swing (over 20%) for the SNP to gain my constituency of Paisley and Renfrewshire South.

    If we ever get them, the Ashcroft constituency polls will be fascinating. Is the SNP boost concentrated in West/Central Scotland? Are we in danger in the the North East?

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  6. The closest we have to constituency polling is the regional breakdown from Survation's November poll (6-13th). Indications are SNP have gained since then.

    Central
    44% SNP
    35% Lab
    15% Con
    3% Lib
    1% UKIP

    9% SNP lead over Labour

    Glasgow
    43% SNP
    30% Lab
    12% Con
    6% Lib
    4% UKIP
    1% Green

    13% SNP lead over Labour

    Highlands & Islands
    41% SNP
    24% Lab
    16% Con
    9% Lib
    6% UKIP
    3% Green

    17% SNP lead over Labour

    Lothian
    42% SNP
    19% Lab
    22% Con
    4% Lib
    3% UKIP
    5% Green

    23% SNP lead over Labour

    Mid & Fife
    41% SNP
    26% Lab
    14% Con
    10% Lib
    9% UKIP
    2% Green

    17% SNP lead over Labour

    North East
    59% SNP
    17% Lab
    15% Con
    3% Lib
    5% UKIP

    42% SNP lead over Labour

    South
    42% SNP
    21% Lab
    19% Con
    13% Lib
    6% UKIP
    1% Green

    22% SNP lead over Labour

    West
    52% SNP
    26% Lab
    14% Con
    3% Lib
    7% UKIP
    1% Green

    26% SNP lead over Labour

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    Replies
    1. I did notice that Scottish Skier, but I'm not sure just how reliable the regional cross breaks are. The same poll showed that the highest yes vote was in the North East, which we know wasn't the case.

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    2. Sure, if they were say 10% off, that would put Central and Glasgow into contention based on the above.

      As we learned in the iref, support for SNP didn't fully correlate with Yes. That's what caught out most people, including to an extent myself.

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    3. It is also true that these areas were probably more against independence in 2010 before the campaign than they are now - but what remains to be seen is whether the unionist vote has hardened as a result of the referendum.

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  7. Dear James, that was interesting so i do hope you will do the occasional other post on other areas esp. for Murphy, Brown (ex), darling (ex), Katy Clark & Ian (who cares! /bayonet the wounded) Davidson.

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  8. Part of the constituency will have families who have been voting SNP for at least 3 generations. Before the 1973/4 reorganisation of local government, more SNP councillors were elected rather than Labour councillors.

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  9. A long time ago, I used to live in Lenzie, South Lenzie.

    South Lenzie was in N Lanarkshire whilst the main part was in East Dumbartonshire.

    I have never understood that particular split as the Police patrol area for S Lenzie was based in Bishopbriggs and not Kirkie, a mile away.

    We never saw patrol cars then, because they had their hands full with Auchinairn and Balornock.

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  10. I was one of Maggie Bains's area organisers in 74 (Bearsden), Cumbernauld was considered friendly for canvassing, Kilsyth not bad, but only the bravest went into the likes of Croy where voting Labour was all but compulsory.

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  11. Alex Salmond IS standing for Gordon. His Labour opponent looks about 22

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  12. Interesting times. if the SNP do sent a lot of MPs to Westminster and Axel S is one of them, they'll look to him as their leader. Wee Nicky will essentially be running the branch office as there's no question he's the senior of the two :-) I bet she's spitting chips at this news, she'd have wanted him to disappear I feel.

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    1. I don't think he is a fan of AS. :)

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    2. I don't think he has a fucking clue about SNP politics. Hence his oblivious ignorance of why Nicola is leader and who it is that has done the most to promote her for years. :-)

      As little Ed would say to gales of laughter, "wethpect"

      LOL

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  13. One prediction I was wrong at. I never thought AS would stand again for Westminster. It will throw Labour and the LD's into a spin. LOL.

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  14. This is the worst news the SNP could have had, The Scottish public have already told Salmond to go home and think again, they will view this re-appearance as a clear indication that Salmond is defying the Scottish elecorate's wishes. This is the end of the SNP, thank goodness this now means a landslide victory for the Labour party with Murphy at the helm.

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    Replies
    1. The penny has finally dropped - you're an SNP troll! No genuine Labour member would make themselves look as ridiculous as that.

      Oh wait...

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    2. At least the out of touch twit didn't say the the Eggman will kill the SNP stone dead.

      *chortle*

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    3. There are more out than in. LOL

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    4. If "the Scottish public" don't want Alex Salmond at Westminster, then they won't vote him in. Just like how they didn't want him to be First Minister for two Holyrood terms.

      Right?

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  15. Vile cybernat troll! Trying to make Labour supporters look ridiculous by pretending to be one of them and posting idiotic comments!

    The internet's a funny place, isn't it? I'm almost inclined to think that this person is actually a cybernat troll trying to make Labour look bad. But then again, since most of Labour's intelligent supporters have deserted them for the Greens, SSP and SNP, I suppose that they only have careerists and delusional people left these days.

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  16. I like this idea for a series, and look forward to more. If/when you get to Inverclyde, don't forget the 2011 by-election!

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  17. wesaidnotoyesmen...orisitjamesDecember 7, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    lol seems I've got an admirer :-)

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