Thursday, September 7, 2017

Two key by-elections today

You may not be aware of this, but today (Thursday) marks the biggest electoral test in Scotland since the general election on June 8th, with two crucial local government by-elections taking place in the west of the central belt.  The Fortissat by-election in North Lanarkshire could almost have been devised as an illustration of just how barmy the world of STV by-elections is - the Tories are defending a seat in a ward where Labour won the popular vote, and yet if the SNP don't gain the seat, they will lose their hard-won position as the outright largest party on the council.  Doesn't sound entirely fair, does it?!  Meanwhile, in the Cardonald by-election, Labour are defending a seat in a ward where the SNP narrowly won the popular vote, meaning on the face of it that the SNP have a golden opportunity to increase their representation on Glasgow City Council from 39 seats to 40, edging them closer to the 43 required for an absolute majority.

The only other real-life election we've seen in Scotland since June 8th was the Elgin City North by-election in mid-July, which resulted in a moral triumph for the SNP - they didn't quite win the seat, but there was a negligible swing from SNP to Tory, implying (if that ward is typical) that things hadn't got any worse for the SNP since the general election in places where the Tories are their main opponents.  But the limited polling evidence of late has suggested that the main problem for the SNP is no longer the Tories, but Labour.  So today's two contests in SNP-Labour battleground areas may tell us quite a bit.  Given that Labour won the popular vote in Fortissat in May, I'd suggest they're quite strong favourites to gain that seat because there appears to have been a nationwide swing towards them over the intervening months.  It's a different story in Cardonald where the SNP start with a bit of a cushion, but even there Labour probably ought to be regarded as slight favourites.  If you want to do something about that, here is a public service announcement I spotted on Twitter -

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