Thursday, November 12, 2009

Glasgow NE : Running to stand still

There's not a lot of point in further comment on the Glasgow NE campaign while the votes are being cast (although perhaps not that many votes if the weather is proving significant) so instead I thought I'd raise a side-issue related to the by-election that hasn't attracted much attention. In a nutshell, it's this - if Labour win tonight, their majority in the House of Commons will increase, in spite of the fact that they would merely have successfully defended one of their safest seats in the whole United Kingdom. I don't simply mean that when Michael Martin resigned, the Labour majority dropped by one, and now there is a chance that parity will be restored. That, you would have assumed, would be the case, because the convention is that when the Speaker and three Deputy Speakers are elected/selected, two are drawn from each of the two largest parties. So in theory replacing a Labour Speaker with a Conservative, as happened in June of this year, should make no difference at all to the parliamentary arithmetic. But that wasn't how it turned out - the three sitting Deputy Speakers remained in place, meaning that three MPs elected as opposition members in 2005 are now barred from voting in divisions, but only one MP elected as a Labour member (Sylvia Heal). So a Labour win tonight would mean that, grotesquely, the net effect of Michael Martin's ignominious departure from office has been an increase of two seats in the overall Labour majority at Westmister - the opposition parties would tonight have to 'run just to stand still'.

And, extraordinarily, this is the second time in this parliament that Labour have had an opportunity to improve their majority simply by winning a heartland seat - although they well and truly fluffed their earlier chance in Blaenau Gwent.

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