There were two by-elections on my home turf of North Lanarkshire yesterday. The results are both being billed as "Labour gains from the SNP", but as is so often the case in the wacky world of STV by-elections, things are not quite as they seem - they were both wards in which Labour topped the popular vote last time around, so Labour only needed to stand still to "hold" the seats, whereas the SNP would have needed a sizeable swing to "gain" them. In the event, there was a net swing to the SNP in both wards, but not big enough to stop Labour. (The SNP's vote fell in Thorniewood due to an intervention from an independent candidate, but because Labour's vote fell much further, that still counts as a technical swing from Labour to SNP.)
Fortissat by-election result (first preferences):
Labour 38.4% (+1.9)
SNP 34.6% (+5.5)
Conservatives 23.5% (+10.2)
Greens 2.5% (n/a)
UKIP 1.1% (n/a)
Thorniewood by-election result (first preferences):
Labour 36.4% (-13.8)
SNP 34.5% (-4.2)
Independent - Budd 18.9% (n/a)
Conservatives 7.7% (-3.3)
Greens 1.9% (n/a)
UKIP 0.5% (n/a)
Although from a psephological point of view the idea that these are "Labour gains" is fairly meaningless, what's very real on the ground is that SNP councillors are being replaced with Labour councillors, and that has rather depressing repercussions for the balance of power on North Lanarkshire Council. The SNP emerged from the 2017 election as the largest party on the council by a single seat, and Labour only clung on to power by doing a grubby deal with their supposed "enemies" in the Tory party. However, since then Labour have recovered their traditional position as the largest party with the help of by-election 'gains'.
It's a bit odd to see that UKIP, who most people would assume are a busted flush, are still persevering by putting up no-hoper candidates, whereas there's no sign at all of Nigel Farage's shiny new Reform UK brand.
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