Scotland: Anti-New Labour vote reflects anger against war

The swing against New Labour across Britain was also reflected in Scotland where New Labour’s lost votes and 5 MP’s with the Lib Dems being the main beneficiaries.

Their vote increased by over 6% putting the Lib Dems in second place in both the numbers of seats and share of the vote in Scotland.

Interestingly, the anti-war protest vote went mainly to the Liberals and not the SNP who were pushed into third place as their share of the vote fell by 2.5% to below 18%. The SNP did however win six MP’s in total including defeating Labour MP’s in Dundee East and the Western Isles. Nevertheless, it was a poor result for the SNP who had hoped for a bigger impact under their newly elected leader Alex Salmond.

The Scottish Socialist Party, which the CWI in Scotland is part of, stood in 58 of the 59 Scottish seats. Nationally the SSP won 42,000 votes (1.9%) of the vote compared to the 72,000 (3.1%) the party won in 2001. This represents a 60% drop in percentage terms of the national vote.

In Glasgow, where the SSP has two MSP’s in the Scottish parliament, their vote fell to 4% from 6.8% in 2001. Unlike four years ago when the SSP held nine deposits (5% or more of the vote) out of the ten constituencies in Glasgow, this time only one deposit out of the seven Glasgow seats was secured. In Glasgow, the Greens polled higher than the SSP candidates in the four seats that the Greens contested. Ronnie Stevenson, a CWI member, won 1303 votes in Glasgow South (3.4%). This was the eighth highest share of the vote for the SSP in Scotland. In Edinburgh, where Colin Fox, the SSP’s national convenor, is an MSP, the SSP vote fell to 1.48%. The Greens picked up an anti-establishment vote by winning 4.88% across the city.

CWI members stood in six seats for the SSP. In Dundee, the SSP polled just over 2%, with Jim McFarlane in Dundee West securing 994 votes (2.7%) and Harvey Duke polled 538 votes (1.4%) in Dundee East. Jim’s vote was joint 12th for the SSP out of 58 seats contested.

Nationally the SSP won more than 5% in two constituencies. For the SSP, with a national profile and six MSP’s in the Scottish parliament, this result is a setback. This is the first electoral test for the party since the events surrounding Tommy Sheridan’s resignation as SSP convenor in November last year.

Without doubt this was a significant factor in the drop in support for the SSP. Alongside the swing amongst a section of voters to the Lib Dems and to an extent the Greens who stood in 20 seats in Scotland, in order to punish New Labour. Despite our political differences with him, the CWI has argued that Tommy Sheridan has significant authority amongst the working class in Scotland. We explained at the time that the actions of the SSP leadership, which effectively forced his resignation, would damage the standing of the party. It could also put a question mark in the minds of workers and young people as to the future viability of the SSP.

Despite this setback the CWI believes that the SSP can recover and move forward. There are big opportunities for the SSP around the G8 summit in July. The third-term New Labour government will see an unprecedented attack on the working class. Under these conditions the SSP can rebuild its support. However, this means there is a big responsibility on the SSP leadership to draw all the lessons from some of the mistakes of the past period. Above all it requires the SSP to turn outwards to the working class and young people with a fighting programme to combat New Labour’s assault and advance a clear international socialist alternative to capitalism.

CWI members’ results

Ronnie Stevenson Glasgow South 1,303 (3.39%)

Jim McFarlane Dundee West 994 (2.69%)

Alan Manley, Angus 556 (1.46%)

Harvey Duke, Dundee East 538 (1.37%)

Gary Clark, Edinburgh West 510 (1.13%)

Philip Stott Perth and North Perthshire 509 (1.11%)

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May 2005