28 April 2006

Moray Result & Analysis

Firstly, the result: turnout was only slightly down on the election in 2003, at 45.5% from just 46.3%. This means one of the following: that just under half the electorate of Moray are die-hards; that this was a campagin that got people out to vote; or that we're going to see major increases in turnout next year. As for the numbers, Richard Lochhead held the seat for the SNP with 12,653 votes, a majority of 6,385. Mary Scanlon (from the Tories, not that you'd realise until you got a ballot paper, though) took 6,268, representing a slight increase in votes and vote share on 2003. The LibDems' Linda Gorn took 5,310, taking 19% of the vote (up from 12%), while Sandy Keith of Labour took 2,696, only just over half Peter Peacock's poll in 2003. Mev Brown of NHSFirst took 493.


They were third in 2003, they're the governing party at Holyrood and Westminster, they'd just had a very bad day in UK politics, and anyway it's only a By-Election. Those are the excuses. However, the LibDems were 4th, and in coalition with Labour, and managed to gain an extra 7% compared with Labour moulting 9% of theirs. In short, this was a rout. Combine that wth Dunfermline, Livingston, Cathcart and all the local Council By-Elections and you see a pattern: voters are turning away from Labour in their droves, and their turning to either the LibDems or the SNP depending on who they think can land the heavier blow. Anti-Labour tactical voting is now a reality and if it's repeated next year then Labour are in for a kicking.


A good night for them: to increase their poll, their majority and share of the vote in a seat they're defending following the death of one of their most popular figures, with what we all assumed was a huge personal vote (it probably still is, but it transferred very easily to Richard Lochhead) is a stellar achievement. It's exactly the sort of momentum-building, morale-boosting victory that the party needed and hasn't had for so long, and the only real disappointment is that they were defending a seat rather than gaining it from another party, so the big question is whether or not they can reproduce this performance in the Central Belt, where they need to make gains next year. Given Labour's unpoularity, though, I suspect they could do well.


Given the fiasco that was the Tory campaign, with Mary Scanlon making far more enemies and far fewer friends than she ought to, to walk away having made a gain is a relief for them. But a 2% gain is just not good enough, particularly in former Tory territory - even if they did lose Moray as long ago as 1987. What this shows to me is that Scots still aren't ready to switch (or switch back) to the Tories, and that means that they're struggling to be relevant, and their only hope for gains is a total collapse (and dispersal) of the Labour vote. That said, they have picked up a few votes, so it's not all bad news. I think that this justifies my earlier predictions that Goldie will stop the rot, but that progress is still a long way off.


It turns out that antagonising the local paper hasn't done them any harm: an increase in vote share of 7% is a pretty good day at the office, particularly when your party came 4th in 2003 and most of your machine is busy with the English local elections. It seems that they're the main beneficiaries of their senior partner's collapse, so I suspect they're picking up votes from people who are sick and tired of Labour, but don't particularly mind the Coalition. However, the LibDems are the masters of the By-Election and it remains to be seen whether or not they can keep this performance up next year.

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