A night of political drama in Glasgow

Scottish city has the deepest of connections to the Labour movement, but voters have rejected it in favour SNP.

Until tonight, the Scottish National Party had never won a Glasgow constituency in a UK general election. Now they have all seven.

Two hundred and sixty journalists were accredited for the count at Glasgow’s Emirates arena, some from as far away as Japan. That’s more than the number who asked to attend the count for last year’s independence referendum.

They witnessed a night of extraordinary political drama.

Before the ballot boxes were brought from the polling stations, Labour activists were optimistic that they might hold on in Glasgow North East, where the candidate, Willie Bain, took 68 per cent of the vote in 2010.
It was the safest Labour seat in the whole of Scotland.

One local councillor who had spent the day canvassing voters said, “Willie’s going to be fine.”

It soon became clear that he wasn’t. By the time SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon arrived senior party figures were confidently predicting a clean sweep in the city.

She was met at the entrance by a cheering crowd of supporters, posing for selfies and shaking hands with smiling activists.

Someone produced a saltire and a Labour councillor, who is married to one of the victorious SNP candidates, looked down from the balcony with tears in her eyes.

Glasgow has the deepest of connections to the Labour movement. At its peak, it was an industrial powerhouse that styled itself the ‘Second City of the Empire’.

Scots and Labour

At the end of the 19th century, one in five of all the ships in the world and more than half the steam locomotives in the British Empire were built on Clydeside. The Labour Party was built by the generations who worked in these shipyards and engineering workshops.

Tonight we witnessed its destruction.

The greatest swing ever witnessed before at a UK General Election 21 percent was in Merthyr Tydfil in 1970.

The SNP won Glasgow North East with a majority of 9,222 and a record-breaking swing of 39 per cent. That was quite literally off the scale, so big that it broke the BBC’s swingometer.

A few miles further along the Clyde, in Paisley, Douglas Alexander, the man who would have been Foreign Secretary in a Labour government, was beaten by a 20-year-old student. She will be the youngest MP in the House of Commons since the 17th century.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy also lost his seat. The teetotal politician (or ex-politician) was pictured drowning his sorrows with a can of Irn Bru.

SNP activists chanted ‘cheerio, cheerio’ when his declaration was broadcast on the big screen.

SNP leader Sturgeon described the result as a historic shift in Scottish political priorities. She pointed out that the size of the majorities meant many people who voted No in last summer’s independence referendum had switched their allegiance to the SNP.

Campaigning with the Conservatives in the referendum had put Labour on the wrong side of both the national question and the class divide with many of its own supporters.

As the scale of the defeat became clear, senior Labour figures looked dazed, struggling to take in the result or offer an explanation for what had happened to them.

When asked how the party would recover, one defeated candidate said simply, “I don’t know.”

Follow Andrew McFadyen on Twitter: @apmcfadyen

Source: Al Jazeera