SNP setback

Labour secures ‘seismic’ victory in by-election

Michael Shanks
Winner: Michael Shanks

Labour won a resounding victory in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election last night to deliver a devastating blow to the SNP’s independence hopes.

Michael Shanks took the Westminster seat with 17,845 votes – more than double the number polled by Katy Loudon who saw the nationalist vote collapse to 8,399, losing more than 15,000 votes.

The result was a huge swing of 20.4% from the SNP to Labour with Tory supporters appearing to vote tactically, but sacrificing their candidate’s deposit along with every other party.

Labour saw its vote rise by 24.1% from the 2019 general election. The turnout was 37.2% compared with 66.5% four years ago.

The by-election was called after former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, lately sitting as an independent, was sacked by her constituents for breaking Covid lockdown rules.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the result as “seismic”, adding: “I have always said that winning back the trust of people in Scotland is essential. Tonight’s victory is the culmination of three-and-a -half years of hard work and humility on that journey.”

His party now doubles its number of MPs in Scotland to two, with analysts predicting this could rise substantially – to as many as 40 – at the next General Election if the momentum can be maintained.

The by-election was the first major electoral test for the SNP since Humza Yousaf succeeded Nicola Sturgeon as leader. He said the result was “disappointing”.

Defiantly, he added: “We lost this seat in 2017, and like 2019 we can win this seat back. However, we will reflect on what we have to do to regain the trust of the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West.”

It was also an important measure of Sir Keir’s standing and his hopes of getting into Downing Street. Both now head to their party conferences in sharply differing moods.

Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said: “It’s well above the kinds of swings we’ve seen in the opinion polls in Scotland. The Labour vote is up to nearly 59%, that’s 24 points.

“That means the Labour vote in the constituency is almost as high as it was in 2010 before the tsunami that swept the Labour Party from virtually every constituency in Scotland.”

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