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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Scottish Vote Results in a ‘Seismic’ Victory for Britain’s Labour Party

In a surprising turn of events on Friday, the United Kingdom’s opposition Labour Party secured a substantial victory in a parliamentary by-election in Scotland, surpassing expectations. This win has raised hopes within the Labour Party that they can challenge and potentially unseat the Scottish nationalists, with their sights set on winning a nationwide election anticipated for the next year.

Despite leading in national opinion polls against Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party, Labour recognizes that recapturing lost ground in Scotland, taken over by the Scottish National Party (SNP) over the past decade, is vital for their return to power in Westminster after an absence of 13 years. Labour leader Keir Starmer expressed the significance of this win, stating, “This is a seismic result. People in Rutherglen and Hamilton West have sent a clear message – it is time for change. And it is clear they believe that this changed Labour Party can deliver it.”

The by-election took place in a district on the outskirts of Glasgow and was called following the removal of lawmaker Margaret Ferrier from her seat in the UK Parliament in London due to her violation of COVID-19 rules. Labour’s candidate, Michael Shanks, secured 17,845 votes, surpassing the second-placed SNP candidate, Katy Loudon, who garnered 8,399 votes. This marked a significant 20% swing in favor of Labour from the SNP.

Prominent British pollster John Curtice described this result as “remarkable” for the Labour Party, especially coming just before their annual conference. He emphasized that such by-election swings historically indicate opposition parties’ prospects of winning the next general election, stating, “If Keir Starmer can start winning seats in Scotland, his chances of getting an overall majority and avoiding a hung parliament increase quite significantly.”

Margaret Ferrier was part of the wave of SNP politicians that toppled Labour from its former Scottish stronghold in 2015. Her removal from her party came after she tested positive for COVID-19 in September 2020 and, instead of isolating as required, traveled more than 400 miles back to Scotland. She had been sitting as an independent before being removed by a petition of her constituents in August.

SNP leader Humza Yousaf acknowledged the disappointment of the night’s results and alluded to the challenging circumstances of this by-election, pointing to Ferrier’s conduct.

Labour aims to view this victory as a turning point in their political resurgence in Scotland. After losing nearly all its Scottish seats to the SNP in 2015, Labour saw a slight improvement in 2017, retaking Rutherglen and Hamilton West. However, they once again suffered significant losses in 2019, with the SNP winning the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat by a 5,230-vote majority.

Recent polls suggest that Labour may now be on the verge of catching up with the SNP or even surpassing them in the number of seats in Scotland, which would be the first time since 2010. This shift in dynamics follows the resignation of long-time SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and a police investigation into the party’s financial dealings.

(Courtesy REUTERS)

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