Sunday, 15 November 2009

Roll call of irrelevance

Put away the excuses and spare us the extenuating circumstances: if ever there was a measure of left-wing failure in current British politics, it was the abysmal showing of every variety of left-green alternative to Labour and the SNP in the Glasgow North East by election. For the British National Party to fall just 63 votes short of beating the Tories into third place in what should be the Scottish left’s heartland shows just how far we have fallen from the heady days of the 2003 Scottish Parliament election, which saw the election of seven Scottish Green MSPs and six Scottish Socialist Party MSPs.

‘The Labour-SNP conflict was fought with a complete obliviousness to the big issues voters face both locally and nationally,’ wrote Gerry Hassan in the Guardian. ‘Glasgow North East has the highest unemployment claimant count in Scotland, the second-highest incapacity levels and is rated the second unhealthiest place in the UK. Neither party touched on these issues in the campaign.’

Despite this, the voting returns for the various left candidates read like a roll call of irrelevance. David Doherty, for the Scottish Greens, did better than most with a paltry 332 (1.61 per cent). Louise McDaid, for the Socialist Labour Party, managed less than a coachload (47 votes, 0.23 per cent). The Scottish Socialist Party’s Kevin McVey got 152 (0.74 per cent), a long way short of the 798 (3.86 per cent) obtained by the agent of the SSP’s acrimonious collapse, Tommy Sheridan, now fighting under the Solidarity banner.

The BNP’s 1,013 votes (4.92 per cent) is a long way short of seeing stormtroopers on Sauchiehall Street. But the fact that left-greens can’t put together a deposit-saving campaign under these most favourable of by-election circumstances is yet further proof, if it is needed, of the need to get our electoral act together if the anti-establishment tide is not to be harnessed even more effectively by the far right.

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