Not much. I’ve noticed a lot of Labour activists getting excited and saying Labour is on its way back up. This may be true to an extent, but when you look at the details of the by-election, it isn’t that cut and dry. Willie Bain won with 12,231 votes which equates to a majority of 8,111. The SNP got silver with 4,120 votes. The Tories must be disappointed with just over 1,000 votes, the fact that they haven’t made a statement suggests they are trying to ignore it.
But regards to the importance of the outcome, Labour has more or less owned that seat for 74 years and the most recent 10 of those years have been effectively uncontested as Michael Martin was Speaker, thus the Tories and Lib-Dems didn’t stand against him. You couldn’t get more Labour heartland.
Also of interest is the turnout; a record low in a Scottish Parliament. We have no real way of knowing what the turnout at a General Election will be until we have one. This is obviously at the forefront of Labour thinking, Tom Watson MP has already tweeted that the no vote party were the clear winners of the day.
But the biggest issues that is of interest is that this was a battle between incumbents. Labour, who rules the roost nationally, versus the SNP who runs Hollyrood. Neither are particularly popular that is obvious, but this, in a way, was a referendum on one or the other. Labour won this round, as it did in Glenrothes. This suggests the SNP are on the nose of the local populace, more than Labour.
Potentially, this is good news for Labour as the Tories still aren’t going to be able to take that many seats in Scotland, no matter their showing in England. I’d also suggest Labour needs to base part of campaign on the fact that Cameron has said he wants to take away Scottish seats in Westminster. I don’t think the Scots would go for that without a promise of independence.
Scotland could appear to be a bit safer than it was about 12 months ago, which will mean Labour won’t have to spend its money and time trying to keep heartland seats at the expense of marginal seats in England and Wales.
Don’t get me wrong, Labour is going to have to work hard in Scotland and would be stupid to neglect it, but the fact that a Labour heartland seat didn’t fall to another party must be a relief to the electoral strategy team.
But, the fact remains, Labour still has a lot of work to do and according to the latest polls, they are still behind by 10 points, enough for a decent Tory majority in the House.
Is this the beginning of Labour’s revival, I struggle to see that it is and I think it is more of a realignment back to the status quo than anything else. I’ve said it before, I think the polls will come closer together, but let’s wait and see.