Politics: Labour hides relief at Paisley result

Labour yesterday struggled to put a gloss on its narrow victory in the Paisley South by-election. Stephen Goodwin reports on a campaign which left both Labour and the Scottish National Party with awkward questions.

"There are no prizes for second place in politics," Douglas Alexander, the relieved Labour winner said, resorting to a truism as he tried to claim the party's share of the vote had held up in Paisley.

Labour's share was "almost identical" to that achieved on 1 May, he told a press conference yesterday. But that was not quite the full story. While the party's share of the vote at 44 per cent was just under the general election share across the whole of the UK, it was well down on the 57 per cent it took in Paisley South. The Edinburgh lawyer had been caught out being economical with election statistics and his party minders were clearly irritated.

Mr Alexander, 30, won with a majority of 2,731 compared to the 12,750 secured by Gordon McMaster, whose suicide in July caused the by-election. The 42.98 per cent turn-out was so low that Mr Alexander's vote was less than his predecessor's majority. Mr Alexander secured 10,346 votes; Ian Blackford (SNP) 7,615; Eileen McCartin (Lib Dem) 2,582; and Sheila Laidlaw (Con) 1,643.

Voter fatigue at a third visit to the polls in seven months was accepted by all parties as the main reason for the dismal turn-out - the lowest at a by-election in Scotland for 30 years. But cynicism over the behaviour of politicians in the Paisley area was also a factor.

The Labour leadership is conducting an inquiry into the running of the party in Renfrewshire. Neighbouring MP Tommy Graham, who was attacked in Mr McMaster's suicide note, remains suspended along with two councillors.

Though SNP leaders were expressing "delight" at having got so close in a Labour heartland seat, privately questions will be asked about the lack of bite in the campaign. Issues such as student tuition fees, spending cuts and cold weather payments did not capture interest.

Sleaze was also a double-edged weapon for the SNP. The party's councillors have a reputation for disrupting meetings and one, Richard Vassie, was suspended for his involvement in a newspaper story alleging Mr McMaster had a relationship with a 17-year old youth. None the less, the SNP were able to take some comfort from the result. Mr Salmond said the swing to the SNP of 11 per cent would deliver more than 40 seats in a Scottish Parliament.

There was scant comfort in the result for other parties. The Liberal Democrats gained a 6 per cent swing in a area of Scotland where they never do well, but the numbers were tiny. And for the Conservatives there was still no sign of any revival north of the border. Full result: Douglas Alexander (Lab) 10,346 (44.15%, -13.36%); Ian Blackford (SNP) 7,615 (32.49%, +9.11%); Eileen McCartin (LD) 2,582 (11.02%, +1.65%); Sheila Laidlaw (C) 1,643 (7.01%, -1.66%); John Deighan (ProLife Alliance) 578 (2.47%); Frances Curran (Scottish Socialist Alliance) 306 (1.31%, +0.92%); Charles McLauchlan (Scottish Independent Labour) 155 (0.66%); Christopher Herriot (Socialist Labour Party) 153 (0.65%); Kenneth Blair (Natural Law Party) 57 (0.24%). Lab maj 2,731 (11.65%); 11.24% swing Lab to SNP; Electorate 54,573; Turnout 23,435 (42.94%, -26.18%). 1997: Lab maj 12,750 (34.14%) - Turnout 37,351 (69.12%).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Junior / Assistant

£7800 - £13455 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A career opportunity has become ...

Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn