SNP turns its guns on Glasgow by-election

The Scottish National Party predicted it would deliver another blow to Labour by overturning its large majority and snatching the Glasgow seat held by the Speaker, Michael Martin.

Grant Thoms, expected to be the SNP's candidate at next month's by-election in Glasgow North East, said yesterday that the expenses scandal would add to anger over local issues, such as the closure of primary schools, to allow his party to claim the seat.

The area has some of the worst poverty rates and health problems in Scotland. Labour lost the previously safe seat of Glasgow East to the SNP last July, overturning Labour's majority of more than 13,000.

"While older voters remember what Mr Martin did for them as an MP a decade ago, younger people have very little connection to him," Mr Thoms said. "He does very little constituency work now."

Defeat in the by-election could fuel calls to replace Gordon Brown as leader. Attempts by local Labour members and friends to persuade Mr Martin to stay failed. He told them he was keen to return to Scotland and spend more time with his family. Preparations for the by-election have begun.

Prominent figures from the local Labour Party said that Mr Martin had been used as a scapegoat for the expenses scandals and was a victim of prejudice. One senior figure said Mr Martin had been targeted by "stuck-up snobs" in Westminster: "Many had been out to get him for months."

Other Glasgow sources said that Mr Martin's son, Paul, a member of the Scottish Parliament, would not run as Labour's candidate.

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