Glasgow North East: Labour clinches win amid record electorate apathy

LABOUR won a clear victory over the SNP in the Glasgow North-East by election last night, maintaining its 74-year grip over the seat.

• Willie Bain celebrates at the SECC last night

The party won a bigger than expected majority of over 8,000 over its closest rivals, but the turn out of 33 per cent was the lowest ever recorded for a Scottish by-election, beating the 36 per cent in 2000 in the Falkirk West by election.

Labour won with 12,231 votes, while its nearest rival the SNP took 4,120 votes.

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The Conservative Party only just saved its deposit with 1,075 votes or 5.22 per cent, but they will be relieved to have beaten the far-right BNP into third place. However, the gap between the two parties was a mere 62 votes, and the BNP only just lost their deposit.

Willlie Bain, the new MP for the area, claimed last night it was "game on" in the battle for supremacy between the SNP and Labour: "The message for Gordon Brown is clear. It's game on."

And in his victory speech, Mr Bain declared: "People in this community have spoken not just for the constituency but for the whole country – the message for the General Election is clear: Game on."

"This is a resounding victory for Gordon Brown and Labour. This by-election has been about many things but most of all it has been about jobs and the economy.

"People have had their say. They have backed Gordon Brown in his efforts to secure our economic recovery, they have sent a resounding 'No' to (SNP leader) Alex Salmond and his treatment of our great city and a resounding 'No' to David Cameron."

He will now become only the fourth MP since the war to represented the area, taking over from Michael Martin, the former speaker who retired last year over his handling of the expenses affair.

• Read further analysis by Eddie Barnes

• The by-election night in pictures

Beaten SNP candidate David Kerr, a former BBC journalist, told supporters: "Our message through the campaign was simple.

"For all the problems this constituency and this country face, our potential is far greater still.

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"But it is a potential that will only be achieved through freedom."

And Alex Salmond said: "David Kerr achieved progress in what is the Labour Party's safest seat in Scotland, despite a relentlessly negative Labour campaign.

Labour was last night claiming it was a verdict on the SNP Government's record on the economy in Edinburgh. Their victory comes after their lead over the SNP in the seat during this summer's European elections had been cut to just 16 points.

In the 2005 general election, Labour had won the seat by a margin of 53 per cent to 17 per cent over the SNP.

The party had run a campaign which focused relentlessly on the SNP administration and their recent decision to cancel the Glasgow airport rail link.

Labour yesterday had swung into action a huge get-out-the-vote campaign with more than 450 MPs and activists flooding the seat.

Mr Bain, 36, is a public law lecturer who lives with his parents on the 14th floor of a block of flats in the constituency. He campaigned relentlessly as the local candidate, while Labour focused most of its energy on claiming that the SNP was "ripping off" Glasgow.

Labour also targeted the SNP candidate, David Kerr, pointing to contrasting election leaflets from this campaign and his previous by-election campaign, which showed he had made different claims about his place of birth.

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One Labour candidate said the SNP campaign – which had focused attention on how Labour had held the seat for 74 years – had actually helped them. "People just said, 'Yes, we know. And we still support them'," said one Labour councillor.

SNP sources said they had been unable to persuade traditional Labour voters to ditch ties which went back decades.

Nationalist sources added that the lack of a proper local candidate, embedded in the area, had cost them dear. Mr Kerr gained the nomination only after the first-choice candidate pulled out, following revelations about his private finances.

Mr Bain will take over as MP of one of Britain's most deprived areas, with unemployment running at 7 per cent. Key indicators on health and crime show the area to be among the worst hit in Scotland.

Mr Bain has said he would campaign for more jobs to come into an area suffering from one the UK's highest rates of unemployment. He also pledged to reduce crime by backing mandatory sentences for possession of a knife. He has also vowed not to buy a flat in London, or to claim for food expenses.

Police had a heavy presence at the count at the Scottish Exhibition Centre last night, amid fears of clashes between supporters of the BNP and left-wingers.

BNP candidate Charlie Baillie was booed and heckled when his turn came to speak. Above the din, he insisted his party had shown it was a credible alternative.

But he was dogged by cries of "Nazi scum" and "scum of the earth" and these continued after he left the platform and was making his way out of the count in Glasgow.

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Before the result was declared, he said: "I believe in this contest we have shown to the voters of Scotland that we are a credible alternative.

It emerged last night that police were called to two polling stations, St Dennis's and Alexandra Parade, yesterday, after voters arriving to cast their ballot were told their names had already been crossed off.

The ballot boxes were handed over to the police, but the disputed ballots were still counted last night. Officials at Glasgow City Council said only three ballot papers were involved.

• Read more Glasgow North East analysis on The Steamie


Willie Bain (Lab) 12,231 (59.39%)

David Kerr (SNP) 4,120 (20.00%, +2.34%)

Ruth Davidson (C) 1,075 (5.22%)

Charlie Baillie (BNP) 1,013 (4.92%, +1.68%)

Tommy Sheridan (Solidarity) 794 (3.86%)

Eileen Baxendale (LD) 474 (2.30%)

David Doherty (Green) 332 (1.61%)

John Smeaton (Jury Team) 258 (1.25%)

Kevin McVey (SSP) 152 (0.74%, –4.20%)

Mikey Hughes (ND) 54 (0.26%)

Louise McDaid (Soc Lab) 47 (0.23%, –13.97%)

Mev Brown (Ind) 32 (0.16%, –2.03%)

Colin Campbell (TILT) 13 (0.06%)

Lab majority 8,111 (39.38%)