Hillhead By Election

Yesterday there was a by-election locally to elect a new councillor. I turned out in the pouring rain to vote at about 4.30 pm. I smiled encouragingly to those working on the desk in the polling centre and asked them how the day had gone. It would be fair to say that they had not had much excitement. At that point in the day they had seen about 3% of those registered to vote. Across the whole ward, by the end of the poll yesterday the turnout was 13.65 %

I have to say I was shocked at that figure. Even with the rain, I was shocked. It does show democracy lying at a very low ebb and seems to indicate an astonishing lack of interest in processes of change.

I find this all the more shocking I suppose because I moved here from a part of the country where there was a high turn-out. Bridge of Allan had lots of campaigners, lots of people interested and the main parties all had something to work for. When I stood for the council there it was a Tory – Lib Dem marginal (oh, those recounts were agonising!) whilst the constituency in the Scottish Parliament (which was contested on the same day) was a strong fight between Labour and the SNP. In other words, our little patch was crawling with activists all trying to get their vote out on the day. Standing outside the polling station and watching everyone come in to vote was really inspiring. I think the turn out that day was over 75% and that wasn’t the highest it had been locally.

Congratulations to Ken Andrew of the SNP for winning yesterday’s poll locally. The results were interesting, even on a low poll. Indeed, especially on a low poll. The fact that only 307 out of 23 243 could be bothered to turn out and vote Liberal Democrat in Glasgow’s leafy west end does rather speak of nails and coffins. However, I’m not convinced that the Liberal Democrat leadership is listening to that woe.

We are reaching a point where there needs to be something new. There is no electable liberal party in Scotland.

I turned up and voted yesterday more for democracy’s sake than out of any conviction about party politics. However, I’m still saddened to see the liberal tradition in Scotland at such a low ebb today.


  1. Zebadee says

    It would seem that the Lib Dems are a ‘busted flush’ with no plan to make any meaningful comeback which is very sad. The SNP were in a similar position in the 1980s but did have a plan which has been successful. Is there not a case for the revival of The Liberal Party? There is certainly a need for such a political party for the whole of the UK not just Hillhead. The Liberal Party could possibly unite the whole of the UK and not just Scotland.

    • Well, the Liberal Party has never gone away – it still exists and has some councillors. No doubt they feel that their time might still come.

      I’ve a feeling that there probably needs to be a clear attempt to do something new though. A New Liberal Party could be formed by a significant breakaway of disaffected liberal democrats but would probably need some significant hitters in order to get going. Given that part of the problem is some very unimpressive leadership in the parliamentary party, it makes it hard to see that happening.

  2. Zebadee says

    Yes I know that the Liberal party still exists and understand that they have little or nothing to do with the Lib Dems. They too have no big names or ‘big hitters’ which is a pity. As you yourself will know out there in the real world there is a need for a centre party not right or left. I suspect that there is a large number of thinking people who would at least listen to a political message from the ‘centre’ and they are worried and concerned at the polarisation of the right and the perceived ineptitude of the left in todays political parties.

  3. Kelvin, a few weeks ago, we had a by-election win in Inverness. The evidence suggests that the Liberal Democrats have not become toxic, but where we work, knocking on lots of doors, having strong campaign messages and get our vote out, we get good results.

    We had a first class candidate in Hillhead, but I agree that we need to look at how we get our message across.

    I’m not for the Murdo method of abolishing the party just to set up a new one. We have good, liberal ideas, with good, liberal values, and an energetic leader who is so genuine, so likeable and very good at explaining what they are. Yes, we have a mountain to climb, but we have our ropes and crampons ready and we’re already ahead of where we were a few months ago.

    • Yes, I know Caron – I agree with a lot of what you have said. However, the big question is whether the party can get people out there working again.

      The win in Inverness was good though it was a pretty narrow thing. Still a win is a win in anyone’s book.

      However, whether the party can get doors knocked on etc now is the big question. I know I’m not the only person who has offered a lot to the party in the past who is questioning where the liberal tradition lies.

      I know Willie Rennie is likeable and I do believe he stands for lots of good policy ideas that I believe in, but he’s not even making a good job of running his own office at the moment. And his team are not responding online to criticism of him very well either.

      I’d love to feel I wanted to support the party – I believe in liberal values, understand liberal values and can articulate liberal values along with the best of them. However, so much of what good people worked for has been squandered so quickly that I just find it too difficult. (By the way, I say that as one of the 307, so I’m still hanging in there in the polling booth).

      And the problem is not primarily that the electorate feels betrayed by the Lib Dem brand. That is serious but summountable. The problem is that the activists feel betrayed. That is much, much more serious.

      307 votes out of 23243 on leafy home ground and placed fifth is terrible whatever way one looks at it.

      The Greens were trumpeting their result on twitter so much I thought they must have won, but they only had 120 or so more votes which doesn’t strike me as a particularly exciting ship to jump to, even if one were looking to leap. I’m not really interested in a party which thinks that getting 435 votes out of an electorate of 23243 is anything to crow about.

  4. Hi Kelvin, I agree about the democratic disengagement – properly alarming. But the Lib Dems as they currently exist aren’t a Liberal party of the sort I think you want. They’re fundamentalist economic liberals, Orange Bookers determined to remove the social safety net. It’s not liberal as I understand it to make education the province of the rich, to cut benefits for the disabled to appease the Jeremy Clarksons of this world, to hike up regressive taxes like VAT, etcetc.

    The really small-l liberal party in Hillhead did a lot better than the Lib Dems. The Greens.

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