Glenrothes Revisited

There has been a huge amount of analysis in the weekend papers about the result in the Glenrothes by-election. Most commentators seem to concentrate on Alex Salmonds' arrogance or on Labour stirring up a local council issue of community care fees, rather than Westminster issues. Others refer to the Brown Bounce and the financial crisis. I feel that all of the commentators, whatever their political bias, have missed one crucial factor. The most shocking figure in the by-election was the turnout!

The average turnout for the whole of the UK in the 2005 general election was 62%. Glenrothes was one of those constituencies that dragged the average down. Only 55% of the good folk of the constituency bothered to vote. In by-elections, turnout is usually considerably lower. The average by-election turnout in the UK for the past 10years was just 38%, it would not have been surprising if fewer than 30% voted in Glenrothes. But in this by election the vote was only just down on the constituency's 2005 turnout at 53%.

The SNP was not expecting to get more than the 13,000 vote that it had. Both SNP and Labour returns were showing that level of support. With a 38-45% turnout 13K would have given the SNP it's expected win. What went wrong for the SNP and gave Labour the victory was that about 8,000 people who shouldn't have voted in a by-election did vote.

Nobody from any of the parties, or amongst the pundits, saw this extra vote coming. When the polls close the expectation was that it was in the bag for the SNP. So where did this extra surge come from?

One could go for the conspiracy or fiddle theories, I suspect that it has more to do with boozing!

The people least likely to register on canvas returns are the under 25 year old voters. When they are at home their Mams or their Dads will answer the door or phone to canvassers. Many of them are absent voters in their collage residences.

Usually it doesn't matter because they don't bother to vote anyway. But with the SNP's policy (opposed by its own student group) to raise the legal drinking age to 21, I suspect that many of the unexpected votes came from young voters.

I respect the SNP's commitment to tackle Scotland's binge drinking culture, there is no doubt that it needs to be tackled, but it is a fact that the nationalist vote is also the youngest vote in Scottish (and Welsh) politics. The SNP needs to look at ways in which to address the drink culture in a way that doesn't demonise the young, because if it loses its youth vote (as I suspect it did in Glenrothes) then it will find itself up the world famous creek without a paddle!


  1. Yes, this is a good point, Alwyn - the turnout.

  2. It is the younger people that really need to become engaged in the process.

  3. http://partiparry.blogspot.com/

    can you add me as a linik to your page please what do you think of the new blog

  4. I reside in the Glenrothes and find it strange that some bloggers like yourself are looking for weird and wonderful reasons why the S.N.P. did not win this seat.
    How about this? Peter Grant is the head of Fife Council and has proved ,by his actions,that he lacks the ability to represent the 'good' people of Glenrothes.Fiona Grant,Peters wife, is a local councillor in Leslie where she treats Leslie as her own little Kingdom,although she does not and has not ever resided there,rewarding those who support her and ignoring those that do not.The main reason for the increase in the Vote was to ensure that those who have represented Fife poorly,The Grants,would not have the opportunity to repeat the process on a National level.

  5. Please create a twitter to your blog. I'd like to be notified when you post.


  6. ThomasI have never fancied Twitter - because of the name rather than out of knowing what it does. Miserable Old Farts tend to rant and rage rather than twitter, but I will have a go at it, on your recommendation to see how it feels.

    Rab You make a fair comment about the suitability of the candidate. In John Mason the SNP had a "leading local councillor" who was in opposition. In Peter Grant they had a "leading local councillor" who is in office. I don't think that the party realised the difference when they selected Mr Grant. Mr Mason's record was as a doughty fighter against the ruling mob. Mr Grant had to defend his record as boss of the ruling mob, which made him more vulnerable. Labour used that vulnerability well and exploited it for many votes, without doubt. However the Grant factor was picked up by both Labour and SNP canvas returns.

    What I was trying to look at was why so many "unexpected voters" voted, and why neither party's canvassers had seen that vote coming.

    The vote least likely to be canvased is the younger vote, so it is a fair guess to assume that much of the higher than expected turnout was down to young voters. Do younger voters dislike Mr & Dr Grant more than older voters? Are younger voters more likely to see Brown as saviour in the credit crunch? I doubt it. If loads more young people voted in Glenrothes than were expected to vote then the most likely cause would be the under 21 proposals.

  7. The greatest danger to democracy is ....apathy!

  8. Alwyn,
    What I was trying to look at was why so many "unexpected voters" voted, and why neither party's canvassers had seen that vote coming.
    I feel that the reason that voting numbers went up was the dis-satisfaction,of voters, of Councilors acting on Local issues,rightly or wrongly.Mr Grant is the 'Head' of Fife Council so became an easy target for dissatisfied voters.
    The reason canvassers never anticipated this back lash was that at the end of the day canvassers projections are guess work.Voters are not sheep and make their own minds up on different agendas and vote accordingly.
    Mr and Mrs Grant(not Dr Grant as you stated.When Mrs Grant has her G.P's 'hat' on she is addressed as Dr De Soyza) will "live to fight another day" and hopefully will learn from the result and strive to improve their Wards.
    Most of the Young Voters I have spoke to since the result did not vote tactically or on any particular Policy.Sadly they did not vote at all.

  9. The young voters......believe me, soon, they will be a lot more interested in politics. ;-)

  10. But with the SNP's policy (opposed by its own student group) to raise the legal drinking age to 21, I suspect that many of the unexpected votes came from young voters.

    Naah, they were probably too hammered to go out and vote.

  11. Where have you been all week?