Tomorrow’s by-election for the Glasgow East constituency will no doubt assume much greater significance in the triumphant narrative of the victor than it will be accorded by the defeated party. Margaret Curran is the candidate that Labour hopes will retain its Westminster seat, and she must fend off a challenge from John Mason, of the Scottish Nationalist Party.
O’Neill has been assessing Labour’s campaign, with the aid of statistics provided by the Scotsman, and he is not particularly impressed with their efforts. The article from which he draws the statistics gives an instructive insight into the rampant ego and hubris which fuels Scots’ nationalism’s Il Duce, Alex Salmond. Under its leader’s tutelage, the SNP is fighting its campaign with little reference to the respective merits of the two main candidates. Salmond has announced that this election is a ‘referendum’ on the popularity of the Scottish Parliament as against the Westminster Parliament and has extended a challenge to Gordon Brown to engage in a debate with him in the constituency, in the run up to the election. He is attempting to turn the by-election into a straight popularity contest between himself and the Prime Minister.
In truth the election will not determine the future of the Union and nor can its result be extended to imply the Scottish electorate’s verdict on the respective merits of the national parliament as opposed to their devolved institution. It is a local contest which will certainly reflect to some extent voters’ thoughts on the parties represented, their constitutional positions and leaders, but additionally will be informed by the electorate’s assessment of the merits of the candidates put in front of them, as well as a range of specifically local considerations.