Dunfermline by-election win for Labour, disaster for SNP and Lib Dems hold 3rd place

Your bleary eyed correspondent has returned from the Dunfermline by-election count. The result was as follows:

Cara Hilton (Labour), 10,275,  42.4%

Shirley Anne Somerville (SNP), 7402,  30.6%

Susan Leslie (Lib Dem), 2852, 11.79%

James Reekie (Conservative), 2009, 8.3%

Peter Adams (UKIP), 908, 3.75%

Zara Kitson (Green), 583,  2.4%

John Black (Ind), 161, 0.67%

We were squeezed a bit but stayed in a creditable third place.

Check out the election expenses when they are filed. Labour and the SNP threw the kitchen sink and most of the units at this campaign. Our budget was, how shall we put this, significantly more modest, more of a tap, than the whole sink. It was used wisely, though.

The scale of Labour’s victory, though, was a disaster for the SNP. They will point to it being mid-term and the like,  but this does not stand them in good stead for the independence referendum.

There was also a council by-election for the Dunfermline South ward. Council by-elections in Scotland are  run on the Alternative Vote system. The first preference results were as follows: Labour 2252, SNP 2057, Lib Dem Robin Munro 1009, Conservative 450, UKIP and Green both 183. This marked the first time since AV was introduced that lots had to be drawn to break a tie. Again this was a reasonable result for the Liberal Democrats. In 2012, Tony Martin, our long standing, popular councillor was re-elected with 1109 first preferences. Robin, our candidate was new and unknown.

Finally, this count was unique for me on two counts. Firstly, the venue, Pitreavie Athletics Centre. It had a long jump pit in it. And we couldn’t have hot drinks in case they damaged the running surface.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Helen Dudden 25th Oct '13 - 7:41am

    Great news!

  • Paul In Twickenham 25th Oct '13 - 8:00am

    Caron – nice spin! Dunfermline result:

    Lab 42% (+7%)
    SNP 32% (-6%)
    Lib Dem 12% (-8%)
    Con 8% (+1%)

    So Labour – the opposition – won a by-election against the governing party that was played out in particularly difficult circumstances for the SNP. No great surprise there. For the other opposition parties, the Conservatives managed to hold their own while the Lib Dem vote almost halved. If that is “good” then presumably the electoral disaster looming next May will be an unqualified triumph.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Oct '13 - 9:29am

    Those particularly difficult circumstances for the SNP, Paul, what were they? It was the Labour council that was closing the 3 schools around which the by-election centred.

    We were squeezed – that much was inevitable, but as Labour blogger Ian Smart said the other day, our vote did not crumble to the extent that had been expected. Both Labour and the SNP expected to be able to help themselves to all of it, and were surprised when they couldn’t.

    What was particularly interesting was that it held up in the local government by-election almost totally with just a minor change from 2012.

    If you go back to 2003, we had 14.4% in that Scottish Parliament election when we were in Government in Scotland. Two years later we got 20% in the General Election. In that context, last night’s result was ok. It could have been a lot worse. You have to remember that the Conservatives were starting from a pretty low base anyway. They were extremely disappointed last night not to have made more ground. Although if we hadn’t have had UKIP in the mix, they may have got a lot closer to us…

    We’re not jumping and down and doing cartwheels this morning, but we know that we delivered a competent campaign with a candidate who was excellent in the media. There are lessons we need to take from it – my view now is that we have to switch our attention away from leaflets and on to conversations with the voters. They are now ready to talk to us again and just putting a leaflet through their door isn’t enough to seal the deal. I lost count of the conversations I had that went something like:

    I voted for you, coalition, evil, tories

    But what about the tax cuts for the lowest paid and the big rise in the state pension, Liberal Democrat ideas.

    Oh, really, I didn’t know

    And by the end of the conversation they were in a much happier place in their view of us to the point of being ready to vote for us, but at the very least open to us.

    We can’t afford to leave these conversations until the month before the GE. We need to get out there now.

  • Yes, Paul in Twickenham, look at other sites, eg VoteUK Forum and the analysis is that the Lib Dems were the bigger losers. The story is that SNP are “blaming Tory tactical voters voting anything but SNP for the Labour victory”. Looking at the crude figures it seems like the same story as in other places across industrial areas, ie that a biggish part of the recent years Lib Dem vote has gone over to Labour, along with some SNP people who are no doubt dissatisfied with the current situation in the wake of the last MSP’s behaviour.

    Of course, whether you call this previous Labour voters returning, or defection of Lib Dem voters to Labour depends almost entirely on how you read and interpret the current situation of the Lib Dems, and your wish for the future of the Party.

  • Caron, your last sentence is very true. But your analysis is self serving of the Party leadership. You make mention of 2003, but none of 2006 (I was in Dunfermline for a week during the byelection). The main and only reason for our decline has been our perceived lack of support for ordinary people. Yes, I know people will talk, either on the doorstep or elsewhere, and if they perceive a LD candidate to be well motivated, honest, and not a party leadership stooge they will vote for him or her. It helps where it is a byelection and we can put more resources in, of course. But last night’s result only confirms a downward trend.

    Words, of course, fail me on the issue of the income tax threshold, but I am sure my views on that are already too well-known here!

  • @ Tim 13

    So Tim, who’s your wonderful Lib Dem leadership candidate who’s miraculously going to reinvent the realities of the public finances and parliamentary arithmetic while not immediately being pilloried and scapegoated from left and right by the press?

  • I don’t think the headline was quite right, the results were not very surprising in hindsight.

    The real problem is that we are 8% down on the disastrous 2011 result which was 14% down on the notional result in 2007 (a Lib Dem seat).

  • I agree with the comments; from hundreds of miles away I see nothing much to celebrate here despite a decent candidate by all accounts. We need to be honest about when things have gone badly and not always look for positives.

    I’d suggest Caron’s response to the first couple of comments is more insightful and useful than the article itself.

  • Tony Greaves 25th Oct '13 - 11:08am

    The idea that the party can now go out and talk to everyone “on the doorstep” is eyewash. Half the activists have gone anyway. The problem with the party’s leaflets at the moment (generally, I have no knowledge of Dunfermline) is that the messages are, should I say, inadequate.


  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Oct '13 - 11:23am

    Tony, as you say, you haven’t seen the Dunfermline leaflets. They had some very strong national and local messages. They focused around rebuilding the strong Liberal Democrat team which went down very well with people, they talked about the hospital, college cuts, cuts in policing and fire services.

    I spoke to an awful lot of voters during the campaign. A very recurring theme was that they didn’t want independence, nor did they want the SNP to win this by-election to give them any encouragement in that regard. On the day, they chose Labour as being most likely to keep the SNP out but I don’t think that these people are lost to us forever.

    But, Tony, I don’t think we are going to recover unless those of us who are left talk regularly to voters, most especially in our held and target seats and do it now. I’d suggest that parliamentarians should be leading by example on this.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Oct '13 - 11:28am

    I should add that something else that helped was telling voters of some of the things that the coalition has done in England that don’t apply in Scotland. Telling them about the pupil premium, for example, and what’s been done on mental health definitely improves their view of Nick Clegg.And we know that even in Scotland, people likely to vote for us actually like Nick Clegg.

    I’ve been saying for years that we need to get him north more, and not just sling him into a factory, and rush him out again. We need to get him doing the stuff he’s passionate about and people will identify with.

  • Morwen Millson 25th Oct '13 - 11:35am

    I think the level of UKIP support (or rather not!) in Scotland is really interesting. Why is UKIP making no impact north of the border?

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Oct '13 - 11:55am

    There has been no big rise in the state pension. The only reason it is rising for some is because fewer people will be getting it. Long-term projections actually think it will be a cut (or save money).

    From the BBC’s website:

    “Losers include: Many of those entering the workforce now are likely to receive less than they would have done had the current system remained in place. Those who have fewer than seven, or possibly even 10, years of National Insurance contributions, who will get no state pension under the new rules”


  • Have you seen the rest of the nights results. With the exception of Norfolk CC hold they are appalling, dreadful what words can describe. beaten by the Greens in 3 of then, bottom at Charnwood and Wigan Winstanley with 26 and 19 votes respectively. It is humiliating. I remember back in the early 80s Wigan Winstanley was a dog fight between Labour and the Liberal or Liberal Alliance, I was living in Wigan at the time, we won it once, and came close to a second seat by a hairs breath in a by election. Oh those happy days. UNLIKE NOW.
    LETS FACE IT THE PARTY IS IN A MESS AND ADMIT IT. THEN WE CAN MOVE FORWARD. NOW We’ve got the economy right, we should leave the coalition and remodel ourselves before the general election.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Oct '13 - 12:38pm

    Oh I see, people are cheering the fact that inflation in 2011 was 5.2%, so the state pension had to go up by the same amount. I wouldn’t be cheering this.

  • Peter Davies 25th Oct '13 - 12:48pm

    They didn’t actually need to draw lots in the council election between UKIP and the Greens. They could have been eliminated in one round since the votes of either could not affect the order of any other pair.

  • Peter Davies 25th Oct '13 - 12:55pm

    Actually the bottom four could have been eliminated together.

  • Alex Macfie 25th Oct '13 - 1:00pm

    “I voted for you, coalition, evil, tories”

    Surely, when something like this comes up on the doorstep in a Scottish Parliamentary by-election, we should point out that the Scottish Parliament is a separate institution from Westminster, there is no agreement or working arrangement between us and the Tories there, our MSPs work hard, we did good things when we were in government in Scotland etc etc. As a party we used to campaign on local issues for local elections. What happened to that? Unfortunately by focusing on the Coalition we are encouraging the idea that what happens at Westminster is the only thing that matters, and allowing our performance to depend entirely on preceptions of our record in national government.
    Whenever voters on the doorstep mentioned the Coalition as a reason for not voting for us in a recent Council by-election, I would point out that this is an election to the Council, and it is a 2-party Tory/Lib Dem Council so we are their opponents. I fully intend to do similar in the Euro election campaign next year: that we’re not in coalition with the Tories there, the European Parliament doesn’t work like that anyway, Lib Dem MEPs work harder than others, and Tory MEPs are allied with a bunch of reactionary extremists and we would want nothing to do with them.

  • Richard Shaw 25th Oct '13 - 1:22pm


    Meh. As a native of Charnwood, an area that has been Lab/Tory marginal for generations, it is no surprise and of little concern to me that Lib Dems have done badly where they have always done badly. The fact they stood a candidate at all is worthy of praise and hopefully they can use this opportunity to identify and build more support.

  • Sorry, Caron, when I said the result wasn’t surprising, that was given that we clearly had a strong candidate and a strong campaign. I agree it could have been a lot worse given the squeeze and being in Government. So well done.

  • Tony Dawson 25th Oct '13 - 7:12pm

    @Caron Lindsey:

    “It was the Labour council that was closing the 3 schools around which the by-election centred.”

    YOU might have thought the election centred on that issue, I think the electorate had wider things in mind – hence the result.

  • Tony Dawson 25th Oct '13 - 7:16pm

    @Caron Lindsay:

    “even in Scotland, people likely to vote for us actually like Nick Clegg.”

    And even in Scotland, that percentage of people ‘likely to vote for us’ is not particularly high. The reason being. . . . .?

    In places where people are not only ‘likely to vote for us’ but actually DO vote for us in quite large numbers, perhaps the demographic is different?

  • You should be careful comparing with 2011. Then we were defending an incumbent, albeit on new boundaries, so will have had some personal vote, local campaigning infrastructure, a perception we could win and campaign finance comparable to the opposition. As such, continuing unwind from that point is not surprising, regardless of external factors.

  • As the independence referendum looms, those who want to retain the union face a by-election where the main fight is between Labour and SNP and no-one else has a chance. It’s a wonder that we kept any of our vote. I agree with Caron.

  • Tom Robinson 27th Oct '13 - 1:52am

    Caron’s article is Self Deception on speed. There was a Lib Dem MSP holding this seat until 2011.

    Now the Lib Dems have less than 12% of the vote (a while back for Westminster that would have been a lost deposit)
    but the SNP have suffered a” disaster”.

    Some disaster!-where a duplication of the result across the whole of Scotland would still leave the SNP as the largest party in 2016.

    Caron-“mince” is the polite description of your analysis 🙂

  • caron is a great inspiration, and amazingly loyal, but I wonder, honestly, how many are listening now? Tony suggests that half of the activists are gone, but where I live, they’ve all gone! If anyone in the hierarchy cares, fees and then the nuclear power u turns have done much more damage than the coalition itself and the need for cuts.

  • David White 29th Oct '13 - 2:40pm

    There have been some very interesting, stimulating even, responses to Caron’s post. As an English oppressor of the Scottish nation, I am hesitant to add to the woes of our party north of the Tweed. However….!

    Whoever chose the headline was guilty of the kind of hyperbole which could gain them a well-paid job with a publishing house. Flapping and floundering for excuses for the LD result is not a good idea. Instead, we should be preparing an agenda for the whole UK which might enable us to avoid very bad results in the next general election.

    People who supported us in the past, or at least felt some affection/respect for the LDs, have left the fold. Yes, I know about Eastleigh (UKIP’s candidate was charismatic but a socio-political extremist and also about some results in council elections. Unfortunately, over4all, our party’s prospects don’t look too rosy. We foot-soldiers receive positive responses to a few of our MPs’ achievements in restraining some of OldCon excesses. However, I’m asked why we didn’t stop the NHS privatisation scheme, or the Bedroom Tax, or the demonising of poor and struggling people, both in work and unemployed.

    There are signs that our party may be moving back to our former position of decency and social concern. Someone – everyone of us – should harry The Gaffers to distance our party from the frightful Cameron, Osborne, Duncan Smith and their Tory toadies.

    How about it, comrades?

  • David White 29th Oct '13 - 2:42pm

    PS: More typing probs from my cataracts – no semi-privatised NHS appointment until January next year!

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