Game on in Gordon: Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine has to defend seat against former First Minister Salmond

imageIn the biggest surprise since the sun last rose in the east, Alex Salmond will announce today that he’s going to be standing for the Westminster Parliament in the Gordon Constituency which is currently held by Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Sir Malcolm Bruce.

It’s almost a year since Christine Jardine was selected to fight the seat. She has been leading a fun and spirited campaign since then which saw voters in Gordon reject independence by almost 2:1. Her campaign manager is the party legend who masterminded Nicol Stephen’s election campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s. Mr Salmond should underestimate them at his peril.

Salmond represents part of the Gordon constituency at Holyrood. He no doubt thinks that he can do as he did in 2007, swan in to the seat and win. Certainly the SNP will resource his campaign to the max and there are plenty new members in that party to help out.

Victory for Salmond is far from assured though:

1) In 2007, the SNP hardly ever mentioned independence. In fact, they didn’t talk about it that much until 2011 when they won their overall majority since when they haven’t stopped talking about it. Even though they lost the referendum. The SNP has put the country through a fairly brutal and divisive period. Salmond may find that some of the people who vote for him for the Scottish Parliament may not be quite so willing to do so.

2) Look at the numbers. Here’s the result from 2010:

Lib Dems: 17,575

SNP: 10, 827

Lab: 9,811

Cons: 9,111

Green: 752

That’s roughly 36000 non SNP votes and 11,500 SNP and pro independence votes. Christine is the clear frontrunner, with almost twice the vote of any other anti-SNP party. If those people vote tactically for her against Salmond, his bid will be sunk pretty quickly. He will try and pretend that it’s all about him getting the best deal for Scotland in terms of more powers. We know that his primary aim is to secure something that the people of Gordon have emphatically said that they don’t want: independence.

3) The SNP Government has chronically underfunded the North East in everything from health to infrastructure. Funnily enough, the new First Minister has been up there today announcing that they are going to splash the cash up there. I suspect the voters will detect a large whiff of rat in the air.

Christine Jardine said last night:

People in the North East are counting the cost of 7 years of Alex Salmond. We have been short changed by millions of pounds in council funding, our roads have been neglected and our NHS has been left at breaking point. While Alex Salmond’s mind was on his independence crusade, doctors, nurses, patients and vital public sector workers were being let down.

I’m delighted the former First Minister is set to put an end to the game playing. The people of Gordon deserve better, just as they deserve an MP who will stand up for what’s important to them, not chase their personal political agenda at the cost of what’s best for the people of the North East. I intend to be a strong voice for all the people if Gordon.

And Sir Malcolm Bruce was defiant:

People in Gordon rejected the First Minister’s independence plans overwhelmingly at the referendum. I am sure that they would be delighted to have the chance to reject him again in May. Bring it on.

It’s worth noting that the last time Salmond was an MP, in 2007/8, he voted just 6 times (and managed to rack up a £1750 food bill, a third of the maximum allowable at that time, in that year).

Salmond’s intervention means that journalists will be camping out in Gordon to see what happens. We know that Christine Jardine is used to high profile media stuff. She was the candidate and often responsible adult on hustings platforms in the Donside by-election last year which covered part of the constituency.

Anyone who’s reading this who doesn’t want Salmond to win in Gordon might like to donate to Christine’s campaign.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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36 Comments

  • Do you really think the lib dems will win that seat again. Mr Bruce seemed to think so too going by what I read.

    I think the lib dems are beginning to sound a little delusional.

    You will lose that seat in May with or without Salmond. The GE in Scotland will be like the holyrood election part 2.

  • tbh, a little surprised by this. I thought Salmond would have asked Eilidh Whiteford to stand aside and let him have his old Banff & Buchan seat back, or he would have aimed for a vulnerable Labour seat.

    I assume the SNP have carried out polling to assess just how unpopular the Liberal Democrats are, Salmond must be very confident.

  • I don’t think this is particularly surprising, Salmond did the same thing in 2007, and the SNP are much more popular now. Furthermore, boundary changes have made this a better seat for the SNP, taking in areas formerly in Aberdeen North.

    However, I do think that his candidacy will, paradoxically, help us. While it ends any (already very slim) hopes of holding the seat, it should (hopefully) ensure a strong second with the unionist vote corralling around us, rather than being part of a completely split opposition with Labour and the Tories.

  • Thomas Robinson 7th Dec '14 - 11:26am

    Laughable piece of analysis.

    Salmond will win comfortably, more easily than when he took the Holyrood Gordon seat (from third place, not second as now) in 2007.

  • @Thomas Robinson

    How is it laughable that an area which rejected Salmond’s plan for independence by such a large majority will not him as their MP?

    His decision to stands makes this race a mini-Indy Ref. If you supported No, the LibDems are your party and if you voted Yes you vote SNP. The LibDems now have the perfect squeeze message for those anti-Indy Lab/Con voters.

  • Peter Andrews 7th Dec '14 - 12:18pm

    Time to start squeezing those Tory and Labour voters in a stop Salmond campaign.

    I am not saying we will win or anything as over confident as that but the idea that Salmond can decide to run and the media just assume he will overturn a near 7000 majority in a seat that has been Lib Dem for decades is a bit presumptuous

  • Tony Dawson 7th Dec '14 - 12:22pm

    It will be interesting to see what the first Ashworth Poll of this constituency brings forward.

  • ATF, the trouble is Labour voters hate the Lib Dems and Labour are likely to demand Lib Dem voters vote for them to thwart Salmond.

    The most likely outcome is the unionist vote will split, Salmond will get in.

  • Christine Jardine and her team deserve all the help (and all the luck) they can muster.
    Having a party legend in charge of the campaign will help.
    Having a “spirited and fun” campaign will obviously help.
    But I would caution against using the line — “Christine is the clear front runner” even if it is true in spades.
    The BBC (see today’s Sunday Politics with Andrew Neil) has already decided that Salmond has won.

    I would also caution against banging on about how wonderful it was that ONLY 45% of people in Scotland voted for independence.
    But what do I know, hundreds of miles away in South West London? Well maybe I do have a slight clue in the fact that I received e-mails begging for help during the Scotland referendum, from a panic stricken Liberal Democrat NO campaign. The e-mail asked me and those of us who live closer to Bruges than we do to Aberdeen, to drop everything and travel to Scotland to help in The Referendum.
    So I would recommend the campaign team for Christine Jardine to forget about your magnificent victory in “saving Trident for the Scots” as the referendum result might be seen by some of our voters .
    Instead look to winning a local campaign on local issues, with a local woman who is more interested in the constituency instead of someone who has developed too great a taste for London TV studios.

  • Given the results in Scotland since 2010 you could easily come 4th. I guess pretending you can win is key to the real objective which is to try and hang onto 2nd place.

  • @g

    Certainly not saying it is an easy task! Lest we forget thought that lots of former Labour voters now hate Lab and have moved to the SNP and they have bigger tasks on their hands holding the seats that they do than worrying about Gordon.

    Also, we’ve all been part of campaigns when we thought the incumbent was done for and had no chance, then they ave gone on to win quite easily. A lesson learnt the hard way, I have found!

    This wll be a fight, no doubt about it – but a party with 30 years local knowledge, a 2:1 vote margin against their nearest rival on the key current issue and a superb candidate in place – that is one heck of a fighting chance.

  • How predictable that the usual suspects (and some new ones) should queue up to write off our party.

    There is a level of aggressive taunting, vindictiveness and spite towards our party I have never seen before, both here and in other online forums. Hopefully it will encourage true Lib Dems to come out fighting.

    Salmond does not deserve to win this fight and if former Labour and Tory voters can overcome their tribal allegiances, he won’t.

  • The bookies have the SNP to win Gordon at 1/7, LibDems to win 5/1. No disrespect to the LibDem candidate, but the odds would be better on Frankel against a carthorse.

  • I’m not a fan of Salmond and I can’t believe I’m saying this in a way but we need his anti-Tory rhetoric down here. They are getting away with murder thanks to the neutering of the Lib Dems and the uselessness of Labour. Salmond would be a reasonable antidote.

  • Ray Cobbett 7th Dec '14 - 4:50pm

    This is one of a number the SNP will lift from the LD’s in May. To think otherwise, as some in high places still do, is like believing in Father Xmas.

  • @FrankBooth

    “I’m not a fan of Salmond and I can’t believe I’m saying this in a way but we need his anti-Tory rhetoric down here. They are getting away with murder thanks to the neutering of the Lib Dems and the uselessness of Labour. Salmond would be a reasonable antidote.”

    The last thing the politics of division needs is someone else doing exactly the same thing.

    @Ray Cobbett

    To call an election result for May in December is just as silly, though would be interesting to see whether the SNP surge is localised or across-the-board national. Uniform national swgins and LibDem campaigns don’t go together…

  • ATF – what about asking WHY this politics of division has become so successful? Could it perhaps be because a lot of people feel left behind? That the modern economy is making them less wealthy, less secure, less optimistic? It’s no good obsessing about ending division unless you understand where it comes from. No doubt plenty of Tories thought the Labour movement pre WW1 was engaged in the politics of ‘divisiveness’. If you wan to end divisiveness you need something around which most people could unite. The Lib Dem attempt to do this in the Euros wasn’t exactly a great success.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Dec '14 - 6:18pm

    I don’t know much about Christine Jardine, but from what I have seen I have been very impressed.

    Having said that, I generally think all local parties should be treated the same. I’m not an absolutist, but I don’t agree with diverting large amounts of national resources towards select target seats. Target seats should have to rely on a bigger local funding and volunteer base.

    RC makes a good point about “aggressive taunting, vindictiveness and spite towards our party I have never seen before, both here and in other online forums.”. And I agree some people are too negative, but I have been angry in the past, so I know how some people can be seething when certain policies are introduced.

    Regards

  • [to] “assume he will overturn a near 7000 majority in a seat that has been Lib Dem for decades is a bit presumptuous”

    It is just reflecting the reality for Lib Dems in Scotland..

    Your comment demonstrates a state of denial. . Forget Salmond being 1/7 to win the seat, Alexander is 2/5 to lose Inverness! The GE in Scotland looks like being a almost wipe out for Liberal Democrats. Never mind a taxi you’ll be able to get your remaining Scottish MP’s into a telephone box.

  • Thomas Robinson 7th Dec '14 - 6:57pm

    ATF writes of Salmond:

    “His decision to stands (sic) makes this race a mini-Indy Ref”

    No it does not-the SNP have already made it quite clear that even winning a majority of Scottish seats at GE 2015 would not be taken to justify independence or even another referendum.

    The electorate is therefor free to elect Alex Salmond, as the candidate whose profile will most benefit Gordon. Believe me, that IS exactly what they will do 🙂

  • @Thomas Robinson

    I don’t think anyone really believes that for a minute. The SNP care about one thing and one thing alone. Given how Salmond used his last speech as SNP leader said that No voters were tricked or scared out of voting Yes, he already has a pretty low opinion of the majority of people he wishes to represent.

    @Frank Booth

    A fair riposte, Frank – agree with much of what you say. I still feel though that a party that makes anyone who voted No seem like less of a Scot. All of this talk of the 45 – I’m glad liberalism tries for the 100%. Do we always succeed? Nope, but Salmond and the SNP only care about getting to 51.

  • George Kendall 8th Dec '14 - 1:24am

    ATF is right, this is an opportunity.

    And so is John Tilley, about our great candidate Christine Jardine, deserving our support, and about Sheila Ritchie being a legend.

    And yes, I have been campaigning recently in Gordon. I was up there in Gordon in early October, and I saw both of them in action.

    Go for it, Christine and Sheila, you can do it!

  • Adam Robertson 8th Dec '14 - 2:11am

    I hope, Christine Jardine, holds on to Gordon but it will be a long fight to retain the seat. I think Alex Salmond is a formidable political operator and will be a hard challenge to her. However, I fear the public attention, Alex Salmond, will make it hard for her to hold the seat. Especially as she is not the incumbent, but trying to retain it as a new candidate. We have to take this into consideration.

    I must agree with the sentiments raised by John Tilley, that she must focus on local issues. This is because the next General Election is going to be very localised, if not regionalised. I think we are going to see different results in different regions. I think we will do badly in Scotland, but could do quite well in the South East and East. I think we could gain the seat of Watford with Dorothy Thornhill, who is the current mayor of Watford.

    I also think we must be aware despite being one of the parties in the Coalition, we may get squeezed out for air time especially as we head towards the General Election. I can see the media depicting it in the following way: Labour v Conservatives, while we have a great personality battle in the shape of Nigel Farage v Alex Salmond. One could argue that having a Farage v Salmond debate on TV, could benefit both UKIP and the SNP, as we head to the next General Election.

    We as a party have to tell the electorate, that we are the moderation party but with an infusion of liberalism. The liberalism needs to come to the forefront. As well, the leadership of the party, need to realise that there other options on the table apart from Coalition.

  • Alisdair Calder McGregor 8th Dec '14 - 7:37am

    “The bookies have the SNP to win Gordon at 1/7, LibDems to win 5/1.”

    Which bookie? I could get behind those odds.

  • The best thing Christine Jardine could do (short of refusing to stand, and letting Labour soak up the anti-Salmond vote) would be to run on a campaign of taking the party back from the Tory collaborators currently ruining it. It’s probably her only chance of seeing of Salmond’s portrayal of the Lib Dems as Tory-lite, which he will do and he will blame them and Westminster for all the social ills Scotland suffers from. It might not be true, but it will resonate, because this Coalition has done nothing for Scotland other than bribe constituents in Danny Alexander’s seat, whereas Salmond can point to his record as First Minister.

    Simply cheerleading will not work, especially from individuals a long way from Scotland.

  • Paul in Wokingham 8th Dec '14 - 8:28am

    @Alisdair. Try Ladbrokes. The other parties are way off in the betting. There’s no doubt that it’s a two horse race in Gordon…

  • I do wonder if Salmond’s candidature will actually help the Liberal Democrats. As the author points out there are lots of Labour and Tory votes that can be squeezed in Gordon constituency.

  • An additional thought. Christine Jardine’s team might prosper by talking aout the future, about not just wht will happen after 2015, but what will happen after 2020. Alex Salmond is riding high in the media this week but by 2020 he will be ancient history, especially to young voters who in the 2020 election were in nursery school when Salmond became First Minister.
    Christine Jardine can fight and win the 2015 election by talking about the 2020 election.
    She needs to remind Salmond that he USED TO BE the future.

  • Dear Christine Jardine

    I wish to send three e-mail attachments to you or your people in Gordon re the S.N.P. and the police. Could you please send me an e-mail address to send them to you or your representatives in Gordon.

    Yours sincerely Ian Kelman

    [Ed: Use these contacts: http://www.libdems.org.uk/christine_jardine ]

  • David Evans 8th Dec '14 - 10:31am

    Christine and the Gordon Lib Dems deserve our wholehearted support. Alex Salmond would not have dared take on Malcolm himself, but he thinks Christine will be easier. It will be a tough battle, but with a seven thousand majority to defend and Malcolm’s help they can prevail.

  • William Summers 9th Dec '14 - 5:19pm

    “If those people vote tactically for her against Salmond, his bid will be sunk pretty quickly”.

    Love the optimism but surely you could say it the other way around too – i.e. vote tactically for Salmond to get rid of the Lib Dems? Surely that will be part of the SNP message. It seems a bit simplistic to assume everybody who previously voted Labour or Tory is “anti-SNP” but not anti-Lib Dem.

  • @ ATF Quote “How is it laughable that an area which rejected Salmond’s plan for independence by such a large majority will not him as their MP?”

    What was the majority in the Gordon district ?
    On the internet I can see what the figures are for the whole of Aberdeenshire, but that covers a huge area. So can you enlighten us to the exact figures to help us out here?

    Thank you.

  • Leekliberal 11th Dec '14 - 7:17pm

    With the collapse in the oil price there are warnings of large losses of jobs in the oil industry in the ‘UK’. Don’t they mean in Scotland? A warning to Scot’s of the economic uncertainties of life in Salmond’s oil-based paradise and justification of their wisdom in voting NO!

  • Donald Lewis 2nd Jan '15 - 3:20pm

    Gordon voted NO in the referendum They must not give Salmond the oxygen of publicity to pursue independence and division at Westminster. His sole aim is to get to Westminster and pursue his misguided dream of breaking up the UK. The people of Gordon must prevent that. They will have to vote tactically in the first past the post system as with a divide vote he could win by default.. Voters should cast aside party votes on this occasion and all vote for the strongest opponent to Salmond. Everyone must vote Liberal. In Christine Jardine you have a superb local hard working candidate with the interests of the community at heart, not a self seeking opportunist who you will hardly ever see.

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