Blairites urge Keir Starmer to be more radical amid by-election win

Triumphant Blairites urge Keir Starmer to be more radical as Labour smashes SNP in Rutherglen by-election putting party on track to win 40 seats in Scotland – with separatists plunged into civil war over dying hopes of breaking up the UK

  • Labour’s Michael Shanks trounced the SNP in Rutherglen by-election overnight 

Blairites urged Keir Starmer to be bolder today as a huge by-election triumph suggested he is on track for Downing Street.

The Labour leader has been urged to set out a more radical vision as the party dramatically overturned a previous 5,300 SNP majority to seize Rutherglen & Hamilton West by a margin of 9,400.

Experts said if the huge 20 per cent swing was replicated across Scotland then Labour could end up with around 40 MPs north of the border.

That compares to just a single MP secured at the 2019 general election, and would almost certainly see Sir Keir become PM. The proportion of the vote received in Rutherglen was in line with 2010 – when Labour had 41 MPs in Scotland.

Sir Keir, who kicks off a crucial Labour conference this weekend, said: ‘This is a seismic result. People in Rutherglen and Hamilton West have sent a clear message – it is time for change. And it is clear they believe that this changed Labour Party can deliver it.

‘I have always said that winning back the trust of people in Scotland is essential. Tonight’s victory is the culmination of three and a half years of hard work and humility on that journey. I am grateful to everyone who has put their faith in us today – we will work every day to repay it.’ 

It was another body blow for the SNP’s independence ambitions, with humiliated leader Humza Yousaf dismally failing his first electoral test since taking over from Nicola Sturgeon.

Labour dramatically overturned a previous 5,300 majority for the separatists to seize Rutherglen & Hamilton West by a margin of 9,400

Michael Shanks (right) and Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar at the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election count 

Allies suggested the outcome in Rutherglen puts Keir Starmer on track to win power  

Mr Shanks took the Westminster seat in the by-election – which was called after former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier was ousted for breaking Covid rules

Mr Shanks won 17,845 votes compared to the SNP’s 8,399

The by-election saw a dramatic slump in support for both the SNP and Tories

Following the trouncing, new MP Michael Shanks said the result showed ‘there is no part of this country where Labour can’t win’.

He declared: ‘Labour can kick the Tories out of Downing Street next year and deliver the change people want and this country so badly needs. Tonight is one part of that journey.’

Polling guru Sir John Curtice told the BBC that there was no guarantee the general election would reflect the result, but a swing on that scale would see Labour ‘dominate’ north of the border. He said it was the sort of result opposition parties get ‘when they are going to go on and win the next general election’.

The contest was triggered by voters booting out rulebreaking former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier in Scotland’s first ever recall petition.

The politician fragrantly flouted Covid rules by gallivanting between London and Glasgow while knowingly infected with the virus, and she was subsequently convicted in court of ‘recklessly’ exposing people to harm.

It left the crisis-plagued SNP desperately battling to retain the seat, which their disgraced former MP won with a 5,230 majority in 2019.

During the vote counting, Labour suggested that parts of the constituency where they trailed the SNP by around 20 percentage points in last year’s local election were now ‘neck and neck’.

A Scottish Labour source said: ‘The SNP are claiming this is about unionist voters coming to Labour.

‘I’m not going to lie and say we’ve not picked up a decent chunk of the Tory vote, but you would not be seeing neck and neck boxes in some of the most SNP parts of this constituency unless there was a serious slip in the SNP’s core vote.’

Labour said that at least 42 target seats would be in play based on the result. 

Former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier (pictured) takes her bin out on the day constituents head to the polls in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election

Mr Shanks won 17,845 votes compared to the SNP’s 8,399 – a swing of more than 20 per cent

SNP candidate Katy Loudon (pictured) visits the polling station at St Charles’ primary school, Cambuslang, during the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election

Mr Yousaf, who avoided the count in Hamilton, said it was a ‘disappointing night for the SNP’.

He added: ‘I want to thank our exceptional candidate Katy Loudon and our activists for their incredible efforts. Let me also congratulate Michael Shanks on being elected.

‘Circumstances of this by-election were always very difficult for us.

‘Collapse in the Tory vote, which went straight to Labour, also a significant factor.

‘We lost this seat in 2017, and like 2019 we can win this seat back.

‘However, we will reflect on what we have to do to regain the trust of the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West.’

It was also the first time voters in Scotland were forced to bring proof of identification to polling stations, with all parties having anecdotal evidence of people being turned away.

The returning officer for South Lanarkshire said there would be a report made to the Electoral Commission about the scale of the problem, with the number of would-be voters.

Turnout at the by-election, carried out during a mostly rainy day across Glasgow – was just 37.19 per cent, with 30,531 of the 82,104 eligible voters bothering to cast a ballot.

Arguing the by-election was a ‘turning point’ for Scottish Labour, party leader Anas Sarwar said: ‘I think the clear message is that people are sick of two failing governments, two incompetent, divisive governments, and people are demanding change.

‘And they can now see that the only vehicle for that change is the Scottish Labour Party and Scotland can lead the way in delivering a UK Labour Government.’

Asked what the result means for the general election and Sir Keir Starmer, he said: ‘I’ll just say this is, I believe, a seismic moment, I think it is a significant point in Scotland’s political history.

‘And I think this is going to have huge reverberations as we head towards that next general election. But we need to wait for the official declaration.’

He added: ‘That can be a springboard going into the next election.’

Scottish voters went to the polls yesterday as Sir Keir faced a crucial test of his hopes of becoming prime minister.

Regaining ground in Scotland is a key challenge for Sir Keir as he looks to become PM and he told the BBC last month he wants to win a significant number of seats in the country to ensure he has a ‘mandate’.

Sir Keir said after the results: ‘Voters across Scotland and across Britain want a government determined to deliver for working people, with a proper plan to rebuild our country. They want to move on from two SNP and Tory governments that offer only more division, more chaos and more infighting.

‘The country deserves a government firmly on their side and focused on their priorities – and Labour will deliver that for them.’

On the eve of the by-election, Mr Sarwar argued that defeating the SNP could prove as ‘seismic’ for Labour as Winnie Ewing’s win for the Nationalists in the same constituency. 

 Anas Sarwar celebrates Scottish Labour candidate Mr Shanks winning the by-election 

Speaking after the declaration, Mr Sarwar told reporters: ‘This is a historic night in Scottish politics. A seismic result.

‘I think it has flipped Scottish politics on its head and I think it is getting clear that the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West have sent a message to two failing governments that they are sick of the incompetence, they’re sick of the chaos, they’re sick of the division and they are ready and desperate for change.’

Ms Ewing’s historic 1967 victory in Hamilton – the party’s first post-war victory – is widely believed to be the catalyst for the SNP’s rise to its current size and electoral success.

He said: ‘We’ve had seismic by-elections before and it’s fair to say that the Labour Party in recent times has been on the wrong side of those seismic by-elections.

‘You can talk about the by-election that Winnie Ewing won here many years back, you can talk about the Glasgow East by-election that we lost to the SNP. Both were regarded as seismic.

‘I believe this has the potential to be a seismic by-election, and then as a launch pad as we head towards that next general election.’

Source: Read Full Article