Despite talk of the SNP pulling off a shock defeat, Labour was always likely to win last night’s Inverclyde by-election. In the end, the party’s margin of victory – 5,838 votes – was greater than many activists expected, and Ed Miliband can celebrate his fourth consecutive by-election win this morning.
The SNP, who came within 511 votes of capturing the sister seat in last month’s Scottish Parliament elections, were hopeful of victory but Labour’s majority of 14,416 proved too great to overturn. It’s further evidence that while Alex Salmond has established the SNP as the natural party of devolved government, Labour is still the party of choice in Westminster elections.
The other noteworthy thing about last night was the disastrous performance of the Lib Dems. Their share of the vote plummeted from 13.3 per cent to 2.2 per cent, losing the party its deposit, and they were pushed into fourth place by the Tories. Sophie Bridger, the Lib Dem candidate, won just 627 votes on a respectable turnout of 45.4 per cent, only 339 more than the Ukip candidate, Mitch Sorbie.
The recriminations have already begun, with the Scottish party attributing its defeat to Nick Clegg’s toxic reputation. As the former MSP Ross Finney commented: “There were clear issues of trust in the leadership”. Expect to see the Scottish Lib Dems do even more to differentiate themselves from the national leadership over the coming months.
The result in full
Iain McKenzie (Lab) 15,118 (53.8%, -2.2%)
Anne McLaughlin (SNP) 9.280 (33%, +15.5%)
David Wilson (Con) 2,784 (9.9%, -2.1%)
Sophie Bridger (LD) 627 (2.2%, -11.1%)
Mitch Sorbie (UKIP) 288 (1%, -0.2%)
Labour majority: 5,838 (20.8%, -17.6%)
Turnout: 28,097 (45.4%, -18%)