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21 July 2008

The battle for Glasgow East

The reality may be different but Labour are still seen as the party that stand up for the working cl

By Tom Hosie

By-election fever is gripping Glasgow East, or so you’d believe if you read the press – particularly the quality broadsheets. On the streets of the constituency the story is a little different.

Okay, so it’s festooned with placards and the candidates exchange barbs with each other on national television – but just how many voters incidentally are sufficiently motivated to get out of bed early on a Sunday morning to hear the cut and thrust of debate between Margaret Curran and John Mason? But the biggest fight is against voter apathy.

The turnout at the 2005 General Election was a paltry 48 per cent and with the by-election taking place during a Glasgow holiday it is likely to be even less this time around.

A 22 per cent swing is required for the SNP to take the seat and while a vigorous campaign has seen significant inroads made there is no real sense that a major shock is about to take place. Glasgow East is no Glasgow Govan and John Mason, though a highly able candidate, is no Jim Sillars.

The great challenge the SNP face in this constituency and Glasgow as a whole is making inroads into a Labour vote that is almost passed from generation to generation.

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The reality may be different but Labour are still seen as the party that stand up for the working class. Margaret Curran cleverly plays on that with ‘Standing up for the East End’ plastered across her election literature. If the SNP are to win seats like these then they need to break the generational hold that Labour have on the vote in Glasgow.

The fight between Labour and the SNP is obviously the centre of attention but the two socialist parties, the Scottish Socialist Party and Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity, are cooking up an interesting side show.

On the last weekend prior to the election we were greeted by the sight outside the Forge Shopping Centre of the SSP on one side of the road and Solidarity on the other. Even though the physical gap between the two parties was actually greater that the ideological gap that exists between them the hostility was clear to see. All this over a few hundred votes that will benefit no one other than Margaret Curran who will see the anti-Labour vote split.

Tom Hosie, 39, is a public service employee and Glasgow East resident for 12 years

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