10 April 2012

Glasgow: A seagull's eye view...

In my recent series of posts on the upcoming Council elections in Glasgow (one, two and three), I've focussed on a) how the electoral system works; b) the new SNP candidate strategy in the city and c) the challenges posed to the Labour party by their main competitor's change of approach, the proportionality of the system, and the toxicity that may make coalition-forming after the election profoundly difficult.

The obvious next subject to be addressed is: what fate awaits our custard-coloured friends, the Liberals, and who might benefit from the curdling of their modest Glaswegian support? Who could break through and where? Before getting into that, I thought it might he helpful for folk (particularly those from outwith the city) to etch something of an overview of how the council stood geographically after the 2007 elections, and how the various major parties fared in each of the city's twenty one wards. In particular, assessing concentrations of support and likely transfers will be essential calculations in assessing who might benefit from Liberal collapse.

First, a little context. I've attached an image of all of the Glasgow wards below.  Underneath the number designating each, I've notched the number of councillors returned from the ward in 2007, coloured for their party allegiances (the solitary purple I in the south west of the city represents Solidarity. Liberal Democrat and SNP are orange and yellow respectively). 

Since the election which generated this map, we've had the 2010 General Election, the formation of the coalition - and the 2011 Holyrood election.  In 2007, both the Greens and Liberals saw an MSP elected with respect to Glasgow (Robert Brown and Patrick Harvie).  In 2007, the Liberals took 14,767 votes in Glasgow (7.2% of the region, comparing to 11.3% of list votes cast nationally in their favour).  Come 2011, the posterior fell through his already modest level of support in the city, their accumulated regional vote decreasing to just 5,312.  Losing 9,455 votes in a trice is hardly a sign of political life prospering well, and I fancy the coalition will have done little in the intervening period to endear Liberals to their prodigal supporters.  It may be that cherished local candidates shall evade the national trend - but the 2011 Scottish Parliament result can hardly warm the cockles of frostbitten Liberal councillors in the city, defending 2007's gains. A parallel local election slump seems eminently probable.

Glasgow's underperforming SNP?

A strand running through all my pieces thus far is that the SNP probably undershot in the number of candidates it fielded in 2007, but I realise, I've done nothing to justify this in terms of evidence. So ponder this. Compare the 2007 regional vote for Holyrood with how the self-same set of voters cast their ballots in the simultaneous local election.  In 2011, the SNP won 39.8% of the Glaswegian regional vote to Labour's 35%.  While the SNP won its first parliamentary plurality in 2007, Glasgow continued stubbornly to prefer Labour, who won 38.2% of the regional vote, to the SNP's 27%. In brute numerical terms, Labour outpolled the Nats by just over 23,000 votes.  But notice that the widening gap recorded between the two parties in the simultaneous local poll held using STV. I've knocked together these two graphs, representing the differences.

While the number of Labour first preferences in wards dipped somewhat from their regional showing for Holyrood in 2007 (down 2,555), the SNP first preference vote in the local elections was 9,647 lower than their regional vote, and a massive 35,208 votes behind Labour's collection of first preferences across Glasgow.

Geographies of preference, or preferences of geography?

In 2012 in Glasgow as in 2007: a big two-beast dustup for the city.  But there are interesting nuances of geography in the city worth dwelling over.  I've pulled out the party preferences recorded in each of the 21 council wards depicted above, showing troughs, pinnacles and plunges as levels of party support veers from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, like the vaulting cardiogram reading of a heart patient after ten espressos.

This compares to the following SNP first preference vote in 2007, which saw a councillor apiece elected in every ward (and two in Baillieston)...

And what of the third, fourth and fifth parties: the Greens, Liberals and Tories? As the first graph appearing above records, of the three the Conservatives attracted the most first preferences in wards, but only (and only just) saw a single councillor elected to the five each won by the Liberals and Greens. One interesting and significant point of detail: the wards where a party sees a councillor returned do not neatly align with their best first preference performances.  For example, the Greens currently have a councillor for Canal ward (on 703 first preference votes) and Southside Central (812), but not a sausage in Langside or Pollokshields, in which they polled initially much more strongly.

And combining all five major parties into a single, gargantuan bar chart...

So what? More on what all this behoves for the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Green parties in Glasgow anon...


  1. Ahem lallands despite your valiant efforts, detail dear boy detail. North-east not North-west unless we have the wrong ward printed on our election stuff. ;)

  2. Tony,

    Rats! Good spot. Although I think it far more likely that you have misprinted your entire election material, I've taken the precaution of replacing every instance of "North West" in this blog to "North East"... ;)

  3. One aspect I noted about the Glasgow results in 2007, was the relative lack of impact STV had. By that I mean - if we'd simply gone by first preferences, 76 out of the 79 councillors we eventually got would still have been elected. Only 3 councillors got elected thanks to transfers.

  4. By no means would I write Labour off quite yet. The SNP (visual) average was approx 2000 first prefs, yet the worst Labour did (in Hillhead) was still over 2000.

  5. I know this is not going to go down well in some quarters but I have a real feeling that Labour will hold off the threat of the SNP in Glasgow. I think they will lose a good many seats and the SNP will gain but can't see the SNP winning Glasgow control. I am not convinced that the SNP campaign has been all it could be actually. Apart from a stormer of a conference and a few people knocking on doors what have they done to really catch the eye? I'm gunning for the SNP; I hope they do it but can't see it. No surprise to me to see the Tories getting in at my girlfriend's ward. Lives in the 'posh hoosies'. She's had Tory and SNP activists at door. She's voting SNP but wasn't that impressed with the activist.

  6. I've openly stated on my own blog that I think the SNP will take Glasgow.

    Having had a deeper look at things, I think while the SNP will take Glasgow, they might be in for a shock in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, as they have rather divisive issues to hand.

    But I'm glad someone has activists knocking on their doors. Absolutely sod all to date in East Kilbride.

  7. The Bogle < Even if the SNP do not win it's pretty likely that Labour will lose their majority. Who will the opposition parties support the SNP or Labour?

  8. Daniel

    Greens are scathing about Labour and how they have ignored them so don't expect them to work wi labour. I don't expect more than 2 or 3 tories and lib-dem's between them. Greens might hold balance.

  9. The plural of anecdote is not data, but it does seem like Labour asleep at the wheel - again - when it comes to their famous "doorstep" in these parts. There was SNP agitprop waiting when I got back in on Sunday afternoon - I must have just escaped that big walkabout Humza Yousaf was on - and a nice red flyer (I've seen much worse stuff from the major parties) from now-independent Cllr Anne-Marie Millar turned up on Monday.

    Alas, no sign of Gordon Matheson's promises of bread and circuses yet. Better to fix the schools and hire some teachers instead maybe if there's money to spare. And if there's anything left after that, do the roads round Tradeston. There are holes in the streets there so big you could lose an elephant down some of them. But only a small elephant, so that's OK then.

    I don't know about the rest of you but I'm glad I got that off my chest.

  10. Barbarian, I don't agree with you in regards to the SNP in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The divisive issue in Edinburgh is presumably the trams, and as far as I'm aware, it is overwhelmingly the Lib Dems who are being blamed for that mess (although I think Labour perhaps are as well). The SNP, having kept clear of the debacle until they needed to step in to sort it out, won't suffer from that.

    As for Aberdeen, Labour are the only party trying to turn UTG/CGP into an election issue, and they're not doing a very good job of it. Even the blatantly unionist local papers have criticised Labour rather savagely for their cynical tactic of saying "vote for us and we'll scrap the project". The fact that there was a referendum on the issue means scrapping it would be undemocratic - only the most fervent anti-CGP campaigners are still questioning the result, so most of us who voted against it are resigned to the loss. Having brought the referendum about in the first place, I don't think the SNP will suffer too badly in Aberdeen, and again, it may in fact be the Lib Dems who fare worst out of the SNP/Lib Dem coalition.

  11. Douglas you're making me lol. The EE and P&J have loved CGP from the beginning it is not surprise that they will give little time to a party trying to end the insane vanity project.

    Democracy in some form it may be. I don't really recognise it when one group campaigns within the rules and can only spend £8,000 and the other campaigns outwith the rules. This lets them buy blanket radio and PR coverage with the help of hundreds of thousands of pounds!

    It's pretty obvious that had they stayed within the rules of the referendum they would have lost.


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