The results of the Liberton / Gilmerton by election for Edinburgh City Council, where I stood as the SSP candidate, were declared on Friday :-
[1st preference votes] LABOUR 2,974
Turnout was just 28%.
The by-election was caused by the resignation of the sitting Labour councillor after he became the MP for Edinburgh South in May.
Labour's resounding victory was very much what we expected and the low turnout was no surprise either. Labour's success is explained by two important factors. First they benefited from the overwhelming anti-Tory mood which has gripped Scotland since May and second the SNP /Lib Dem coalition which runs Edinburgh City Council is profoundly unpopular after closing a very popular primary school in the area. Labour, somewhat hypocritically it has to be said, toured the ward campaigning on a 'NO Cuts' programme. I say hypocritical because Labour ran Edinburgh Cuty Council for 20 years until 2007 and carried out more cuts to services than any other party. Furthermore if they were in charge at the City Chambers today there is not a scintilla of doubt they would be making cuts every bit as vicious as their SNP/Lib Dem colleagues. But the fact is it's the SNP /Lib Dem coalition who are in charge and are making the cuts. They have also threatened to privatise the refuse collection services and cut other public services here with hundreds of jobs to be axed.
Support for the Lib Dems and the SNP has plummeted accordingly. The SNP topped the poll in this [multi-member] ward in 2007 now they are miles behind Labour. Most of the Lib Dems support also went to Labour in the by-election although about a third went to the Tories.
The Scottish Socialist Party vote [at 2.5%] was not great. We were entitled to hope for far more. However, it was where we expected it to be and is actually higher than we got the last time I stood in 2007. We fought a very creditable campaign. We deliver three excellent leaflets to each one of the 10,000 households in the ward. We festooned the constituency with lamp posters and we recruited new members to the party. Additionally we were able to give dozens of party members invaluable experience in contesting elections ahead of next years Holyrood poll. We can certainly be pleased to have accomplished our central goals of raising the party's banner and programme in this area. Whilst we were not able to persuade people that our opposition to cuts in services in this city is, unlike all our opponents, unblemished. Neither were we able to compete with the financial resources of the other parties. On the other hand we did make significant advances in many ways and just as I would not want to be accused to talking up a very low vote neither will I be found guilty of underestimating important advances. The truth is there are several reasons to be optimistic about the future for the SSP not the least of them being the enormously encouraging sight of hundreds [yes hundreds] of Labour second preference votes [where they were expressed ] which we saw going to us at the count on Friday morning. Whilst it is certainly true that many Labour 2nd preferences went to the SNP there was nowhere near as many as went to us. This was enormously encouraging because if we can persuade Labour voters to give us their second preferences next May in the Holyrood elections - still a big if I realise across the Lothians - then we have more than a fighting chance of winning back our seat in the Scottish Parliament.
So to all those SSP members who came to Liberton/Gilmerton to help in the campaign these past three weeks I say a big thank you, I appreciate your help and above all keep your eyes on the prize!