Tag Archives: Rutherglen

The big lie behind the Labour Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election swing

Well done to Scottish Labour for winning the Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election on Thursday (October 5) – but I think some people might be overstating it a bit:

The percentage swings are all wrong, of course, because they are only ever taken as percentages of the turnout – and not of the electorate.

So let’s run the numbers. The electorate is currently taken to be 81,124 people. So in the 2019 general election, when Labour won 18,545 votes, that would have been around 22.9 per cent of the electorate.

On Thursday, Labour won 17,845 votes – around 22 per cent of the electorate.

So instead of a 20.4 per cent swing to Labour, the vote actually showed a 0.9 per cent swing away from that party; 700 fewer people supported Labour.

Now look at Beth Rigby’s comment below:

“That sort of swing, if replicated in a GE, could see Labour gain 41 seats”. Really? Losing 0.9 per cent of the vote in every constituency in Scotland at a general election will give Labour 41 seats?

I have a doubt…

Of course, the turnout for this by-election was extremely low:

Here are the turnouts for by-elections over the last two years: you can see that Rutherglen and Hamilton West had the lowest turnout of the lot – and the second biggest percentage fall…

… so Joe Pass’s comment makes no sense to This Writer. The percentage change is important, but being within the range quoted doesn’t make the point silly – it reinforces the point, because it’s the second-greatest fall.

And the greatest fall was in a constituency that still had 44 per cent turnout – that’s 6.8 per cent more than Rutherglen and Hamilton West, with an electorate of nearly 88,000 – so, around 7,000 more voters to start with, and around 8,500 more people voted. That means Joe Pass’s claim is doubly wrong – the actual number turning out is important.

This is not a “huge win” for Labour. It is a minor disaster.

It could be argued that the numbers are less important because a general election always attracts more votes, but if that just means a proportionate drop in voters, then Labour will be in even more trouble.

And there’s no evidence that this won’t happen.


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