Wednesday, 9 December 2015

By-election Preview: 10 December 2015

Seven local by-elections this week - one taking place in Scotland with six more covered over on the English Elections blog.

South Lanarkshire council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Jim Handibode.  A South Lanarkshire councillor since 1995, and before that a Hamilton district councillor since 1992, Handibode was a former Royal Engineer and veteran of the Borneo confrontation in the mid-1960s; on the council he was Chair of Social Work for many years.

This ward should not be confused with the commercial capital of the African country of Malawi.  There is, of course, a link: Blantyre was the home town of David Livingstone, the African explorer who was the first European to see the Victoria Falls.  His birthplace on the south bank of the Clyde is now a museum, handily located for Blantyre's railway station on the Hamilton Circle line, with regular trains to Hamilton and Glasgow.  Apart from Livingstone, Blantyre is noted for an appalling pit explosion in 1877 which killed 207 men and boys.

Before PR was introduced in 2007 this area was represented by three Labour councillors and one independent, with Handibode representing Coatshill/Low Blantyre ward.  PR enabled the SNP to get in on the act, their candidate John McNamee gaining a seat from Labour and independent Bert Thomson also winning a seat, Labour being represented by Handibode and Hugh Dunsmuir, who topped the poll.  The same four councillors were re-elected in 2012, but this time McNamee was on the Labour slate and Thomson was the SNP candidate, so effectively Labour gained a seat from the independents to split the seats 3-1 Labour-SNP.  In terms of votes, Labour had 54% of the first preferences to 31% for the SNP.

Defending for Labour is Mo Razzaq, a shopowner and businessman, Scottish president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and secretary of the Scottish Grocers Federation.  He is opposed by the SNP candidate, Gerry Chambers.  Also standing are Tory candidate Taylor Muir, Lib Dem Stephen Reid, Sean Baillie of the Scottish Socialist Party and UKIP's Emma Docherty.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutherglen and Hamilton West
Holyrood constituency: Rutherglen (most), Uddingston and Bellshill (small part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lanarkshire

May 2012 result Lab 2476 SNP 1399 Ind 234 CPA 209 C 176 Ind 40 LD 32
May 2007 result Lab 2707 Ind 1365 SNP 1253 Ind 748 C 327 Ind 52