Nick Clegg is unsurprisingly under fire again today after the Liberal Democrats suffered a “humiliating” by-election blow last night and lost their deposit in the Scottish Inverclyde by-election. Granted it is only one by-election, but Lib-Dem candidate Sophie Bridger won just 627 votes. I’d feel humiliated too.
Labour’s Iain McKenzie saw off a confident Scottish National Party to retain the seat following the death of David Cairns. Labour polled 15,118 votes, over the SNP’s Anne McLaughlin, on 9,280 to take the seat with a reduced majority – down from 14,416 at the 2010 general election to 5,838.
The win was very good news for Labour considering the beating it took at the general election at the hands of the SNP. Its share of the vote was only down 2% on 2010, but there is no denying the SNP did well too. It doubled its vote.
In a week where Ed Miliband has been coming under fire for his position on the public sector strikes, as he was booed at a rally, it is good news for the Labour leader. More than that it is his fourth by-election win in a row. He can add Inverclyde, to Oldham and Saddleworth, Barnsley Central and Leicester South.
As the Guardian points out the by-election was traditionally the home territory of the Lib Dems, but with Nick Clegg toxic on either side of the border those days are done.
“The Lib Dems, and before them the SDP and the old Liberal party, ordinarily do well in byelections, so this is quite a turnaround. Voters regard byelections as a way to snub those in power, and because the Liberals could traditionally be relied on to be a long way from office, they could always cash in on this effect. Now, however, there is only one UK-wide mainstream party of protest, and it is the party headed by Miliband.”
So what does that mean for toxic Clegg? As it stands his party has little hope of winning north of the border and prospects in the south don’t look much better. Some Scottish Lib Dems are clear where the the problems lie. Former Liberal Democrat MSP Ross Finney said “there were clear issues of trust in the leadership”.