Labour won the Inverclyde By-election on Thursday by 5,838 votes, down from the majority of over 14,000 David Cairns won by 14 months ago. It was a bigger win than was anticipated, even though there was a swing of under 9% to the SNP. Turnout was 45%, down by under 18% from the General Election (not great but not as bad as other By-Elections). However once again the SNP have failed to capitalise on an opportunity presented to them by their opponents.
The centrepiece of the campaign was jobs, and both of the main candidates were promising to campaign on the platform of trying to provide jobs for a severely deprived area. Yet the Labour candidate, Iain McKenzie ducked and dived over the activities of the Council he (now) previously led. For he failed to give any concrete assurances that there would be no redundances at Inverclyde Council. I suppose it's someone elses problem now.
Had this been a Holyrood by-election, I think the SNP would have won this election hands down, like they did last month. The problem for the SNP, and this has been a problem for them since Devolution, is that they don't really have a diferent narative for Westminster elections. They ran a good campaign, focused on job prospects of the area, and put pressure on the Labour challenger. Yet Anne McLaughlin (or the blogger also known as Indygal) lost by a larger margin than I think she deserved.
I think what this result emphasises is that Labour have the well worked out narative that play's well in Westminster elections, and that the SNP have still to work out how to play Westminster elections. The mantra of "It's only Labour that can stop the (evil) Tories" still resonates in terms of sending representitives to Westminster. For Holyrood elections, the exact reverse is true, that the SNP have worked out a winning narative and Labour are left floundering (as has been discussed ad nausium).
Of course, this might all be bunkum. That what this result has told us is that despite Salmond's claims of a new nation, when it comes to Westminster elections people in the west coast former working class areas still cling to their favourtie comfort blanket. Rather than indicate the end of the SNP bandwagon, as McKenzie and other members of the Labour heirarchy indicated, it might have given the SNP a rather timely reality check.