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Labour ‘blew the doors off’ Scottish by election

On Thursday, Labour Party representative Michael Shanks won twice as many votes as his SNP rival in the Rutherglen and Hamilton by-election.

Labour leader Keir Starmer welcomed the “seismic result”, saying that voters in the constituency had “sent a clear message” that it is “time for change”, and that people “believe that a changed Labour Party can deliver it”.

Speaking at a victory rally in Scotland, the Labour leader said he was changing the image of the Labour Party with voters. Mr Starmer on Friday said Labour “blew the doors off” in the closely-watched by-election. He said:

 “They said that we couldn’t win in the south of England and the north of England, and we did it. They said ‘you’ll never beat the SNP in Scotland’ and Rutherglen, you did it. When I left here a week ago with the team, I said ‘you’ve got to win it’. You blew the doors off!”

After former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier was removed from office on a recall petition, the seat in the Glasgow suburb became vacant.

Ms Ferrier broke Covid rules by travelling between London and Glasgow after testing positive for a virus, for which she was expelled from the party. Speculation about her position, followed by a recall petition and subsequent vote, led to months of campaigning in the seat.

This election was the first in Scotland where, following a change in the law governing Westminster elections, voters were required to show photo ID before voting. The constituency has swung between Labour and the SNP at every election since 2015.

The victory makes it clear that Labour intends to replace Prime Minister Rishi Sunak‘s Conservatives as Britain’s ruling party in the next general election.

John Curtis, professor of politics at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, said the constituency, located in Labour’s former heartland, was a “must-win” and typical of the type of parliamentary seats the party must win back if it is to come to power.

Scotland is a target for Labour, seeking to oust the Conservatives after 13 years in power, during which time Scottish politics has been dominated by the pro-independence SNP. Crucial to gaining ground is the willingness of Scots who want to secede from the rest of the UK to “lend” their votes to Mr Starmer to help remove the Conservatives from power.

Support for the SNP has plummeted in recent months due to a police investigation into its finances. Backing for independence is virtually unchanged, with the nation of 5.4 million split in two.

The by-election was the first major vote since Nicola Sturgeon, one of Britain’s most popular politicians, quit as SNP leader and head of Scotland’s semi-autonomous government in March. A recent poll of residents suggested that the Nationalists could lose up to 23 Scottish seats in the UK Parliament in London.

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