Labour disaster in Dunfermline by-election

Jim Jepps


Last night the Labour Party took a shock defeat in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election. Labour's vote halved from over 20,000 to just over 10,000 and the Liberal Democrats terrifying by-election machine managed to ensure them a convincing win.

The Lib Dem party machine included a call centre staffed by around 100 workers, 11 seperate leaflets in the two weeks campaign period, personalised literature (e.g. not just name and addressed but marked with hairdresser, plumber, etc.) and crucially a front page ad the day before the election in the local paper that looked like a news story stating that the Lib Dems were set to win the election.

This is very welcome news for the Lib Dems who are feeling the pressure from the Tories nicking their "caring sharing" ground and are reeling from a number of current and future personal scandals around the leadership contenders.

There is also speculation that this could effect Gordon Brown's leadership hopes as he lives within the constituency when not in Downing Street and is a high profile figure in the constituency. The Labour candidate, Catherine Stihler, was his preferred candidate, and for more than 10,000 voters to change their mind in this election is bad, bad news for Brown as well as the Labour Party as a whole.

But it was also a disappointing night for the Scottish Socialist Party whose candidate, Labour legend John McAllion, was unable to gain any significant ground from the SSP result in 2005 general election. It seems that those who were determined to see Labour lose the seat to a more progressive candidate went for the 'realistic' candidate rather than the left wing one.

With resources that the left simply could not match the Lib Dems convinced voters that there was one sure fire way of blasting Labour, but we should not let this make us think we necessarily have a sea change in favour of the Lib Dems. Next year the council elections will be held under STV for the first time and the MSP elections, which use a proportional, if overly complicated, system will be an opportunity for the SSP to test their real standing with the electorate without being undermined by the ever present argument for minor candidates that "You can't win."


Candidate Party Votes Percentage 2005 election
Willie Rennie Lib Dem 12,391 40.06 % 20.2%
Catherine Stihler Lab 10,591 34.24 % 47.4 %
Douglas Chapman SNP 7,261 23.48 % 18.9 %
Carrie Ruxton Cons  2,702 8.74 % 10.3%
John McAllion SSP  537 1.74 % 1.6%
James Hargreaves SCP  411 1.33 %  
Thomas Minogue AFBTP 374 1.21 %  
Ian Borland UKIP 208 0.67 % 1.5%
Dick Rodgers CG 103 0.33 %  


Last days before Dunfermline and West Fife by-election

Labour legend stands for Scottish Socialists



















Feb 2006

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