Labour hails 'seismic' win in Scottish by-election

By John Mercury October 6, 2023

Labour has triumphed in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election – with Sir Keir Starmer hailing it a “seismic result” for his party.

Michael Shanks replaces shamed MP Margaret Ferrier, who was ousted from her seat in August following a successful recall petition for breaching COVID restrictions during lockdown in 2020.

Voting took place between 7am and 10pm on Thursday and out of the 82,104 electorate, a total of 30,531 votes were cast (37.19% turnout).

The turnout is down from 66.48% at the snap 2019 general election, when 53,794 valid votes were cast.

Mr Shanks defeated the SNP’s Katy Loudon by 17,845 votes to 8,399 – a majority of 9,446 and a 20.36% swing from SNP to Scottish Labour.

Speaking to Sky News after his win, Mr Shanks said: “There’s absolutely no doubt that this result shows that there’s no part of the United Kingdom that Labour can’t win.

“It’s been a long time in Scotland – Labour building back to a place where people can trust us again.

“The leadership of Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar has got us to a place where people have put their trust in us.

“I’m incredibly honoured by the trust people have put in me in this by-election.

“But it shows fundamentally that people are fed up with the division of the SNP and want to vote for something else. And it’s clear from this by-election people are willing to do that.”

Read more:
Why the Tories, not the SNP, could be the biggest losers from the by-election

SNP loses Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat in ‘spectacular fashion’

Labour candidate Michael Shanks at the count for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, at South Lanarkshire Council Headquarters in Hamilton. Picture date: Friday October 6, 2023.
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Michael Shanks (right) during the count

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (right) with candidate Michael Shanks after Labour won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, at South Lanarkshire Council Headquarters in Hamilton. Picture date: Friday October 6, 2023.
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Anas Sarwar (left) and Michael Shanks celebrating Scottish Labour’s win

Ms Ferrier, who won the seat for the SNP in 2019, was forced to sit as an independent after losing the party whip when her COVID breach came to light.

A total of 14 candidates stood in the constituency.

The Scottish Conservatives backed Glasgow councillor Thomas Kerr, student Cameron Eadie stood for the Scottish Greens, while data analyst Gloria Adebo ran for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

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Anas Sarwar tells Sky News that change is coming to the UK

All eyes were on the SNP and Scottish Labour – with both parties treating the by-election as an important battleground ahead of the next UK general election.

During the campaign, Labour stated a win in Rutherglen and Hamilton West could help springboard the party to Number 10.

Prior to the by-election Labour had just one MP in Scotland.

Mr Starmer’s party is now hopeful that Scottish Labour will make gains against the SNP at the next general election, which could potentially pave the way for Labour’s return to power at Westminster.

(Left to right) Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Scottish Labour candidate Michael Shanks and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar at a party rally in Rutherglen ahead of the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election. Picture date: Friday September 29, 2023.
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Sir Keir Starmer joined Michael Shanks on the campaign trail

Following the result, Sir Keir said: “This is a seismic result. People in Rutherglen and Hamilton West have sent a clear message – it is time for change. And it is clear they believe that this changed Labour Party can deliver it.

“I have always said that winning back the trust of people in Scotland is essential.”

Sir Keir said the victory was the culmination of “three and a half years of hard work”.

He added: “I am grateful to everyone who has put their faith in us today – we will work every day to repay it.

“Voters across Scotland and across Britain want a government determined to deliver for working people, with a proper plan to rebuild our country.

“They want to move on from two SNP and Tory governments that offer only more division, more chaos and more infighting.

“The country deserves a government firmly on their side and focused on their priorities – and Labour will deliver that for them.”

Speaking to Sky News, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said it was an “extraordinary result”.

He added: “And I think what it demonstrates is that Scottish politics has fundamentally changed.

“Scottish politics has been turned on its head and people in Scotland are sending a clear message to two failing governments that they want an end to the incompetence, they want an end to the chaos, they want an end to division, and they want fundamental change.”

Mr Sarwar acknowledged the large swing in votes but said “the hard work doesn’t stop here”.

He added: “Of course, a great night. Of course, great momentum for the next general election campaign.

“But we are going to work flat out until we get over the line, get rid of this economically illiterate, morally bankrupt Tory Party, and elect a UK-wide Labour government.”

SNP leader Humza Yousaf joins SNP candidate Katy Loudon (centre) and suporters, in Rutherglen during campaigning ahead of the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election. Picture date: Saturday September 30, 2023.
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SNP leader and First Minister Humza Yousaf joined Katy Loudon on the campaign trail

The result will pile more pressure on SNP leader Humza Yousaf – who has seen his party’s fortunes decline in the polls in the wake of the ongoing police investigation into SNP finances.

Responding to the loss, the first minister said it was a “disappointing night” for his party.

He added: “I want to thank our exceptional candidate Katy Loudon and our activists for their incredible efforts.

“Let me also congratulate Michael Shanks on being elected. Circumstances of this by-election were always very difficult for us.

“Collapse in the Tory vote, which went straight to Labour, also a significant factor.

“We lost this seat in 2017, and like 2019 we can win this seat back.

“However, we will reflect on what we have to do to regain the trust of the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West.”

Speaking to Sky News, Conservative minister Huw Merriman played down his party doing so poorly they lost their deposit – a fate usually reserved for fringe, independent and satirical cadidates.

He said: “I’m not surprised to see all of those who disagree with the SNP crowding around one particular candidate – and that candidate has succeeded.

“That’s how by-elections work. We know that, we see it all the time.”

Full results:

• Gloria Adebo (Scottish Liberal Democrats) – 895 votes
• Bill Bonnar (Scottish Socialist Party) – 271 votes
• Garry Cooke (Independent) – 6 votes
• Andrew Daly (Independent) – 81 votes
• Cameron Eadie (Scottish Green Party) – 601 votes
• Prince Ankit Love (Independent) – 34 votes
• Niall Fraser (Scottish Family Party) – 319 votes
• Ewan Hoyle (Volt UK) – 46 votes
• Thomas Kerr (Scottish Conservatives) – 1,192 votes
• Katy Loudon (SNP) – 8,399 votes
• Christopher Sermanni (Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) – 178 votes
• Michael Shanks (Scottish Labour Party) – 17,845 votes
• David Stark (Reform UK) – 403 votes
• Colette Walker (Independence for Scotland Party) – 207 votes

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