Peter Hoskin

Labour’s ambiguous victory in Inverclyde

Amid all the union sturm und drang yesterday, it was easy to forget about last night’s Parliamentary by-election in Inverclyde. But a by-election there was, after the death of the seat’s previous Labour MP, David Cairns, in May. And the result was in some doubt, too. After the SNP’s strong showing in last month’s corresponding Scottish Parliamentary election, there was a sense, beforehand, that Labour’s majority could be whittled down to naught. But, in the end, it wasn’t to be. Labour won with a comfortable majority of 5,838 and a vote share of 53.8 per cent, albeit it down on the 14,416 and 56 per cent they secured in last year’s general election. It was – like most of Labour’s recent successes – better than outright failure, but some distance off an outright triumph.

The new Labour MP for Inverclyde, Iain McKenzie, this morning described his victory as the start of “Labour’s fightback” in Scotland. But the words just clarified Ed Miliband’s need for a more resounding victory to his name, to help capture the attention of his party and the public. Reduced majorities and the occasional wonk-fuelled performance in PMQs won’t really cut it. This is, no doubt, part of the reasoning behind Miliband’s plan to end shadow cabinet elections. Clause IV it ain’t, but it would still leave a clear mark upon his party. He will have achieved something unambiguous.

As for the leader of the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, last night’s result will only add to his troubles. His party lost their deposit after winning only 627 votes, and, after a few weeks of relative calm, the voices of discontent are stirring

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