27 Apr 2012

A revolution on Clydeside?

Glasgow seems to be undergoing something of a revolution.  Long-standing, once unassailable institutions look to be under severe threat.

Nobody knows if and how Rangers Football Club will survive after more than a century of glory.  And now Labour could lose power on Glasgow City Council for the first time since the late 1970s.

Who would have thought it? Rangers, and Red Clydeside.  Both appear to be crumbling.

All eyes of the political community will be on the mayoral election in London next week.  But in reality, events in Glasgow could be more significant politically.  If the SNP topples Labour in Scotland’s biggest city it could be a huge boost to Alex Salmond’s independence drive, and a reminder to Ed Miliband that Labour can no longer depend on Scotland.

Ed Miliband is in Glasgow today to try and shore up the Labour vote.  Tonight, in the wake of Labour’s shocking defeat in the Bradford West by-election, he’ll be visiting a mosque to launch a new group Muslim Friends of Labour Scotland.

It’s not looking good for Labour here.  Today’s visit by Ed Miliband is overshadowed by news that a prominent member of Labour’s leading Muslim family in Scotland has switched his support to the SNP.  Mohammad Ramzan, a Glasgow businessman, is the brother of the Labour former MP Mohammad Sarwar, and uncle of Anas Sarwar MP, the deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party.  Mr Sarwar is the organiser of  Miliband’s visit to the mosque.

The SNP mocks Miliband’s presence here by saying that in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, Labour lost every seat which had been blessed with a visit from the Labour leadership.

Labour actually lost outright control of Glasgow Council a few weeks ago, when six councillors who been deselected by Labour, defected to form their own party, Glasgow First.  There’s a sense among some of the Glaswegians I’ve spoken to that’s it’s time for a change, and to give someone else a chance, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the SNP on independence.  Miliband does not impress many people here.  “He’s a wimp,” one woman told me, “and unmanly”.

The Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has said she expects the SNP to get more seats in Glasgow.  But under the STV system of proportional representation which operates in Scottish local government these days, the SNP may struggle to win an outright majority in Glasgow (but then we said that before the Scottish Parliament elections last year, and the SNP did win a majority of seats).

But the other parties could be power-brokers in the event of a hung council.  The Conservatives, who once ran Glasgow (just as they also ran Liverpool and Manchester), have just one seat here.  The Lib Dems will be very lucky to hold onto their six seats, while the Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie pretty much indicated to me today he’d be happy to hold onto their five councillors.

The dilemma for the Lib Dems and Tories (or single Tory) is that helping the SNP take over Glasgow City Chambers might boost the Nationalists’ push for independence, ahead of the proposed referendum in 2014.

A full list of candidates and parties is below:

Scottish Labour Party

Scottish National Party

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Green Party

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party


UK Independence Party

Glasgow First

Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition

Scottish Socialist Party

Scottish Christian Party

Scottish Unionist

Pirate Party Scotland


Chris Creighton – Independent

Colin Deans – Independent

Anne-Marie MIllar – Independent

Thomas Rannachan – Independent

Ruth Simpson – Independent

Phil Jarvis – Independent

James Trolland – Independent

Joe Chamber – Independent

John Flanagan – Independent

Gary Barton – Independent