Winner in 2017: Stewart McDonald (SNP)

Will the voters of Glasgow South pay any heed to the exhortations of their former Labour MP Tom Harris to vote Tory and thus keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street?

They might be rather bemused at the spectacle of him fighting yesterday’s war, because the area has long since ceased to be a Labour-Tory battleground. Nowadays the SNP incumbent Stewart McDonald is by far the best-placed candidate to prevent Labour winning the seat – and he’s been doing a pretty effective job of that over the last few years. In 2015 he ousted Harris on a monumental swing of more than 28%, leaving the SNP with a majority of 12,269 votes in a previously rock-solid Labour constituency.

And in spite of the surprisingly large swing back to Labour in 2017, he clung on with slightly more of a cushion than two or three of his colleagues in the other Glasgow seats. The percentage lead he is defending this time is 4.5% – meaning that on a uniform trend Labour would need to trim the SNP’s national lead to around five percentage points before they would oust him. Given their current deficit in the polls, they’d need to travel a long way back over a very short space of time to get within striking distance.

As for the Conservatives, even the Ruth Davidson surge in 2017 only lifted them to 19% of the vote – a full 10 percentage points short of their Scotland-wide vote share. But admittedly that was still enough to make this, by a narrow margin, the seat in which they performed better than anywhere else in Glasgow.

That modest success was the very faint echo of a once-proud Tory tradition in the predecessor constituency of Glasgow Cathcart, which by the late 1970s was the party’s last remaining stronghold in the city. When Teddy Taylor lost the seat to Labour against the UK-wide swing in 1979, largely due to demographic changes, it effectively closed the era in which the Conservatives had been serious players in Glasgow politics.

It’s doubtful whether the residual Tory support is comprised of the type of voter Tom Harris would approve of anyway, because 72% of the constituency ignored his advice by voting Remain in the 2016 referendum. Conservative voters here may more closely resemble their counterparts in pro-Remain East Renfrewshire than in Eurosceptic parts of north-east Scotland. If so, some of them might be questioning their own party loyalties due to Brexit, and there’s plenty of room for a Liberal Democrat recovery at Tory expense. The Lib Dems have in the relatively recent past achieved as much as 19% of the local vote, but by 2017 had slumped to just 3%.

But that’s very much the basement battle.

As much as it may dismay Harris, only the SNP and Labour can realistically win here – and at the moment it looks like the SNP will come out on top for a third election in a row.


Winner in 2017: Alison Thewliss (SNP)

The Glasgow count centre was a frightening place for the SNP on election night in 2017. They turned up with every reason to expect that they would hold all seven of the city’s constituencies, but in the end lost one, held two others by a margin of only a few dozen votes, and would have lost the whole lot if the swing to Labour had been just 3.3% greater.

The closest thing there was to an unalloyed success story was in Glasgow Central, where Alison Thewliss managed to contain the fall in SNP support to just 8% – less than anywhere else in Glasgow, and considerably less than in the constituencies where the party got into real trouble.

The good result for Thewliss might be partly explained by her own reputation as a particularly effective local representative, and perhaps also by the fact that there was no Green candidate. Two years earlier the Greens had taken 4% of the vote, and if those people ended up breaking disproportionately for Thewliss it will have slightly mitigated the swing from SNP to Labour.

There’s also the constituency’s pro-European credentials to consider – 71% of voters here backed Remain, a much higher figure than in neighbouring seats like Glasgow North-East or Glasgow East.

But whatever the reasons for Thewliss bucking the national and city-wide trend, it’s just as well she did, because on the type of swing seen in the likes of Glasgow East she would have lost her seat by a fair distance. Fortunately the storm clouds appear to have passed since then. On a uniform swing the SNP’s national lead over Labour would have to dip to around 3% or 4% before Glasgow Central would fall, and that seems extremely improbable. Thewliss does face the modest complication of a Green challenge this time, which may eat into her pro-independence and pro-Remain support base, but it shouldn’t prevent her retaining her seat by a convincing margin.