Glasgow South: winner in 2019 – Stewart McDonald (SNP)

GLASGOW South is the rough successor to the old Glasgow Cathcart constituency which was abolished in 2005 and decades earlier had attained almost mythical status as the last Conservative bastion in the city, held by Teddy Taylor when he was Margaret Thatcher’s shadow secretary of state for Scotland in the 1970s.

He finally lost the seat to Labour at the exact moment his boss took power in 1979, a defeat of huge symbolic significance. For a few elections afterwards, the Tories remained the second-placed party, but those days are long gone now.

In the 2019 notional results for the new version of Glasgow South, the Tories were in a distant third place with 13% of the vote, broadly in line with their performance in the other Glasgow seats.

But the Tory history is still reflected in the fact that the constituency is more socioeconomically mixed than seats like Glasgow North East, and has prosperous areas as well as the lower-income parts such as Castlemilk.

On the other hand, within the constituency’s previous boundaries there was a 72% vote against Brexit, the second-highest in the city after Glasgow North and the eighth-highest in Scotland, suggestive of an electorate with relatively liberal attitudes towards immigration and freedom of movement which, in the current circumstances, ought to work more in the SNP’s favour than in Labour’s.

It’s also somewhat ironic given that the most recent Labour MP for the seat was Tom Harris, whose private views turned out to be so pro-Brexit that after leaving office he became the nominal leader of the Leave campaign in Scotland.

That blend of characteristics helps explain why Glasgow South is one of the least straightforward target seats for Labour in the city.

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On the notional 2019 results, they start from 19 percentage points behind the SNP, a deficit at least four points bigger than in four of the other five Glasgow constituencies.

In the overall scheme of things, though, the variation between the parties’ standings in different parts of Glasgow is relatively narrow, meaning there are plenty of scenarios in which all six constituencies could break for the same party in this election, just as the SNP had clean sweeps in Glasgow in 2015 and 2019, and as Labour did in the pre-indyref General Elections.

Already in this campaign we’ve seen a constituency-level projection from a polling company putting the SNP on course to win all six Glasgow seats, but also projections from other firms putting Labour on course to win all six.

On the basis of the conventional national polls, a Labour full house looks the more plausible outcome, because on a uniform swing the SNP would lose Glasgow South even if they are as much as seven points ahead nationally.

They may yet need to rely on that liberal strain of opinion within the constituency to recoil against Keir Starmer’s stances on immigration, the bedroom tax and Palestine, and thus help to withstand a Labour tide.

A small complication is that the incumbent SNP MP, Stewart McDonald, is a relatively controversial figure in the independence movement due to his vocal opposition to Nicola Sturgeon’s (above) de facto referendum policy, his Atlanticist views and somewhat equivocal statements he once made about whether Scotland might host nuclear weapons as a Nato member state.

While the most committed independence supporters who are actually aware of these issues may only comprise a small percentage of the Glasgow South electorate, McDonald will perhaps need to provide reassurance to them to prevent some of their votes drifting to the Greens or to Alba – an outcome that could potentially hand the seat to Labour on a plate.