'Seismic' Labour win in Scotland may ease Starmer's path to No.10

A 20% swing from SNP to Labour 'transforms the Scottish political weather'

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and new MP Michael Shanks
Keir Starmer joins Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, centre, to congratulate the new MP Michael Shanks, left
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Keir Starmer is basking in a "seismic" win for his party in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election with the result suggesting a shifting in the power balance in Scotland. 

Labour candidate Michael Shanks won 58.5% of the vote, vastly outstripping the SNP’s 27.5% in a 20.4% swing since the last election.

This result "transforms the Scottish political weather – and in so doing changes the forecasts some will make about the next general election", said the BBC's political editor Chris Mason. 

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"It will leave some pondering if this is an indication that there might be a return to pre-independence referendum politics in Scotland – where Labour are the dominant party," he added.

Labour's leader in Scotland, Anas Sarwar, told broadcasters at the count in Hamilton: "This is, I believe, a seismic moment. I think it is a significant point in Scotland's political history." 

But Scottish Tory Miles Briggs, a member of the shadow cabinet at Holyrood, said the by-election result, in which his party lost their deposit with just 3.9% of the vote, showed unionists were prepared to vote tactically to defeat the nationalists.

He predicted that unionists would return the favour next year in several seats across Scotland, "which have traditionally been contested between the Tories and the nationalists", said The Daily Telegraph.

Yesterday's result, though, was certainly a boon for Labour and if Starmer "was at all worried about his party conference getting off to a good start, well, his fears may be said to be safely allayed now", said Sean O'Grady in The Independent.

"That Labour have shown that it can win and win well in Scotland makes its path to a majority easier," agreed Stephen Bush in the Financial Times. Not just "numerically (in that it means the party can hope to make gains in Scotland) but even more importantly, politically (because this means Labour will find it easier to avoid getting sucked into talk of coalitions and deals with the SNP)".

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