Starmer paints Labour as ‘party of change’ after Rutherglen victory
Labour won Thursday's Scottish by-election with a majority of over 9,000
Sir Keir Starmer has pitched Labour as the “party of change” as he set his sights on the general election after Labour’s resounding victory over the SNP in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.
The Labour leader said his party “blew the doors off” in the Scottish contest after it enjoyed a higher-than-expected 20.4 percentage point swing from the SNP.
The result led analysts to believe that Labour could return to being the the largest party north of the border and open the door to Downing Street if it is replicated at the next national poll.
Speaking at a victory rally alongside Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and winning Labour candidate Michael Shanks, Sir Keir said to applause: “They said that we couldn’t change the Labour Party and we did it.
“They said that we couldn’t win in the south of England and the north of England, and we did it. They said ‘you’ll never beat the SNP in Scotland’ and Rutherglen, you did it. You blew the doors off!”
Sir Keir, whose party is riding high in the national polls, said voters had “turned their back” on a Tory government.
“But they also not so long ago saw a Labour Party that had drifted away from them.
“We’ve changed. And because we’ve changed, we are now the party of change here in Scotland. We’re the party of change in Britain, we’re the party of change right across the whole country.”
Labour candidate Mr Shanks secured 17,845 votes, well ahead of the 8,399 votes returned for his closest rival, the SNP’s Katy Loudon.
After gaining more than 58% of the votes cast, Mr Shanks now has a majority of 9,446.
With Mr Shanks, Labour has two MPs in Scotland – far off its more than 40 in 2010 before its representation collapsed after the 2014 independence referendum.
But the result is being seen as a change in the Scottish political weather and a path to a Labour majority in the House of Commons.
It confirms Labour poses “a serious challenge” to the SNP’s primacy at Westminster and has a momentum comparable with the run-up to the party’s 1997 landslide, according to polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice.
“That potentially has implications for the overall outcome in the general election because if that were to happen, they would find it easier to get an overall majority,” he told the PA news agency.
The by-election victory provides Sir Keir with a huge boost days before the party gathers for its autumn conference in Liverpool.
The result will pile more pressure on SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf – who has seen his party’s fortunes decline in the polls in the wake of the ongoing police investigation into SNP finances.
The by-election was called after a recall petition against Margaret Ferrier, who had won the seat for the SNP in 2019 with a majority of 5,230.
Ms Ferrier however had the SNP whip removed after breaching Covid rules in 2020, and after remaining as an independent MP was suspended from the House of Commons, resulting in the recall petition.Published: by Radio NewsHub