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THE GLASGOW East byelection on 24 July could have political effects well beyond which big business party candidate gets sent down to Westminster. The byelection follows the resignation, for family and health reasons, of Labour MP David Marshall who had a huge majority, over 13,000 (44%), in 2005.
The Scottish National Party (SNP), which runs the devolved Scottish Government, is throwing everything into winning this seat, though recent polls still give Labour a lead. Defeat for Labour would be disastrous, increasing the pressure on Gordon Brown - with speculation that he could be forced out if Labour lose the seat.
Labour called the byelection at short notice and in the middle of the traditional Glasgow "fair" holiday, hoping to achieve a quick victory. However, they could not get their candidate selected in time for the first weekend of campaigning after the preferred candidate, a local councillor, failed to turn up at the selection meeting.
The Labour leadership, including Gordon Brown, then tried unsuccessfully to persuade Stephen Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council, to stand. Two other names were mentioned within the local party and media before Margaret Curran, the current MSP for part of the area, put herself forward. Curran, however, has stated that she will not resign as an MSP if she wins the byelection. The SNP candidate is John Mason, a local councillor.
Solidarity, led by Tommy Sheridan, is standing Tricia McLeish, a local council worker who has lived in the constituency all her life. Tricia was selected unanimously by the Glasgow Solidarity membership.
Solidarity's message of fighting poverty, inequality, rising costs of fuel and food and low pay is being raised in every part of the constituency through regular street stalls, lamp-posting, leafleting and loud-hailering. Tricia has been on radio and TV and will be part of a live TV hustings on 17 July. Public meetings are also organised for the last week of the campaign.
The United Nations has assessed large parts of Glasgow East as the most deprived areas of the UK. Life expectancy for men in the constituency is 11 years less than the national average. In one council ward the male life expectancy is lower than in Iraq.
The anti-Labour mood is strong on the streets. However it is not yet clear whether former Labour voters will switch parties or decide not to vote at all.
Turnout in Glasgow East is usually below the national average, and is likely to be under 30% on 24 July. The SNP are running a high-profile campaign with Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, saying that a "political earthquake in on the way".
As Scotland's two main parties go head-to-head, it is very likely that all other parties will see their votes squeezed.
The people of Glasgow East need a radical socialist change in how society is organised. Whatever the outcome of this election, Solidarity will continue to raise that banner in Glasgow and across Scotland.
Alex Salmond (9)
Article dated 16 July 2008
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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