UK Rutherglen by-election live

A by-election today in an SNP-held seat, and two on October 19 in Conservative-held seats. Also covered: New Zealand polls ahead of the October 14 election and McCarthy ousted as US House Speaker.

11:54am Friday HUGE win for Labour in the Rutherglen by-election, crushing the incumbent SNP by 31 points. This could set up big gains for Labour in Scotland at the next UK general election. The Tories lost their deposit (5% is needed to retain a deposit).

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Polls close at 8am Friday AEDT for a UK by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.  I explained in August that former Scottish National Party MP Margaret Ferrier was recalled after breaching COVID rules.  In 2019, the SNP defeated Labour in Rutherglen by 44.2-34.5 with 15.0% Conservatives and 5.2% Liberal Democrats.

There will be two by-elections in the Conservative-held seats of Mid Bedfordshire (MBeds) and Tamworth on October 19.  MBeds MP Nadine Dorries announced she would resign after Boris Johnson quit parliament in June, but delayed this until late August.  Tamworth MP Chris Pincher was accused of sexual misconduct and resigned before a recall petition.

At the 2019 election, the Conservatives won MBeds by 59.8-21.7 over Labour with 12.6% Lib Dems.  They won Tamworth by 66.3-23.7 over Labour with 5.3% Lib Dems. A mid-September poll had MBeds tied between the Conservatives and Labour.

On September 20, Conservative PM Rishi Sunak announced a weakening of green targets.  Most UK national polls give Labour a 15-20 point lead over the Conservatives, but an Opinium poll taken last week had Labour just 10 points ahead.  The swing to Labour and against the SNP in Scottish polls since the 2019 election should enable Labour to win Rutherglen.

NZ election: October 14

The New Zealand editor of The Conversation commissioned me to write about the October 14 election, so I haven’t been covering it here.  My two NZ articles for The Conversation were published September 14 and 28.

NZ polls close at 5pm AEDT on election day.  Owing to the clash with the Voice referendum, I won’t be providing live commentary on election night, but will do a wrap of the NZ and Polish results on October 16.

I have been doing graphs in my Conversation articles since July.  The graph below shows the lead or deficit of the right coalition (National and ACT) over the left coalition (Labour, Greens and Māori) in all polls since March.  There are trend lines for each pollster.

The only poll added since last week’s Conversation article was the weekly Verian poll, which gave the right coalition a 4.8-point lead, down from 7.1.  That means NZ First, with 6% in this poll, would be needed for a right government (threshold is 5%).  While the overall trend since March is to the right, there has been a drop in the right’s lead since mid-September, when they had an 8.4-point lead in the Verian poll.

Position vacant again: US House Speaker

Republican Kevin McCarthy was ousted as US House Speaker Wednesday AEDT by a 216-210 vote, with all Democrats and eight Republicans in favour.  The election of a new Speaker requires a majority of all candidate votes, with abstentions and “present” votes not counting.  McCarthy will not contest this election.  The House adjourned until next week.

Right-wing Republicans were furious with McCarthy when he agreed a debt limit deal with Joe Biden in late May.  I said he was more like a pussycat than a tiger.  The final straw was passing a budget resolution with Democratic support last Saturday.

Polish election: October 15

Poland uses proportional representation in multi-member electorates to elect its 460 members of the Sejm (lower house), with a 5% national threshold for single parties and 8% for coalitions.  The 100 senators are elected by FPTP.

Poland does not have a major centre-left party.  The governing Law and Justice (PiS), which is seeking a third successive term, is socially conservative, authoritarian and anti-immigrant, but economically left.  The main opposition Civic Platform (KO) is socially liberal, but economically right.

Polls suggest PiS is ahead, but not by enough to win an outright majority.  There are two other parties who would probably ally with KO.  It’s possible the far-right Confederation will be the kingmaker.

Pro-Russia party wins most seats in Slovakia

Slovakia uses national PR with a 5% threshold to elect its 150 MPs.  At last Saturday’s election, the economically left but pro-Russia Smer won 42 seats, Progressive Slovakia 32 and Hlas 27 (Hlas was formed as a split from Smer).  The remaining seats went to right-wing parties, with two right-wing parties narrowly missing the 5% threshold. Smer leader Robert Fico is a former PM who campaigned on ending military aid to Ukraine.  Although Smer won the most seats, they will need a coalition to reach the 76 seats for a majority.

28 comments on “UK Rutherglen by-election live”

  1. In Slovakia, it is no sure thing that a coalition with Fico leading will come to power despite what many non-Slovakian commentators have said. Hlas is made up of former members of SMER who couldn’t stand him as leader, so they may not be keen to let him lead.

  2. Thank you Adrian

    Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election:

    Labour will beat SNP comfortably. Even if the swing was only in line with current Westminster polling, Labour would win – but they will do better than that.

    Scotland dynamics make it hard to predict accurately, especially for those of us who don’t live in Scotland, but I suspect a 15-20% majority for Lab over SNP.

  3. BS Fairman

    I hope you are right. We don’t need any more pro-Russian governments in Eastern Europe. Serbia and Hungary are more than enough, and Slovakia like Hungary are actually in the EU so affect their collective decision-making.

    Poland – don’t really mind who wins as long as they remain as staunchly firm against Russia as the current PiS government has always been. Not sure the opposition will be quite strong enough but Donald Tusk is at least mainstream and experienced, if a little on the humourless and ‘thuggish’ side IMO.

  4. Both Fico and Orban said they would block Ukraine’s entry into both the EU and NATO.
    Fico was also staunchly against Sweden and Finland joining NATO.
    Potential resurgence of a new Warsaw Pact- perhaps under a different moniker.

  5. The turnout in Rutherglen was only 37%!

    Shanks, the Labour candidate, made a big deal of his support for returning to Europe and for abolishing the Tory social security policies knowing full well that the London Labour Party supports neither policy.

    One assumes many independence supporters stayed home rather than vote for the joke which the SNP has become under Sturgeon and her chosen successor Humza.

    The independence movement faces a challenging period having been comprehensively betrayed by the current SNP.

  6. Borewar wrote,


    “I blame Starmer.”

    Things have come to such a head in Britain under the Tories, that even a right wing dud such as Starmer should win in a canter. It’s a case of anybody other than the Tories, even if that means electing Tory Lite. No wonder you love this guy so much.

  7. ‘clem attlee says:
    Friday, October 6, 2023 at 4:09 pm

    Borewar wrote,


    “I blame Starmer.”

    Things have come to such a head in Britain under the Tories, that even a right wing dud such as Starmer should win in a canter. It’s a case of anybody other than the Tories, even if that means electing Tory Lite. No wonder you love this guy so much.’
    Corbyn gifted UK to the Tories.
    Can’t say worse than that.
    I blame Corbyn.

  8. Labour just can’t lose the next GE from here.

    Even if everything aligns badly from here, worst case scenario is Lab will still be the largest party.

    The more likely scenario is a landslide majority, though somewhere between these two scenarios is perfectly feasible as well if the Tories go down fighting hard (the opposition that is, instead of each other for a change).

    Result in Rutherglen is not a surprise and serious questions should have been raised had Lab only won narrowly, given that this was 1 of only 6 seats they actually won back from SNP in 2017 before losing them all again in 2019.
    However, Lab will rightly celebrate the fact that it came right on the night in the convincing fashion they would have hoped for and that the polls implied.

    37% turnout is not particularly low for by-elections in the UK, and what enthusiasm there was largely went to Labour, that is clear.

    Tories losing deposit means nothing. Even had they still been polling only a few points behind Labour like they were prior to browbeating their PM and finally deposing him in Summer 2022, they would still barely have held their deposit. Tactical voting for the Unionist party best placed to beat SNP is very strong in Scotland, and exaggerated further in by-elections.

    We need to wait for an election in a seat where SNP and Conservative are the clear top 2 to see just who has fallen the most in such seats.

    Clearly, though, it is likely that Labour will come from 3rd place to win a number of seats in Scotland at the next GE.

  9. It seems what happened in Rutherglen was a shift of the Tory and LDP voters to their fellow unionists in Labour.

    The 2023 Labour vote in Rutherglen was actually 4% less than its vote in 2019.

  10. The voters in Rutherglen reflected their dislike of all the traditional parties:

    SNP: DOWN 65%
    Labour: DOWN 4%
    Tories: DOWN 85%
    Lib Dems: DOWN 68%

  11. Another nice result from Canada:

    The NDP just won the Manitoba provincial election with a 14% swing, after seven years of PC govt. The NDP had previously been in govt from 1999-2016 – it’s traditionally one of their best provinces, along with Saskatchewan.

    The Liberals went from three seats to just one – it remains a NDP vs PC province. The Liberals hang around as an atrophied remnant, even though they win federal seats in Winnipeg. The two seats they lost to the NDP are an interesting contrast. One (River Heights) is one of the few long-term safe Liberal seats, where the NDP usually come third and have never won before; the other (St Boniface) was a safe NDP seat held by their last premier, until the Liberals won it in a by-election after that premier lost the 2016 election and quit parliament.

    The Greens got smacked – they went from 6.2% to 0.7%, running only 13 candidates. Their results included dropping from 36.3% to 6.3% in Wolseley, previously a marginal NDP/Green seat where they’ve come second every election since 2003 and their leader was running – the NDP cleaned up with 75% this time. They also managed just FIVE votes in Steinbach (rural, super-safe PC) – probably not a priority for next time. I’m guessing there was some kind of internal collapse – Canadian green parties are more fractious than Australia.


    Also in Canada: there were three provincial by-elections in Saskatchewan recently. One was a rural seat and remains safe for the Saskatchewan Party (the conservatives there), and the only interesting thing was an alternative right-wing party coming second, gouging 20% from the SK Party. The other two were in Regina, and the NDP won them both off the SK Party with double-digit swings. By-election don’t make great predictors, but with a government that’s been there since 2007, that’d have to be a good omen for the NDP.


    Also also in Canada: the BC Liberals (the major conservative party, with nothing to do with the federal Liberals) have renamed themselves “BC United”, with a fugly pink and teal colour scheme. There’s also a Conservative Party, which don’t seem to have anything to do with the federal one and whose two current MPs are both ex-Liberals who defected to it. (Confused yet?)

    Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, the withered remnants of the Liberals there have become the “Saskatchewan Progress Party”. Combined with the Alberta Liberals bombing out with 0.2% in May, the name “Liberal” is pretty much extinct in western Canada, at least provincially.

  12. Rikali

    That’s a very creative way to interpret the Rutherglen by-election outcome!

    However, as I’m sure you know comparing General election results with by-election results isn’t comparing apples with apples as far as raw vote counts are concerned. . .

  13. As Canada is a confederation with provinces and not a federation with states, its provincial parties have no real relationship with its supposed Federal counterparts.
    That’s why often you may have Provincial MLAs have membership to only their provincial political party and no federal affiliation or indeed in the case of former NDP leader Tom Mulcair was a member of the Quebec Liberal Party but then also a member of the Federal NDP.
    I also wouldn’t read too much into the progressive wave across the prairies, that ebbs and flows, and they are still distinctly anti-Ottawa/centralisation.
    Pierre Poilievre, barring a complete catastrophic event, will be the next Conservative PM of Canada.

  14. The Tories have the smell of death hang around them. There are real issues around cost of living and a stalled economy but they off using right wing talking points around migrants and wokeism. They don’t even seem to be on the same planet as the rest of the UK.

    It is not the same as 1995 to 1997 when the Major government lost it majority because MPs were defecting or dying (mostly from liver issues related to alcohol use but famously one died for auto-erotic asphyxiation).

  15. Corbyn gifted UK to the Tories.
    Can’t say worse than that.
    I blame Corbyn.

    Of course you do despite the fact that the Tories had already won two elections before Corbyn became leader

  16. Corbyn’s internal remainer enemies gifted the UK to the Tories. Corbyn should have purged the lot of them and gone for a hard brexit campaign strategy combined with renationalisation.

  17. Bob

    There’s a grain of truth in what you say because Corbyn was a tortured soul who really wanted to leave the EU.

    But what your post misses is that he would have lost anyway. There are countless accounts of how toxic Corbyn was on the doorstep, and promises of wholesale renationalisation would have likely scared off the horses even more.

  18. Yeah, I actually had a 2nd line about that fact, that he would have lost anyway, but at least it would have setup a better way forward for Labor now. As it stands Starmer will likely win just like a post-Corbyn actual progressive would have, but will do nothing of any significance to materially impact on the current disastrous economic situation for those outside the london city banker bubble.

    Starmer will just be better managed decline. Like Thatcher always wanted.

  19. Is Adrian B. still online? Note re latest NZ polling.

    Two new NZ polls in the field until yesterday have reported.

    Seat estimates below in this order: Lab, Nat, Grn, ACT (fringe neo-Liberals), Maori Party, NZ First

    1 News–Verian
    7–10 Oct 2023 poll 35 (L) 47 (N) 17 (G) 11 (ACT) 2 (M) 8 (NZF) Total seats = 120

    Newshub–Reid Research
    5–10 Oct 2023 poll 35 43 19 11 3 9 120

    Details in bottom table at:

    The polls have the W. Peters celebrity show (promoted as NZ First) at 6% (Verian) and 6.8% (Reid).

    It is over a month since that populist outfit was polling below the 5% threshold.

    One reason for the resurgence of NZ First is their policy of making some food GST-free, which they share with the Maori Party and partly also with the more timid (in this respect) Labour Party.

    That is a key policy alignment. For some details see:

    As it now looks likely that W. Peters will return to the Beehive as kingmaker again, you cannot lazily lump them in with National and ACT as part of a likely right-wing government. Peters is more of a show pony, and indeed a shonk, than Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, but no less likely than them to facilitate the return of an economically mendacious Tory government.

    In the past, when supporting a Labour government, Peters has demanded, and been given, the role of NZ Foreign Minister. Although his legs may be less willing these days, his ego is not. Repeat possible.

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