Socialist Worker

Glenrothes by-election: Growing bitterness in Gordon Brown’s backyard

Next month’s by-election in Glenrothes will be a big test for New Labour. George Connolly went to the constituency to ask residents for their views

Issue No. 2124

The billion-pound bailout of the banks has fuelled widespread bitterness over the way the system is letting ordinary people down.

This growing anger is easily noticable in the town of Glenrothes in Fife, where a by-election of national significance will take place on 6 November.

Prompted by the death of Labour MP John MacDougall, the election will be seen as a test of Gordon Brown’s ability to bounce back in the polls.

The constituency in the former Fife coal field borders Brown’s own seat, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and is solidly working class.

Both the prime minister and his wife Sarah have already said that they will personally campaign in the election.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), meanwhile, hopes to win the seat – building on its success in the Glasgow East by-election where it overturned a 13,500 Labour majority in July.

However, with the collapse of the two main Scottish based banks and the economies of Iceland and Ireland that were held up as a model by the nationalists, it is not clear how the anger and fear at the oncoming recession will play out in the election.

Social club

At the social club in Glenrothes Arthur McMain summed up the feeling of many local people. “People are struggling with rising heating costs but the government gives billions to those banks,” he said.

Arthur, who is in his fifties, used to work at the Brand Rex cable-making plant in the town but was made redundant about a year and a half ago.

“Some people I know worked all their lives so they could get a decent pension and ended up with nothing,” he said.

“The bankers have got it all sewn up. The man in the factory is paying the pensions of the fat cats.”

Yet despite having voted SNP all his life, Arthur said that this time he’s voting for Labour.

“Why? Because the SNP council has just raised the charges for home care.”

This is an added local dimension in the election. The SNP’s candidate is Peter Grant, head of Fife council. The SNP-Lib Dem coalition-run authority implemented unpopular and controversial hikes in care charges earlier this year that caused anger and fear among many local elderly and disabled people and their families and friends.

Council worker Andy Carr shares Arthur’s anger at the bailout. “The bonuses of those bankers should be taken off them. They don’t deserve it,” he said.

“There aren’t enough jobs in Fife,” he added. He is angry that the council have just appointed a lot of new management posts but he says he’s voting SNP.

“The SNP have done things straight away, like getting rid of the toll on the Forth road bridge. The SNP will win no bother. Everyone’s pissed off with Labour.”

Arthur added, “I hear we’re getting a visit from Gordon Brown. I’ll spit on him if I see him.”

Asked if he knows of anyone else visiting the area, he said, “Tommy Sheridan is speaking here around the start of November. I’ll be waiting to see what he has to say.”

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