LABOUR WON the by-election in Falkirk West by the thinnest of majorities just before Christmas. Labour's majority of 13,800 in 1997 was slashed to just 705 over the Scottish National Party (SNP).
The seat was made vacant by the resignation of former Labour MP Dennis Canavan, who was rejected by the party for the Scottish Parliament elections, then defeated Labour at the polls. Canavan remains the member of the Scottish Parliament for Falkirk West.
The 16 percent swing to the SNP shows how little enthusiasm there is for New Labour's polices. Labour's candidate, former army major Eric Joyce, made a ridiculous speech reminiscent of a First World War general explaining the latest 'success'. He said, 'The nationalists have been judged irrelevant in Falkirk. They have been cast aside.'
The SNP will be very relieved by the result after its poor showing in other by-elections. Its candidate, David Kerr, pushed heavily a message of 'social justice' in contrast to some of the recent pronouncements from the SNP leadership.
The Scottish Socialist Party's Iain Hunter saved his deposit and won a very respectable 5 percent, showing the audience for socialist ideas that exists across Britain.
As John Curtice, deputy director at the ESRC Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends, wrote in the Independent , 'What is notable is that this is the fifth by-election in a row in which a candidate standing under a socialist label has passed the 5 percent threshold. 'It is easily the best record for the far left in post-war Britain.'