Month: November 2014

Winning in Midlothian East

For the first weekend in months Labour activists in Midlothian North and Musselburgh won’t be knocking on doors, making calls or delivering leaflets.

This follows Friday’s stunning victory by Labour Party candidate Kenny Young in the Midlothian East By-Election.

Against the current background of a massive SNP lead in the opinion polls, a membership surge for pro-independence parties and being without a leader in Scotland the conditions appeared less than ideal for a Labour victory.

However, against these odds Kenny won the seat with a vote of 1,682 compared to an SNP vote of 1,613.

There can’t have been many years like 2014 when it comes to campaigning.

The long campaign on the referendum, punctuated by the european elections in May meant that activists were used to spending most weekends and at least part of the working week engaged in some form of political activity by the time the by-election campaign took off.

As Chair of Midlothian North and Musselburgh CLP, I am immensely proud that we have members who following the intensity of the referendum campaign didn’t think twice about taking to the streets in support of Kenny a week after the referendum.

It was also great to see the support we got from others in the party outwith the constituency.

All of this played a part in supporting a campaign superbly organised by Kenny and his election agent Richard Fairbairn.

As polling day dawned we felt that we had ran a good campaign, one that had connected with voters and had highlighted issues where we thought the council had got it wrong. Most importantly Kenny had shown that he would make an effective councillor by taking up issues on behalf of voters and getting action on issues such as a vandalised telephone box and a broken fence to name but a few.

But you never know until the votes are counted.

So, on Friday we all gathered at Mayfield Leisure Centre to hear the verdict of the voters.

The first count saw us establish a small lead but one that could be easily overtaken once votes were re-distributed at subsequent stages.

As the count went into the afternoon it became clear that the substantial vote achieved by the independent candidate, Robert Hogg was going to be crucial to the eventual outcome.

The respect that Robert Hogg is held in by the local community was evident on election day as voters greeted him, his family and supporters at polling stations. This translated itself into a vote that was more than that of the combined Green, Lib Dem and Conservative and established him in 3rd place at the end of round 1.

Round 5 arrived with Kenny in the lead from the SNP by 59 votes and with a potential 780 votes to be reallocated.

After what seemed like an age the eventual vote was declared and Kenny had won by 69 votes.

A victory we had hoped for and a victory which many had worked hard for.

So, as 2014 draws to a close we can take a brief rest and reflect on the European Election, Referendum and Midlothian East By-Election.

We can’t be complacent given the polls but the result on Friday and the hard work done by Labour Party activists over these past weeks and months shows that there are some grounds for cautious optimism.

In a few weeks time we will know the result of the Leader and Deputy Leader elections and very soon we’ll be in to another interesting political year.

Meantime, I would like to thank everyone that gave up their time during 2014 in whatever way they could to help with everything we’ve achieved this year.

Bernard Harkins, Chair of Midlothian North and Musselburgh CLP and Scottish Labour Party Candidate for 2016 in Midlothian North and Musselburgh.

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