2008 Glasgow East by-election

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Glasgow East by-election

← 2005 24 July 2008 2010 →

Glasgow East parliamentary seat
  First party Second party Third party
Candidate John Mason Margaret Curran Davena Rankin
Party SNP Labour Conservative
Popular vote 11,277 10,912 1,639
Percentage 43.1% 41.7% 6.3%
Swing Increase26.1% Decrease19.0% Decrease0.6%

MP before election

David Marshall

Subsequent MP

John Mason

The 2008 Glasgow East by-election was a by-election for the UK Parliamentary constituency of Glasgow East which was held on 24 July 2008. The election was triggered when, on 30 June 2008, the sitting MP David Marshall stood down due to ill health.

The by-election was won by John Mason, candidate of the Scottish National Party, who defeated the Labour candidate Margaret Curran. Curran subsequently regained the seat for Labour at the 2010 general election.

The election was significant as it was the second safe Labour seat to be contested, and to be lost, since a downturn in political fortunes for the Labour Party and incumbent UK Labour Government under the Premiership of Gordon Brown, and was also held in the wake of the resignation of the Leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, Wendy Alexander. The seat was the third-safest Labour seat in Scotland, and their 26th safest seat in the UK.


2008 Glasgow East by-election[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
SNP John Mason 11,277 43.1 +26.1
Labour Margaret Curran 10,912 41.7 −19.0
Conservative Davena Rankin 1,639 6.3 −0.6
Liberal Democrats Ian Robertson 915 3.5 −8.3
Scottish Socialist Frances Curran 555 2.1 −1.4
Solidarity Tricia McLeish 512 2.0 New
Scottish Green Eileen Duke 232 0.9 New
Independent Chris Creighton 67 0.3 New
Freedom-4-Choice Hamish Howitt 65 0.2 New
Majority 365 1.4 New
Turnout 26,219 42.25 −5.95
SNP gain from Labour Swing +22.5


The Glasgow East constituency was created for the 2005 general election. Its area came from the majority of the Glasgow Baillieston constituency, with the remainder formed from the Glasgow Shettleston constituency. It is one of the most deprived constituencies in the UK, with 30% of the working-age population on unemployment or incapacity benefit and nearly 40% of children growing up in homes where there is no adult in paid employment.[2]

At the 2005 general election, the new Glasgow East seat was Labour's 26th safest seat in terms of percentage majority, and within Scotland, the seat at which it received its second-highest share of the vote.[3] At the 2005 general election, Labour defeated the Scottish National Party by a majority of 13,507 votes, who beat the Liberal Democrats to third place by 1,603 votes.

Prior to his 2005 win at Glasgow East, Marshall had continually held the predecessor seat of Glasgow Shettleston since 1979. Shettleston had been held continuously by previous Labour Party members since an Independent Labour Party member defected to Labour in 1947. The Glasgow Baillieston constituency, and its predecessor seat Glasgow Provan, had always returned Labour MPs since its creation in 1955.

At the 2007 Scottish parliamentary election, Labour lost power to the SNP, who formed a minority government. At this election, the SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon won the neighbouring Glasgow Govan Scottish Parliament constituency with a swing from Labour of 10.7%, while all other Glasgow constituencies remained in Labour control.

On 28 June 2008, Marshall informed local party leaders that he would be stepping down on medical advice, after 10 weeks of sick leave from the House of Commons.[4] On 30 June 2008 Marshall accepted the post of Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead,[5] a device allowing him in effect to resign as an MP, triggering the by-election[6]

Political situation[edit]

The election gained attention throughout the UK due to worsening results for Labour during 2008. The Daily Record had asserted that if Labour lost the by-election, further pressure would be heaped on Gordon Brown.[4]

The by-election followed a run of poor results since May, in the Crewe and Nantwich and Henley by-elections in England, English and Welsh local elections and losing the London mayoralty. By the end of May, Labour had registered its worst ever independent opinion poll result since records began in 1943, of 23%.[7] This was also the first by-election since Labour declined to field a candidate in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election in England 14 days previously, fought over a recent controversial government anti-terrorism bill. The by-election also came within days of the controversial resignation of the Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander, with voting for a replacement not taking place before polling.[8][9]

Turnout is usually lower in by-elections; at the previous general election turnout was 48% but was down just under 6% at 42.25%. Voter share was likely to have been distributed differently, with nine candidates standing for this election, compared to five in 2005. Turnout was higher than expected, despite the election being held during the school holidays, and during a traditional Glasgow holiday period.

In a Scotland-wide opinion poll of Westminster voting intentions, released on 11 July, the SNP was on 33%, with Labour on 29%, Conservatives on 20% Lib Dem on 14%. [10]

However, in an opinion poll conducted solely within the Glasgow East constituency, released on 12 July, Labour led on 47%, SNP on 33%, Liberal Democrats on 9% and the Conservatives on 7%.[11]


When nominations closed, there were nine candidates.

The SNP chose John Mason,[12] a longtime resident of the constituency, and leader of the opposition on Glasgow City Council.

The Labour Party had some difficulty finding a candidate. The most likely initial choice, local councillor George Ryan, failed to attend a selection meeting.[13] The position was then offered to Steven Purcell, the Labour leader of Glasgow council, then Lesley Quinn and Frank McAveety, the party's general secretary and the MSP for Glasgow Shettleston respectively, but all turned it down .[14] The position was eventually accepted by fifth-choice candidate Margaret Curran, MSP for Glasgow Baillieston, on 7 July.[15]

The Green Party selected Dr. Eileen Duke, a retired GP and co-convenor of the party's local branch, on 5 July.[16] The Scottish Socialist Party stood Frances Curran, a former MSP who originally came from the east end of Glasgow. Solidarity stood Tricia McLeish, a trade union activist who lived in the constituency.

Howitt stood under the label "Freedom-4-Choice", a minor party of his own creation, having stood under the same title in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election.[17]


Leaked diplomatic cables later disclosed that senior US diplomats perceived Gordon Brown to be "finished" following the result.[18]

Curran would subsequently defeat Mason and regain the seat for Labour in the 2010 general election with a majority of almost 12,000,[19][20] only to be defeated herself by the SNP in 2015.

2005 election result[edit]

The seat was created at the 2005 election.

General election 2005: Glasgow East[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour David Marshall 18,775 60.7 N/A
SNP Lachlan McNeill 5,268 17.0 N/A
Liberal Democrats David Jackson 3,665 11.8 N/A
Conservative Carl Thomson 2,135 6.9 N/A
Scottish Socialist George Savage 1,096 3.5 N/A
Majority 13,507 43.7 N/A
Turnout 30,939 48.2 N/A
Labour hold Swing N/A


  1. ^ "Glasgow East result in full". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 25 July 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2008.
  2. ^ McSmith, Andy (12 June 2008). "Struggle for survival in Labour heartland". London: The Independent. Archived from the original on 4 July 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  3. ^ Mellows-Facer, Adam (10 March 2006). "Research Paper 05/53: General Election 2005" (PDF). House of Commons Library. Parliament of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 April 2010. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Gordon Brown faces by-election test as veteran Scots MP David Marshal quits over illness". The Daily Record. 28 June 2008. Retrieved 28 June 2008.
  5. ^ "Treasury Press Release". 30 June 2008. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  6. ^ "By-election looms after MP quits". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 30 June 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  7. ^ Lovell, Jeremy (30 May 2008). "Brown hit by worst party rating". London: Reuters. Retrieved 28 June 2008.
  8. ^ BBC News Q&A: Labour leadership election, 30 June 2008
  9. ^ BBC News Gordon eyes Labour leadership bid, 1 July 2008
  10. ^ Mulholland, Hélène (11 July 2008). "Blow for Labour in Glasgow East as poll gives SNP 4% lead in Scotland". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 July 2008.
  11. ^ "Labour on course for victory in Glasgow East". The Daily Telegraph. London. 12 July 2008. Archived from the original on 15 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  12. ^ "Councillor John Mason, Leader of the Opposition".
  13. ^ "Labour man quits by-election race". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 5 July 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  14. ^ "Is the writing on the wall for Labour in Glasgow?". "The Scotsman". 7 July 2008.
  15. ^ "Curran takes on by-election fight". BBC News. 7 July 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  16. ^ "Brown's job on the line in Glasgow East by-election". Press and Journal. Aberdeen Journals. 7 July 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  17. ^ "Freedom-4-Choice party registration". Register of political parties. Electoral Commission. 6 September 2006. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2008.
  18. ^ "At a glance: Wikileaks cables". London: BBC News. 8 December 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  19. ^ "Election 2010: Labour regain Glasgow East from SNP two years after by-election shock". The Daily Record. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  20. ^ "Glasgow East: Constituency". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  21. ^ "Election 2005 Result: Glasgow East". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 23 May 2005. Retrieved 3 July 2008.

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