The Glasgow East by-election is occurring because its sitting MP, David Marshall, is standing down for health reasons. It shouldn't surprise, at 67 he is already outliving the average man in his constituency.
In the 2005 election he won with 60.7% of the vote. Yes he is one of those MPs with a strong true majority. The Scottish National Party (SNP) came a distant second with 17%, the Lib Dems third with 11.8% and the Conservative Party fourth with 6.9%. You get the picture, this is heartland Labour territory. Much of the media coverage is about whether Labour might lose, as the SNP is campaigning strong calling for nanny state to help food and fuel prices. Once addicted to nanny state, always addicted, although I hope the Tories might squeeze into third place (which happened, just, in 2001).
What's actually more telling are two sets of statistics. First, those about the constituency itself. This is a part of the UK that is not middle class, it is the absolute pits of despair - funded from the loving caring generous welfare state.
UK polling report describes the seat as follows:
"This seat contains some affluent suburban areas like Mount Vernon and Bailleston, but it is mostly made up of the post-war product of slum clearances, soul(l)ess tenements and terraces thrown up in the 1950s and 1960s into which the population of Glasgow’s substandard housing were decanted. The resulting estates, lacking employment and amen(i)ties were ravaged by unemployment, hard drugs, violence and gang culture." (sic)
It is poor white Scotland, with only 1.1% of the population not European. A quarter of the population under 18 and 20% over 60. Parts of the seat have a life expectancy for men of 62 - one of the lowest in the UK and akin to Bangladesh. Good ol' NHS doing wonders isn't it?
Only 7.6% of the population are graduates and just over 50% of adults have no school qualifications at all. Good ol' state monopoly education working then?
46% live in "social housing", about the same again in owner-occupied homes. 15.6% of homes have either no private bathroom or no central heating - in Glasgow!
Fraser Nelson of the Spectator explains further: "I once had the job of signing up the good people of Glasgow East to the electoral register — at the time, regarded as an invitation to pay poll tax. Gang graffiti scars the walls, police are virtually unseen. This no-go-zone status is new, and cost billions to achieve. Houses there are in good condition, money is being spent. But it has funded a hideous social experiment, showing what happens when the horizontal ties which bind those within communities to one another are replaced with vertical ties, binding individuals to the welfare state."
You see this is the dire world of welfare, drug and despair addicted Scotland "A boy born in Camlachie is expected to live to 64.5 — the same as in Uzbekistan. In Parkhead it is 62, the same as Bangladesh. Just outside its boundaries lies Dalmarnock where the figure is 58 — lower than Sudan, Cambodia or Ghana. The lowest is Carlton, where the figure of 54 is lower than even Gambia’s equivalent"
Nelson continues, pointing out the vile levels of dependency of those there and how irrelevant they are to Labour "It is invisible because the people in this Labour stronghold are of no use to politicians, who only do battle nowadays in marginal seats. When I last visited a pub there, to research an article, I was asked if I was a missionary — church groups are about the only people who bother with such places these days. Its horrors are hidden by statistical manipulation. Official unemployment is just 6.7 per cent. But add in such factors as those claiming incapacity benefit, and it quickly emerges that a scandalous 50 per cent of the working-age population are on out-of-work benefits."
However, you might think as a Labour heartland seat, this should be easy, this sort of seat is apparently what Labour is meant to be about.
The people of Glasgow East have been rewarded by their loyalty with Labour by being ignored. Channel 4 reported that the party has as few as three dozen active members in the seat, and that it has never actually campaigned there in recent history on a door to door basis. After all, why would you campaign when those who vote do so as zombies, ticking the same formula as they are told time and time again that only Labour represents the working man, an irony given how the majority don't actually work. The Labour Party doesn't even have a database on the seat's demographics show where it's weakest and strongest. It has taken most of them for granted. With one part of the seat excepted, poor, destitute, welfare ridden, they'll vote Labour - nobody else will bother campaigning in this seriously dire part of Glasgow.
Of course as David Cameron says, the truth is that those in this electorate have, to some extent, given up. Although you do wonder how the inquisitive bright kid in this place fairs, when he risks being beaten up for being "smart", hounded at a school where intelligence makes you a social pariah, where one parent cynically thinks he's getting "too big for his boots", and with temptations towards drugs and other mindless decadence all around. They all vote for the status quo, and get it of course - and get it from a party only too glad that it gets a guaranteed House of Commons vote so it can have power, to look after the floating voter.
You see that's where, hopefully, all that will be proven wrong. This heartland Labour seat speaks volumes about the arrogance of many on the left for those they purport to give a damn about. Labour ignores them, doesn't even have enough local members who LIKE Labour, and the other parties completely ignore them too - until now. What has Labour done for Glasgow East? Kept the benefits flowing, kept the state monopoly schools open, refurbished some housing and left law and order to the gangs.
So the failure of socialist is apparent - starkly apparent. The formula is not more money for state monopolies and welfare. Yet this seat may offer a chance for the taste of change.
I'll leave the end to Fraser Nelson from the Spectator again:
"Labour, forced for the first time to focus attention on one of its ‘safe’ welfare ghettoes, may find it has nothing to say. Is it to promise more of the same? Or blame the wicked Conservatives? It is one thing for Labour to lose the leafy suburbs which Mr Blair won over in 1997. But to be rejected in a supposed heartland like Glasgow East would plunge the party into existential crisis, and rightly so. Because after all those years in power, and all those billions spent, its main legacy has been, quite simply, the most expensive poverty in the world."