(Please see UPDATE at end)
A few caveats first; all I know about Glasgow East from personal knowledge could probably be written on the back of a postage stamp and could probably be read by someone with moderately impaired eye-sight (the typeface would have to be reasonably large, in other words); I understand that the consituency is bisected by one of the motorways which criss-cross Glasgow so I have presumably passed through it occasionally, blissfully unaware. I do have a certain knowledge of Glasgow having spent many weekends there as a child (to visit my Glasgow-born parent's own parents and a few other relatives who live there) when we lived in Edinburgh and I have of course visited it from time to time as an adult, most recently last month.
My 'research' for this has been to try and look at the 2005 Westminster results and compare them with the 2007 Scottish Parliament results; in the former, the Glasgow area remains almost wholly 'red' (i.e. Labour), broken only by a speck of 'orange' (LibDem) whereas in the latter a speck of 'yellow' (SNP) has entered the scene (instead of the 'orange'). Four 'yellow' also became regional MSPs for Glasgow and in the surrounding regions there were 4 or 5 'yellow' regional MSPs in each.
What this seems to show is that whilst the whole central/west of Scotland remains overwhelmingly 'red' (as it has been for decades), its position is gradually being eaten away by others, mainly the SNP (since the 2007 Scottish election). But the reality is that the 'yellow' party remains a 'fringe' party of the north and east of Scotland, so far as first-past-the-post elections are concerned. Which is what counts, so far as Westminster elections are concerned.
I've also been observing as much as I can (or could stomach!) of the almost wall-to-wall coverage of the Glasgow East bye-election in the past couple of weeks, both in the media (written and broadcast) and in the 'blogosphere'.
So, my conclusions:
- the SNP have almost certainly no hope whatsoever of taking this seat from Labour, with its 13,500+ majority in 2005;
- some other predicitons I have read say Labour will retain the seat with a much reduced majority of 3,000 to 3,300 or so, based (at least the latter) on presumably a much more detailed analysis than I would claim to have done;
- I think that whilst a great deal will depend on what is the precise turnout tomorrow, it seems clear there is enough sentiment within the constituency to give Labour a 'bloody nose', largely because of its low standing nationally and the low standing of Gordon Brown;
- Until the SNP can make real headway at a Westminster general election, which they have signally failed to do so far, then the party remains ultimately one of 'protest'; there is no sign of this changing anytime soon, however much supporters of the SNP may tell you otherwise;
- in summary, I think Labour will retain the seat, but with a considerably larger majority than some others predict, but still a lot less than it achieved in 2005. Forced against the wall for a precise answer, I'd say somewhere between 5-7,000 based on a 30 to 35 per cent turnout, which is what many seem to think will be the case.
All this is only a matter of opinion and I don't claim my view is as well-informed as some of those 'closer' to what is going on. Any 'brickbats' can await Friday morning, when we will ALL know what actually happened.
PS/ My own view of what I would LIKE to happen? As someone who supports Scotland remaining as part of the UK, my instinct (through gritted teeth worn down to the gums!) is to want Labour to win, but with a savagely reduced majority of no more than 500; that would be a pretty strong signal to Labour just how poorly they are thought of and particularly their current Leader. This particular constituency has precious little to show for its long-term loyalty to Labour, both in government and in opposition FOR DECADES. I'm not going to waste my time thinking that anyone other than Labour or SNP will win, as the likelihood of that happening is less than negligible - it is zero.
UPDATE: (Friday 25JUL08 09.00 BST) In a stunning reversal, the SNP pip Labour to the post in Glasgow East. So my 'tentative predicitons' were entirely wrong - well done to the Glasgow East voters for sending Labour on their way! I'm not over the moon that the SNP have won of course, but for the moment I must simply say 'Well Done!' to them. I've blogged about this a little more fully here.