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Glasgow East - 'A tale of two Governments'

Tom Griffin
23 July 2008

Tom Griffin (London, The Green Ribbon):Today is the final day of campaigning in the Glasgow East by-election. Initial speculation about a Labour meltdown that could spell the end for Gordon Brown has largely died away, but Alex Salmond has refused to back away from predictions that the vote would be a 'political earthquake'.

He said: "It's a test of strength between two governments. On balance, most people are pretty satisfied with what they have seen from the SNP government in Edinburgh thus far.

"It's a test of strength between two governments and, if the Prime Minister can get to Glasgow East, I would be very happy to have an individual debate with the Prime Minister.

"Any by-election is a test of every party that contests it. One aspect of this election is a tale of two governments. People are passing judgment, clearly, on the Labour government at Westminster, but they're also passing judgment on the SNP government at Scotland. That's as it should be."

Over at politicalbetting.com, Mike Smithson estimates that the odds of a Labour victory are now almost even. Salmond's decision to raise the stakes certainly looks like the action of someone who believes there's everything to play for.

Few would expect much from the Conservatives in this constituency, but the party is nevertheless deploying three front-benchers, in what looks as much a symbolic affirmation of David Cameron's unionist credentials as anything else.

The Guardian's Tristram Hunt suggests that Cameron is out of step with his party on this point:

Response on the ConservativeHome website to Cameron's pro-unionist speech was savage. "Becoming an English nation state is our way forward, and unionists like Cameron are slowly becoming a dying breed ... thank goodness," was among the more polite posts - while the arch Little Englander, the Telegraph columnist Simon Heffer, speaks with his usual brio for the Conservative mainstream. "The honest position for the Tories," he recently declaimed vis-a-vis Scottish independence, "is that if a part of the kingdom wishes to go its own way, then nothing should be done to stop it." Above all, he urges the Conservative party not to repeat the kind of mistake it made in the 1950s in attempting to save the British empire.

A respectable showing for Tory candidate Davena Rankin may dampen such voices. A poor showing will strengthen the attractions of English nationalism, especially if it is accompanied by SNP success.

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