Will tactical votes help Labour win in Edinburgh South?

Ian Murray won Scottish Labour's one and only seat in 2015. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Ian Murray won Scottish Labour's one and only seat in 2015. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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AMID the SNP tidal wave which swept across Scotland at the last general election, Edinburgh South was all that saved Labour from total wipeout.

Ian Murray was left as the only MP from the party which had dominated Scottish politics for so long. And while colleagues lost their seats all around, he actually increased his majority from a precarious 316 to 2637.

Mr Murray has built a strong reputation as an active local MP, but in addition to those who would vote for him anyway, he was helped last time by the tactical votes of Lib Dem and Tory supporters out to stop the SNP.

Having seen it succeed once, there is a good chance such voters will take the same approach this time.

“I’ve always said people go to the polling stations to deliver a result that’s 
personal to them,” he said. “They will decide whether they want to vote tactically to get the result they want.

“I’m saying to Greens, Lib Dems, Conservatives and any other party that if they want a non-SNP MP in this constituency they need to vote for me.”

Mr Murray says people want to get off the “constitutional merry-go-round” and feel all the talk of a second independence referendum is damaging the Scottish and Edinburgh economies.

And he says people are also worried about what is going to happen with Brexit. “Most people have accepted the result but what they have not accepted is the kind of direction the government is taking us in.”

Edinburgh South includes Merchiston, Morningside, Fairmilehead, Newington, The Inch, Liberton, Gracemount, Moredun and Gilmerton.

SNP candidate Jim Eadie, who represented a big chunk of the seat at Holyrood for five years, claims there is “everything to play for”.

“It’s shaping up to be a close three-way contest,” he says. “The Conservative vote has gone up nationally and I would expect that to be reflected in this constituency.”

He acknowledges there will be some tactical voting, but says the SNP vote is holding up well.

“This seat is very much in the frame as one the SNP can win.”

On Indyref2, Mr Eadie says there are mixed views. “What I try to say to people is the reason that Indyref is on the table is Theresa May’s unwillingness to engage with the Scottish Government on its reasonable proposals for the UK to remain in the single market and her total capitulation to Ukip opinion south of the border.”

Last time, the SNP had problems when their candidate Neil Hay was exposed as a Twitter troll who used a pseudonym to post offensive comments. That may arguably have stopped the SNP vote reaching its full potential, but on the other hand the SNP surge in 2015 was so great it may have made little difference.

The Tory candidate is newly-elected Liberton/Gilmerton councillor Stephanie Smith, who says she is getting a “really positive” response from voters.

This used to be a Conservative seat, but the Tories last won it in 1983 before losing it to Labour in 1987.

“The thing I hear most is people really don’t want a second referendum,” says Ms Smith. “And a lot of people feel the Conservatives are the only party who can stand up for the UK and they’re looking to vote for me.”

She plays down the likelihood of tactical voting. “It’s not the message I’m getting on the doorstep this time. The message I’m getting is the traditional Conservative vote is no longer as willing to do tactical voting and are coming back to base.

“This election comes down to the question, if you are a unionist who do you vote for?”

Ms Smith was a Remainer but says Brexit has not been raised much with her during the campaign. “Independence is the main thing.”

Liberal Democrat Alan Beal, an energy consultant, hopes his party’s past strength in the constituency could be coming back.

“We’re on the up in some areas,” he says. “We lost a huge amount of votes last time in Edinburgh South, so if we’re picking up votes again we could be in a good position this time. We ran Ian Murray pretty close in 2010.”

He says Brexit is a huge issue, especially for people in the university or financial sectors.

“We’re the only party that is pro-UK, pro-EU and offering a referendum on the Brexit deal, which would be a last chance on that. This seat was 78 per cent Remain and people might think that’s the most important issue.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com