Edinburgh Council Corstorphine/Murrayfield byelection: Labour's Cammy Day safe as leader despite 'historic' Liberal Democrat victory – Steve Cardownie
The Liberal Democrat cakewalk in last Thursday’s Edinburgh City Council by-election in Corstorphine/Murrayfield was entirely predictable, but it is unlikely to trigger a change in the political leadership at the City Chambers.
Liberal Democrat Fiona Bennet, won 56 per cent of first preference votes, totalling 4477, with the SNP coming second on 1086. This prompted Councillor Kevin Lang, Lib Dem group leader on the city council, to gleefully proclaim: “This is a historic result for the Liberal Democrats. It is the highest number of votes we have ever got in a council by-election in Edinburgh or anywhere in Scotland.”
This means that the patchwork quilt political make-up of the council is now: SNP 18, Lib Dems 13, Labour 12, Greens ten, Tories nine and one independent. So, the minority Labour administration can count on the support of 34 of the 63 councillors that make up the council.
Despite the SNP being by far the largest party, their number has been reduced by one as a consequence of annoying the former Lord Provost, SNP Councillor Frank Ross, to such an extent that he resigned from the council, thereby provoking the by-election.
So it’s hats off to the Lib Dems. After piloting their budget proposals through the last month’s council meeting, they have now increased their number at the expense of the SNP but, although this has generated much back-slapping within their group, they have decided not to use this latest victory as a springboard to snatch the reins of power from Labour.
The Lib Dem group met earlier this week “to decide how to maximise their influence” and perhaps “even consider bidding to oust the minority Labour administration”, but they would obviously have been aware that if they did so it would be likely to disrupt the cosy working relationship that has recently been formed amongst the unionist parties. After all, not a lot has changed and if the Lib Dems had any serious aspirations to lead the city council, they would have thrown their hat into the ring last May when the leadership was up for grabs after the council elections.
However, they could have bid for some convenorships of committees although this would have elevated the current working relationship to a fully-fledged coalition with Labour, which they obviously thought would have been a step too far.
Another consideration they would have taken into account is the time and commitment required to carry out the duties of a committee convener effectively. I am not aware of the personal employment responsibilities of Lib Dem councillors, but it has been suggested that they are quite substantial which, if so, would prevent many of their number from taking on additional council roles.
So, given their decision to maintain the status quo, it looks like Labour Councillor Cammy Day can expect to retain his position as leader for some time and, while support from the Lib Dems and the Conservatives might not be wholehearted, it should still be enough to see him through, as long as the alternative continues to prove too hard for these party groups to swallow.