A new Day dawns as SNP take East Falkirk seat from Labour

The SNP’s Martyn Day trounced Labour rival Michael Connarty to take the Falkirk East seat with a margin of nearly 13,000 votes.

Day overcame Connarty on a momentous election night by 32,055 votes to 19,121 to spell the end of Mr Connarty’s political career of 23 years as a politician.

Martyn Day ousted Labour's Michael Connarty inthe Falkirk East constituency

Martyn Day ousted Labour's Michael Connarty inthe Falkirk East constituency

At the same count the SNP’s Hannah Bardell beat Graeme Morrice by 32,736 votes to 15,893 in the Livingston constituency to make it a double whammy for the nationalists.

Turnout for the Linlithgow & East Falkirk seat was 70.9 per cent with a total of 61,687 votes cast. This was up 7.3 per cent on the 2010 vote.

Victor Martyn Day, who had the youngest election agent in Scotland, said after his win: “I’m almost speechless. It’s been a brilliant result and I want to thank everyone who has contributed to us getting that. I’d like to pay particular tribute to Michael Connarty for his sterling years of service as local MP.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to the many who have went before me because this victory is not just for today, it’s built on years of service and the national movement in this area has came a very long way.

SNP's Martyn Day and Hannah Bardell celebrate victory.

SNP's Martyn Day and Hannah Bardell celebrate victory.

“I also pay tribute to my great friend and mentor, Billy Wolfe, who is no longer with us. Billy more than anyone taught me about truth and honesty in politics. I will make a solemn promise that I will follow in Billy’s footsteps and fight against the renewal of Trident missiles.

“I pledge that I will fight as hard as I possibly can for every single constituent in this constituency. It doesn’t matter how they voted in the referendum, it doesn’t matter how they voted in this election, I will fight tooth and nail for their interests.

“I will fight tooth and nail to make Scotland’s voice heard at Westminster and make sure we have power.”

Michael Connarty, 67, will now bow out of frontline politics after his defeat, but went with some criticism for the SNP and said he will now focus on helping to rebuild the party he loves behind the scenes.

He said: “I congratulate Martin on his win and for the way this election has been carried out.

“I think basically what’s happened is that people have been taken in by the big campaign, the cult of personality of Nicola Sturgeon and they’ve gone for it here as much as they’ve gone for it anywhere else.

“I’ve had people saying to me on the doorstep ‘look Michael up until now I’ve never voted for anyone else but after the referendum it’s changed’, and that’s fine. I don’t do politics for personal reasons, I do it because I think we have a great programme, our manifesto has been first class across the UK but what happened of course is the bounce using Scottish nationalism to frighten the English into English nationalism so it’s a vote for a Tory government and the prospect of just watching all these people we send down there for the SNP as a voice for Scotland will simply just be a rabble because they won’t have any effect.

“What we’ve got is a very strong party and we’ll be challenging them to deliver what they promised to deliver.

“For me I don’t have any sense of personal loss because I don’t do it for personal reasons but I do think the people got conned. I do respect the voters’ rights to do that but they will find out the SNP won’t have any power in a Tory government.”

Asked if he would stand again he said: “No, I’m 67 years of age now. I’m not in politics, politics is what I am. I joined politics when I was 15. It’s people who get elected that make a difference.

“A friend of mine from university told me I should stop being a reporter and become a ‘soarter’. Serious politics is about being in the Labour party and that’s what I do.

“I will now just help to reorganise the party and fight for 2016 and then onwards, hold the council and build the party for the future.

“For me it’s about rebuilding the party. The party has got good form, it’s got a great manifesto. These are the things we need to do, they won’t get done under a Tory government and the SNP is to blame.”

In Linlithgow & Falkirk East, Tory Sandy Batho came third with 7384 votes followed by UKIP’s Alistair Forrest on 1683, the Lib Dems’ Emma Farthing-Sykes on 1252 and Neil McIvor from the right wing National Front with 103. There were 90 rejected votes.

In third in Livingston was Conservative Christopher Donnelly with 5929 votes, then UKIP’s Nathan Somerville with 1757 with the Lib Dems’ Charles Dundas on 1232. There were 84 rejected votes.

Falkirk councillor Alan Nimmo who was in Connarty’s camp said it was a “bad night for Labour”, and it was evident it was going to be very early on in the night.

One supporter was said to be crying, word of which soon became a hot topic around the hall, while another Labour stalwart stormed out following the early checks of ballot papers by the political teams.

Most of the senior Labour figures were in the cafe watching results filter through on the TV screen while the SNP legions, looking very confident, were smiling away in the hall.

A loud cheer erupted when Bardell, wearing a bright yellow jacket, walked in, accompanied by her mum Lis who was defeated by Labour’s Graeme Morrice five years earlier.

Michael Connarty entered after midnight to little fanfare, summing up the Labour mood.

Mr Nimmo said: “Michael has been a Labour colleague for a long, long time. He is well liked and well respected.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in the future to try and bring us back up to speed. It’s been a bad night for Labour.”

Martyn Day said his election campaign was like a “carnival” due to the support he said he received on the doorsteps.

At 12.30pm he was looking much happier than his Labour rival.

He said: “It’s been more a carnival atmosphere than an election campaign from the public. It was more like going to a pop concert. Unbelievable.

“My campaign has been entirely positive. We’ve never ran anybody down. It’s been all positive making Scotland’s voice being heard, progressive policies for the whole of the UK, fairer voting systems, the austerity agenda and things make a fairer society. That’s what we’ve aimed at.

“That’s what we’ve kept our campaign on and we’ve not deviated from that.

“We’re very committed to working as a progressive alliance and knocking the Tories out of power.”

Falkirk councillor Dr Craig R Martin, a campaign organiser for Michael Connarty, said Labour failed to get their message across to voters despite having a good manifesto.

He said: “The SNP have had a good night all over Scotland. I still can’t quite understand it to be fair. It’s not on policy. We’ve had one of the best manifestos we’ve had in a long, long time, a real left-wing manifesto but it’s not got over to the voters.

“We need to work harder, we’ve got good policies but that’s not what has been in people’s minds. We’ve not been as good as selling the story as the SNP seems to have done.

“I don’t want us to change anything about our manifesto, but we need to get that across to people. Five more years of the Tories, communities will be devastated, so will councils on shoestring budgets.”

FACTFILE

Candidates in the Linlithgow & East Falkirk Constituency were Michael Connarty (Labour); Martyn Day (SNP); Sandy Batho (Conservatives); Emma Farthing-Sykes; Alistair Boyd (UKIP); and Neil McIvor (National Front).

Squaring up in the Livingston Constituency were Hannah Bardell (SNP); Graeme Morrice (Labour); Charles Dundas (Lib Dems); Chris Donnelly (Conservatives); and Nathan Somerville (UKIP).

The vote count was in the sports hall at Excite in Bathgate, Balbaride Park and the Returning Officer was Graham Hope, chief executive of West Lothian Council.

The polling list electorate for Linlithgow & Falkirk East is 86,955, Livingston is 82,373.

The Linlithgow & East Falkirk Constituency covers Grangemouth, The Braes villages, Linlithgow, Bo’ness, Bathgate and Armadale.

Livingston covers Broxburn, Uphall, Livingston, Bellsquarry, Kirknewton, Mid Calder, East Calder, West Calder, Pumpherston, Fauldhouse, Seafield, Whitburn, Bridgend, Ecclesmachan, Addiewell, Winchburgh, Dechmont, Longridge, Stoneyburn and Polbeth.

The postal vote total (excluding postal proxies) for East Falkirk is 13.834 (15 per cent). For Livingston it is 14,551 (17.7 per cent).

The number of polling stations in East Falkirk is 55. Livingston has 87.

The number of staff and polling day inspectors working in polling stations was 294. The number of staff working at the count was 170.

There were more than 80 vans used to collect ballot boxes containing the votes from polling stations.