The SNP recorded a massive 23.3% swing from the Labour Party to comfortably take the North Ayrshire & Arran constituency at last Thursday’s (May 7th) UK Election.
Labour candidate Katy Clark, who had served as MP since 2005, appeared to pay the price of her party’s closeness to the Conservatives in last year’s Independence Referendum and in terms of social and economic policies. Ms Clark supported Scotland remaining within the British Union but regularly opposed Labour’s political positioning.
The Scottish National Party’s Patricia Gibson received 28,641 votes to Labour’s 15,068, giving the SNP a majority of 13,573. Mrs Gibson secured 53% of all votes cast by the people of North Ayrshire & Arran.
The Tories finished a distant third on 7,968 votes. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the Liberal Democrats, who respectively finished fourth and fifth, lost their deposits after failing to secure at least 5% of the votes cast.
After being announced as the new MP for North Ayrshire & Arran, Patricia Gibson told the crowd at the election count in Saltcoats’ St Matthew’s Academy, “The most special thanks go to the people of North Ayrshire and Arran for placing their trust in me. I will not let them down.”
Mrs Gibson, whose husband, Kenneth, is the SNP MSP for the broadly equivalent constituency of Cunninghame North, committed herself to being a “visible and hard working MP” for everyone in North Ayrshire and Arran, adding, “I will seek to work with others to oppose the austerity agenda, which is causing so much pain in our communities.”
To cheers from SNP activists, Mrs Gibson said, “The people of North Ayrshire and Arran, and the people across Scotland, have spoken and it's time their voices were heard in Westminster.
“As part of a strong group of SNP MPs, I will be your voice.”
Katy Clark said it had been “a huge privilege” to represent the people of North Ayrshire and Arran over the last 10 years, noting, “I've carried out that role to the best of my ability and I've been absolutely clear and honest about the kind of politics I believe in. I'm a socialist and I believe that radical redistributive measures are necessary in all parts of the UK.”
Ms Clark stood last year for the position of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, but lost-out to centre-right candidate Kezia Dugdale MSP. Of the position in which Labour now finds itself, Katy Clark said, “I believe Scottish Labour needs to change, and I will continue to argue that we need to go back to our radical socialist roots.
“I've always stood for Labour values and I believe the people of North Ayrshire and Arran still believe in Labour values. Unfortunately, the party that has been before them has not lived up to that image.”
Ms Clark, broadly acknowledged as a hard-working constituency MP over the past ten-years, added, “I will continue to fight for a Labour Party that puts the interests of ordinary working people first, a party that delivers for the working class, and a party that's true to our radical and socialist roots.”
The 13,573 majority secured by the SNP last week is the largest since 1931 when the local constituency was called Bute & Northern Ayrshire. At the election 84 years ago, the winning candidate was the Unionist Party’s Sir Aylmer Gould Hunter-Weston, who secured a 14,240 majority over Alexander Sloan of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). In a remarkable coincidence, Mr Sloan was the great-great-grandfather of Katy Clark. The ILP man subsequently served as MP for South Ayrshire from 1939 until his death in 1946.
The Central Ayrshire constituency, which includes Irvine and part of Kilwinning, was won by the SNP’s Philippa Whitford with a majority of 13,589 over Labour’s Brian Donohoe who had been the area’s MP since 1992.
Across Scotland at last week’s election, the SNP swept to a historic landslide victory, winning 56 of the country’s 59 seats.
The full result in North Ayrshire & Arran was:
Patricia Gibson (SNP) – 28,641
Katy Clark (Labour) – 15,068
Jamie Greene (Tory) – 7,968
Sharon McGonigal (UKIP) – 1,296
Ruby Kirkwood (Lib Dem) - 896
Photo: North Ayrshire & Arran Returning Officer Elma Murray announces the election result with Patricia Gibson (SNP) and Katy Clark (Labour) looking on.