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Walking along Rutherglen’s Main Street on a rainy afternoon last week, I learn something which neither Sir Keir Starmer nor Humza Yousaf will want to hear.

The busy road is at the heart of the constituency, which in a few days’ time will go to the polls to choose its new MP.

In the eyes of the political analysts, the imminent Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election will provide a litmus test of how close Labour are to winning No 10 at the next General Election, and will also be a crucial measure of how the SNP’s new leader is rated in the post-Sturgeon era.

But in the drizzle outside the Exchange shopping centre, the analysis is rather more blunt.

Candidate Niall Fraser campaigning on Main Street, Rutherglen

Bookmakers have made Labour candidate Michael Shanks the odds-on favourite to see off the SNP’s Katy Loudon

I’m wearing my grandmother’s red Burberry trench coat – which leads one elderly shopper to wrongly assume I am campaigning for the Labour Party.

‘You politicians,’ he says. ‘You’re all the same when you get into power. You all just take our money as soon as you get in the door and forget all about us.’

His friend, a woman, looks at me and storms off in a huff. Such is the challenge facing the frontrunners, Labour’s Michael Shanks and the SNP’s Katy Loudon.

While the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton may be pivotal for the immediate political fortunes of both parties, the voters – at worst angry, at best unfazed – clearly haven’t got the memo.

Jeanette Graham, 62, who works in the high street’s blinds and curtains shop, is still undecided over the question of who to vote for, just days before she is expected to cast her ballot on Thursday.

She – like many others I spoke to – had not thought much about the by-election, nor did she know the names of the candidates.

It is perhaps inevitable some residents are apathetic, given the only clue a crucial by-election, sparked by the effective sacking of Margaret Ferrier over Covid breaches, is about to take place is Scottish Family Party candidate Niall Fraser’s street sign proclaiming, ‘A man can’t become a woman. Simple’, and a ‘Vote for Katy Loudon’ sign stuck to a shop tucked off a side road on the way to the train station.

Flower shop owner Naeem Siddiquie, 36, is resolute that he will vote SNP this week – and was the only person I spoke to who was enthused about the race. 

He said: ‘I know there is a cost of living crisis and the government is struggling, but it is all around the world that people are struggling.’

He added: ‘I liked Nicola Sturgeon very much, with the scandal and everything though, it was time for her to go. I will still vote SNP. They are a very people-friendly government I feel.’

His praise, however, is less generous for Sir Keir Starmer. While the shopkeeper said he liked Jeremy Corbyn as he was a man of the people, Sir Keir was ‘not leader material’. 

He added: ‘Jeremy Corbyn was talking for people but Sir Keir Starmer looks boring and I can’t connect with him.’

While the odds are on Labour winning, one dyed-in-the-wool supporter, an 87-year-old retired electrician and council worker, admits Sir Keir’s party is simply the best of a bad bunch in Rutherglen.

As the man pottered around Rutherglen town hall, he said: ‘All MPs, they promise the world.

‘It’s not going to work out that way. If you’ve any common sense you know that’s not going to happen, they’ll do their best but they won’t change the world overnight. But I will be voting Labour.’

Speaking of the SNP, he added: ‘They’ve got this place into a terrible state. I’ve lived here for 60-odd years. 

The SNP have made a shambles of the NHS and the two ships down in Port Glasgow… what is it, three years behind? Millions over? It is an absolute shambles.’

One lady working in a local shop added: ‘Don’t get me wrong, I think Nicola Sturgeon did all right during Covid but I don’t particularly like her. I will vote Labour and it is basically just to keep the SNP out.

‘I think a lot of people want Labour back in, which I don’t have an issue with, it’s the best of a bad bunch.

‘I don’t think it’ll make any difference who is in.’

Meanwhile, painter and decorator Joe Burrell, 60, said that having voted for the SNP for 30 years, he was now going to opt for the socialist candidate Bill Bonnar.

He said: ‘I’m not liking the SNP at the moment, I voted for them for 30 years but I’ve gone off them with all this carry-on with the police and I just decided, to hell with it. 

I want to find someone who is really for the kids and is not interested in the money. I voted Labour before the SNP but Labour is right out the window now. They can’t convince me.’

Up in the more affluent suburb of Burnside, active support for Labour was stronger, helped by the fact that the great-great-grandaughter of the party’s founder, Sir Keir Hardie, works in a florist on the town’s main drag.

Standing among the fresh floral displays, Holly Allison, 20, said she would vote for her relative’s party as she had – understandably – been ‘brought up Labour’.

She added: ‘My wee aunty has flags and signs up, my grandfather when he was alive, had his whole car covered in posters. I will definitely vote Labour.’

Seamstress Josephine Gurie, 58, will also be voting for the party. She said: ‘I would like to say I’m quite a staunch socialist – we need to support other people, we need to help the poor and the needy.

‘I will have to vote Labour – whether or not Michael Shanks is a great candidate. Labour don’t have many MPs in Scotland and the SNP haven’t really done anything for us in Westminster.’

And, in an attitude Labour can only hope permeates the slightly nonplussed Rutherglen and Hamilton West electorate, she added: ‘I’m not trying to say Labour can do any better but we need to try.’

While residents have largely forgiven their disgraced former MP Margaret Ferrier for breaching Covid rules and sparking this race, they are not so quick to forgive the SNP for the police fraud probe, massive NHS waiting lists and an epidemic of violent crime taking place on Scotland’s streets owing to soft-touch justice policies.

One man told of regular shoplifting incidents which he felt were rarely followed up by police.

But although Labour are understandably confident ahead of the ballot, their candidate Mr Shanks, a modern studies teacher, still has plenty of people to convince in the final days leading up to the vote.

His bosses may see this week’s ballot as a barometer for Labour’s forthcoming General Election fortunes – with advisors claiming Sir Keir’s path to the premiership will run through seats in Scotland.

But, paradoxically, Mr Shanks’ Scottish Labour comrades know the only way to win the seat is to convince the people of Rutherglen and the surrounding areas that he is nothing like his centrist party chiefs in London.

Already, the Labour candidate has taken a completely opposite stance to Sir Keir on issues including gender reform and Brexit.

He has proclaimed his support for gender self-identification, would not mind the UK rejoining the EU, and favours scrapping Labour’s two-child benefit cap and bedroom tax policies.

Mr Shanks, it appears, wants Lanarkshire locals to elect him so he can fight against his own party’s policies at Westminster.

At the end of my visit to Rutherglen, I find refuge on a soggy bench next to an elderly lady and I tentatively ask what she thinks of the forthcoming vote.

‘Och,’ she smiles: ‘I’m not the woman to speak to about by-elections, hen. Politicians are all the same, the lot of them.’

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com

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