Polls close in Glasgow North East

By Ian Dunt

Counting is underway in Glasgow North Rast, where Labour faces what is almost certainly its last by-election test before the general election.

The polls opened at 07:00 GMT and closed at 22:00 GMT. The result should come in overnight. There are 62,475 eligible voters in the constituency.

Labour candidate Willie Bain went to vote with his father on Thursday morning. Labour officials were keen to point out he was the only candidate able to vote, due to his local roots.

Meanwhile the Scottish National party’s (SNP) polished candidate, David Kerr, drove fellow party activist Jackie Morrison to cast her ballot in Milton in his SNP-branded car this morning.

The day began pleasantly, with sunny weather covering the constituency, although conditions became wet and dark later.

Candidates had “one eye on the weather”, a source told politics.co.uk. Sunny conditions could help Labour’s prospects by increasing the turnout, although SNP officials were quick to stress they wanted a high turnout as well.

Labour officials were playing down their chances of success, saying the race was going to be “tight”. Those sentiments were echoed by SNP sources, who said the race was closer than some were predicting.

“It’s possible, in a way it wasn’t ten days,” one told politics.co.uk.

Other parties were more open however, and there were few people in the constituency who doubted Labour would retain the seat as they have here for generations.

That much was clear when Gordon Brown decided to visit Glasgow North East last week.

The prime minister would have been unlikely to appear if his strategists had had any expectation of a Labour defeat.

The race for third place is dominating the interests of many observers, with the Tories confident of beating the Liberal Democrats.

Any predications should be taken with a pinch of salt however. As the former Speaker’s seat, Westminster parties have generally followed the convention of not running, and there are few past records to rely on as indicators of Tory or Lib Dem prospects in the constituency.

Some had predicted a surprise third place for the British National party. Many officials from the other parties deeply resent the level of media coverage given to this possibility – often more than for the by-election itself. They argue the media coverage itself improves the BNP showing, regardless of whether it is negative or not.

The far-right party has more support here than anywhere else north of the border, but remains a fringe party shunned by the vast majority of voters.

On Wednesday SNP leader Alex Salmond drove down to the constituency to launch a tough attack on Labour for its election tactics, which he described as sleazy and negative.

Meanwhile, Labour supporters enjoyed the whirlwind presence of Eddie Izzard, a dyed in wool Labour supporter, in the constituency yesterday.

“I know by-elections are always close but I wish Willie all the luck in the world,” he said.

Labour also hosted international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, and the Scottish secretary, Jim Murphy.

The Tories threw heavy-hitters at the constituency in a bid to cement their position in Scotland.

David Cameron has already visited and Eric Pickles, party chairman, was there yesterday. Their candidate, former journalist Ruth Davidson, has impressed many observers.

Michael Martin gave up the seat when he quit as an MP – and the Speaker – in the wake of the expenses scandal.