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ALASDAIR CLARK: This election is being fought door-to-door

Perhaps for the first time since 2015, General Election hopefuls sense every vote is up for grabs.

Voters will have the final say on July 4. Image: Shutterstock
Voters will have the final say on July 4. Image: Shutterstock

The open secret about elections is that they are rarely all that surprising, except when they are.

No matter how shocked or humbled the winner may seem, most candidates go into an election count with a fairly good idea of the result.

That’s because the way most constituencies in Scotland vote is usually fairly predictable.

Prior to 2015, apart from in around a dozen Scottish constituencies, Labour candidates were more like than not to be declared the winner.

The most interesting analysis came in looking at how vote shares changed, offering an insight into potential changes at the next election.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces the general election. Image: PA

That was until 2015, when everything changed.

Post-referendum a resurgent SNP swept the board, wiping out huge Labour majorities. In previous Labour strongholds the party was wiped out, upending decades of Scottish political trends.

Since then though, in areas like Dundee the result has been similarly guaranteed. Again, but for a handful of constituencies in Tayside and Fife, the sure money was on an SNP win.

But this election feels different, less predictable and more volatile. And across Scotland, it’s a trend the political activists who spend their evenings and weekends on voters’ doorsteps tell me they have picked up on.

Campaigners feel every vote is up for grabs. Image: PA

A feeling that every vote could be up for grabs is a mood the Westminster hopefuls are taking full advantage of.

In Perth and Kinross-shire, where veteran SNP MP Pete Wishart is standing for re-election, his main opponent, Conservative candidate Luke Graham, is running a formidable campaign.

He has spoken to tens of thousands of voters since Autumn last year, and his team are campaigning across the constituency four times a week.

Perth and Kinross-shire Conservative candidate Luke Graham. Image: Supplied

Mr Graham, who lost his Ochil and South Perthshire seat in 2019, told me a lot of those he was speaking to, including former SNP voters, are keen to find a positive alternative.

Whether it will be enough to cause an upset for the SNP even as the tide turns against the Conservatives nationally remains to be seen. Mr Wishart, an experienced campaigner himself, is also mounting a strong re-election bid.

Incumbent parties face a similar challenge from Labour in Fife, where candidates are hopeful of their chances come July 4.

In Dunfermline and Dollar, in a little over 12 months Labour candidate Graeme Downie has spoken to more than 15,000 voters.

Could Fife cause an SNP upset?

Over 3,000 of those “contacts”, as they are known in political campaign language, have taken place since Rishi Sunak called the election.

Each voter is asked how they intend vote as activists attempt to convince them to back Mr Downie.

He said: “We have a great team of activists on the phones and on the doors.

“We have amazing energy and organisation because we know this is a huge opportunity to begin to change this area and the rest of the country.”

In Glenrothes, Labour candidate Richard Baker has spoken to nearly 4,000 people since March.

Nationally, I understand party bosses think more than half of people who previously voted SNP now plan to vote Labour.

Polls predict changing voting intentions in Dundee

Even in Dundee, arguably the SNP’s heartland, there are some signs voters are beginning to consider other parties.

The latest YouGov polling suggests Arbroath and Broughty Ferry, the new constituency replacing Dundee East, Labour could poll as high as 32%.

While the SNP’s Stephen Gethins is predicted to win with 37% of the vote, the poll would represent a huge improvement on Labour’s 2019 performance, when they secured just 13% of the vote.

In Dundee Central, one poll suggests Labour could win over the SNP’s Chris Law with a 44% share of the vote – up 20% on 2019.

One experienced Labour activist told me: “I’ve campaigned in four general elections and this is the first one where it’s felt like people are considering their vote.

“There are seats we probably would have hoped to be competitive in where we could actually win. Every single vote is up for grabs and the other side are only just starting to realise that.”

Speaking about the mood among voters, they added: “Some might call it apathy but I think that’s wrong because people do care, they expect us to work for their vote and that’s being misinterpreted.”

As polling day nears, it’s likely you’ll hear from your local candidates as they vie for your vote.

Put them through their paces. Consider what matters most to you in your community and ask them to explain the solutions they are offering.

And when it comes to knowing what is at stake or how to vote, The Courier’s politics team have put together a series of guides and explainers.

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