Comment: Leven by-election & the case of the missing digit

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It was one of the quickest election counts in Fife in recent years.

Barely 90 minutes after the polls closed, Alistair Suttie was making his victory speech at Fife House.

Leven, Kennoway & Largo by-election count at Fife House (Pic: Fife Council)

Leven, Kennoway & Largo by-election count at Fife House (Pic: Fife Council)

The Kingdom generally comes in at the coo’s tail on election nights with officers, media and candidates emerging to a dawn chorus, but when only one quarter of the electorate bothers to vote it makes the process a lot quicker. We were home in time to catch the end of Andrew Neil on ‘This Week.’ Maybe those late shifts into the wee sma’ hours are no bad thing, after all.

Just 27.6 per cent turned out to select a new councillor to join the members representing Leven, Largo and Kennoway.

That was still a higher estimate than one pundit predicted too which speaks volumes for the disconnect between the political parties and the people.

The result was quickly poured over with everyone, in time honoured tradition, taking positives regardless of whether they had won or lost.

Steve Grimmond,  chief executive, Fife Council, congratulates Alistair Suttie, winner of the Leven, Largo & Kennoway by-election

Steve Grimmond, chief executive, Fife Council, congratulates Alistair Suttie, winner of the Leven, Largo & Kennoway by-election

For the SNP, they triumphed with a majority of 346 despite a 4.1 per cent drop in their share of the vote.

Their supporters also thought they’d blown Labour out of the water completely when one media organisation rather embarrassingly dropped one digit off the party’s total, taking it, at a stroke, down from 1155 to a near-impossible-to-detect 115.

Cue social media meltdown as observers shared the duff info and prepared to pen the definitive obituary of the party of Keir Hardie, John Smith, Nye Bevan and er, Jeremy Corbyn.

SNP folk pinched themselves on a wipe-out that would have made the 2105 election results look like a close call.

Alas, like Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower in ‘Dallas’ it was but a short-lived dream.

‘‘Thanks for the heart attack’’ tweeted one Labour supporter following events from down south as he, presumably, went in search of a tea towel to mop up the coffee he’d just sprayed all over his laptop.

In truth, this was a neck and neck race until the fourth ballot. Up to then, barely 50 votes split the two parties.

In terms of vote share, the Tories were the big winners, showing an increase of 11.7 per cent and in Ruth Davidson’s home patch too. She’ll be chuffed.

The Lib Dems, so often the whipping boys of election nights in Fife, had reason to smile too as they went up 4.3 per cent.

Even the Greens’ humble 74 votes represented a 1.8 per cent improvement, underlining that on election night every party can claim to have had a good night.

The voters – and the near 73 per cent who didn’t vote – get to do it all again in May when the local authority elections swing into action.

That result may not be declared quite so early ...

Result: Alistair Suttie (SNP) 1501 (-4.1%); Colin Davidson (Lab) 1155 (-6.9%); Graham Ritchie (Conservative) 752 (+11.7%); Steve Wood (Lib Dems) 580 (+4.3%), Iain Morrice (Green Party) 74 (+1.8%)

Turnout: 27.6%