Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Election Spotlight: Is Gordon Brown’s former Labour heartland in Fife about to turn red again?

© Andrew CawleyGordon Brown. Location: Larkhall. Image; Supplied
Gordon Brown. Location: Larkhall. Image; Supplied

In Gordon Brown’s former Labour heartlands in Fife, something is stirring.

The party has identified the region as one of its key target areas as its attempts to win back its traditional strongholds in Scotland.

However, Labour’s ambition of building a modern red wall through the Kingdom faces being disrupted by rows surrounding local candidates and defiant nationalists.

Chief among the targets is the newly formed Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy seat made up largely of the areas once represented by Brown – who has this week been recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours list.

Back at the 2015 general election, when it was known as Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, it was one of the biggest surprises and a bellwether of the wider national picture as Labour’s support collapsed in Scotland.

Just five years earlier, Gordon Brown had commanded a staggering 64.5% of vote.

A region important to Starmer personally

The seat is so important to Labour that when Sir Keir Starmer visited Scotland in May last year, he pledged to “rebuild and repair” Kirkcaldy whilst visiting a coffee shop directly opposite the office of the incumbent MP, Alba’s Neale Hanvey.

The Labour leader insisted victory in places like the Lang Toun is “very important to me personally” as well as his party’s hopes of forming a government.

However, the candidate who welcomed him that day – Unison trade union activist Wilma Brown – is no longer standing for the party.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer talks with Wilma Brown during a visit to the High Street in Kirkcaldy, Fife. Picture date: Thursday May 25, 2023. PA Photo.

She was dropped after it appeared she had liked posts on social media calling Humza Yousaf the “First Minister of Gaza”.

An account under her name endorsed another tweet which referred to the then-SNP leader as “Hamas Yousless” due to his support for ending the war in Palestine.

The account, which has now been deleted, also liked a post which claimed a former Tory candidate could “never be an Englishman” due to his Indian heritage.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer talks with Wilma Brown during a visit to the High Street in Kirkcaldy, Fife. Image: PA

Her replacement is Melanie Ward, the London-based boss of a Palestinian aid charity.

But that choice caused further upset in some quarters, with a local councillor quitting the party in protest at a candidate being brought in from outside Fife.

It has also been reported that Ward faces pressure to step down as CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians from her own workers and volunteers over Labour’s early stance on the Gaza conflict – a contentious issue during Starmer’s leadership.

Will voters stay home?

Despite these problems, polling suggests a Labour win over the SNP is highly likely, with one suggesting Ward has a 94% chance of victory.

Neale Hanvey, who was elected as MP in 2019 after initially running for the SNP, believes party scandals and “mismanagement” at Holyrood could see supporters of his former party stay home.

Speaking from a tenement stairwell while door-knocking in Kirkcaldy, Hanvey claimed a lack of decisive action on independence means even those with an entrenched position are now considering parties with opposing constitutional views.

Neale Hanvey MP. Image: Supplied

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon marched everybody to the top of the hill repeatedly. She didn’t just march everyone back down again, she let us down.

“They didn’t even try. I think people are absolutely scunnered after the huge wave of optimism at the independence referendum and all of the good will that was built up.

“It has all been squandered on ego vanity projects and an obsession with identity politics. People are absolutely sick of it.”

Local issues take centre stage

Hanvey hopes his own record as a constituency MP coupled with the row over the SNP’s controversial gender recognition reforms – which he strongly opposed – will be enough to see him returned to Westminster for Alba.

It is believed local issues will play a major role in this election.

The future of the Rosyth dockyard, a large employer which relies heavily on UK Government defence spending, is key.

So too is the push to create green jobs at the site of the former Longannet power station and capitalise on the new city status of Dunfermline to drive economic growth.

Fife Labour candidate Graeme Downie. Image: Scottish Labour.

Graeme Downie, a Labour councillor in Fife, is standing in Dunfermline and Dollar.

The race is expected to be close against SNP rival Naz Anis-Miah.

Downie says the response to Labour on the doors has been “really positive”, with many looking back to the last Labour government under Brown.

He believes Labour talked about itself too much during intervening years but has snapped back into action.

Within minutes of Rishi Sunak’s election announcement in May, Starmer had his response video out. By the time an hour had passed, Downie had his own videos and adverts pushed out as well.

Rishi Sunak announced the election date in the pouring rain. Image: Shutterstock.

“I’ve never been involved in a Labour campaign that has been so well organised and ready to go,” he said.

“That level of organisation speaks to a party that’s focused on how we can get into government and serve the country properly.”

Outside of North East Fife, which is likely to be contested largely between the SNP and the Lib Dems, much of the region is expected to be a two-horse race between the nationalists and Labour.

It mirrors the battle being played out across the central belt as the SNP fight to cling on to the gains they made following the 2014 independence referendum.

If Labour hopes to rebuild its position in Scotland, Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes are the places to start.