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General Election: Voters blame independence, Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn for Labour defeat in Coatbridge

© Andrew CawleyElaine Frame in Coatbridge on the morning after the election
Elaine Frame in Coatbridge on the morning after the election

It is the constituency where they once joked about weighting Labour votes instead of counting them. Well, the scales would be a lot smaller now.

On the electoral map of Scotland, Coatbridge in Lanarkshire was, for decades, painted the deepest red.

In 2010, less than a decade ago, the voters of Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill handed former MP Tom Clarke a majority of more than 20,000 over the SNP, making it one of the safest seats in the country.

And, then, five years later, it was gone when the SNP took the seat. In 2017, Hugh Gaffney won it back for Labour but, on Thursday, the pain continued for the People’s Party as the constituency saw a swing of 8% from Labour mirroring the swing to the SNP – almost exactly matching the pattern across Scotland – and giving the SNP’s victorious candidate, Steven Bonnar, a 5,624 majority.

In Coatbridge on Friday morning, Brexit, independence and Jeremy Corbyn were all being blamed, while the uncertain future of Monklands Hospital in neighbouring Airdrie was also said to be a factor in Labour leaking even more support.

© Andrew Cawley
John Price

Scaffolder John Price, 68, who switched from Labour to the SNP said: “I believe the SNP will keep Monklands open. And The SNP will do a lot more for Coatbridge than Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson ever would.”

Ex-Labour voter Garry Thomson, 31, a support worker, said: “Jeremy Corbyn never really says what he means. We’ve never seen the real Jeremy Corbyn.”

© Andrew Cawley
Garry Thomson

One woman who asked not to be named said she switched from Labour to SNP as she had concerns about Corbyn’s past associations with senior members of Sinn Fein during the IRA’s bombing campaign.

She said: “We grew up voting Labour but this time I voted SNP. Corbyn just stands up for extremists like the IRA. I’m a Catholic and I can’t vote for someone like that.”

Cuts made by the Labour-led local council were also a concern for voters who changed allegiance from Labour to the SNP.

Tony Fyfe, 53, said: “The Labour council don’t do anything for pensioners like my mum and her friends. They have to pay for services. My mum has dementia and my sisters and I look after her. I’m there twice a week.

“I’m hopeful that the SNP will put more money in to services. Although it’s the Westminster Government that hold the purse strings.”

Eleanor McNee, 68, said she’s from a Labour family and hers is the first generation to switch to the SNP.

She said: “A lot of it is down to the council cuts. I walk my dog at a local park and they only mow the grass twice a year. I pay my council tax and it’s gone up.

“At one point the grass was so long myself and my neighbours were going to take our lawnmowers to the park and mow the grass ourselves.”

© Andrew Cawley
Eleanor McNee

The decline of the high street is also a concern for some voters. The Quadrant shopping centre has shut and Coatbridge Main Street has several empty units.

Mr Fyfe said: “It’s all changed in Coatbridge. There used to be a lot of work but it’s a desert now. So many shops have shut as a result.”

Mark Frame, 27, was recently made redundant from Tesco in Coatbridge. He said: “It’s likely I will have to look for work outside Coatbridge.”

© Andrew Cawley
Mark Frame

The SNP voter who previously backed Labour believes independence is the only way to give Coatbridge a jobs boost, although his parents disagree.

Mr Frame added: “There have been arguments in the house because my mum and dad always vote Labour but my brother and sister and I vote SNP now.”

His mum Elaine, 60, who is a nurse, is concerned about the SNP’s record running the NHS.

She said: “I can’t get a GP appointment for a month. And hospital staff have less time with patients now. There just aren’t enough staff. And of course there are proposals to move Monklands Hospital. I don’t like Corbyn but I voted Labour because they said they’d reverse that decision.”

Mechanic Steve Whiston, 55, is also against NHS Lanarkshire proposals to move the hospital, so he switched from SNP to Labour.

He said: “I always voted SNP as they kept Monklands open when Nicola Sturgeon was health secretary. But I think it is going to be moved now. I don’t like Corbyn but voted tactically to save the hospital.”