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Friday, 17 November, 2000, 20:50 GMT
Remembering Garscadden
Donald Dewar celebrates in 1978
Donald Dewar celebrates in 1978
BBC News Online Scotland's Deirdre Kelly turns back the clock in the Glasgow Anniesland by-election on 23 November.

When Donald Dewar beat his opponents in the hard-fought Garscadden by-election of 1978, he was a relative unknown in the area.

Aged 40 and a successful Scots lawyer, the Labour candidate was triumphant after taking the seat - now known as Glasgow Anniesland - with a 4,552 majority.

Given the political climate of the time it was quite an achievement.

Labour was in power, but nationally it was at an all-time low in the polls.

Labour big-guns

It was deeply worried about losing the contest to nearest rivals the Scottish National Party, despite the bookies placing Mr Dewar as favourite - albeit just.

Out came the government big guns. The then Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan, made public his personal endorsement of the enthusiastic Glaswegian candidate.

Michael Foot, leader of the House of Commons, took to the campaign trail along with Energy Minister Tony Benn.

Despite the Labour heavies being in town, the SNP was confident.

Donald Dewar
He was "thrilled to have won"
Its foot-soldiers were out in force and it was sure of delivering enough votes to win.

It had cause to be upbeat after being boosted by the previous year's district council elections when it won all of the area's seats.

The nationalists were quick to label Mr Dewar as a "careerist public schoolboy" who stood for "unemployment and misery".

And SNP candidate, Keith Bovey, a respected 50-year-old lawyer, appeared to score a vital political point over the unlikely key issue of abortion.

Mr Dewar had been judged to have handled well the thorny subjects of unemployment, prices and wages - matters which were causing headaches for Labour at Westminster.

Political storm

But he was in danger of alienating the party's traditional working class Catholic vote because of his support for the Abortion Act.

Mr Bovey and Tory candidate Iain Lawson escaped the wrath after they declared they were against terminations.

Parallels of the 1978 by-election and the 2000 by-election only run so far.

Polling day is 23 November
The candidates were and are relative unknowns to the area, Labour was then and is now in power and budget promises had been made before the Garscadden poll and were made before the Anniesland by-election.

However, Mr Dewar's standing in the community - one which saw him turn a 4,552 majority in 1978 to a 15,154 majority in 1997 - could prove a crucial foundation to Labour this time.

The political climate has changed. The constituency boundary has been redrawn and the very fabric of the community has altered 22 years on.

The SNP remains a strong second for next week's poll, but unlike the 1970s, the Labour Party currently holds eight out of the nine council seats.

There is also now a Scottish Parliament, in 1978 the devolution question was still the subject of debate.

'Famous result'

When Mr Dewar popped open the champagne bottles on the winner's podium all those years ago, he declared himself "thrilled to have won".

He added that the "very famous result" had changed the psychological climate of Scotland.

In second place, Mr Bovey said he was not disappointed and that his "party had not reached its peak".

All elections are important to parties and the politicians, but will this one prove to be a history-making event?

The full list of candidates is:


  • Dorothy Luckhurst, Scottish Conservative

  • William Lyden, Family Action Movement

  • Charlie McCarthy, Scottish Socialist Party

  • Christopher McGinty, Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • John Robertson, Scottish Labour

  • Grant Thoms, Scottish National Party

Scottish Parliament

  • William Butler, Scottish Labour Party

  • Thomas Chalmers, SNP

  • Judith Fryer, Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Rosie Kane, Scottish Socialist Party

  • Kate Pickering, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

  • Murdo Ritchie, Socialist Labour Party

  • Alastair Whitelaw, Scottish Green Party

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