Political candidates to watch: Liberal Democrats and SNP

A snapshot of Liberal Democrat and SNP candidates to watch in the run up to GE2015.

Political Candidates to Watch: Liberal Democrats and SNP

The 2010 General Election resulted in a major shake-up of the House of Commons, with just over one third of the MPs returned to Parliament for the first time. Whilst this year doesn’t look like it will result in such significant change there will a number of new faces. Here we look at some of the possible rising stars of the 2015 intake and what issues they may well throw their weight behind in the House.

Part one looked at the Conservative and Labour parties and this post considers Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party candidates.

Lib Dems

 Christine Jardine, Gordon, Aberdeenshire

Much of the current analysis on the 2015 General Election has been focussed on the SNP running rough shod through Labour’s historic hold on the majority of Westminster seats in Scotland. The Lib Dems are likely to suffer a similar fate if the SNP are as successful as current polling suggests. One seat where the Lib Dems arguably face their biggest challenge is Gordon where Sir Malcom Bruce MP is standing down and where one Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond (currently MSP for the area) has confirmed that he will be fighting his campaign for Westminster. Will Christine Jardine, former journalist and media advisor to the Liberal Democrats, be able to defend Sir Malcolm’s 6,748 majority? Ashcroft’s January 2015 poll painted a grim picture, putting the SNP on 43% of the vote ahead of the Lib Dems on 26%. On the other hand, will the 60% who voted “no” to independence rally behind Jardine, who appears to be the only candidate who can defeat Alex Salmond? Some have suggested that Salmond’s high profile may further entrench the unionist vote and drive people to vote tactically in May 2015. In Parliament, Christine will be a firm advocate for the North Sea oil and gas industry that supports the local economy and will continue her campaign to protect NHS services.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth South

Another high-profile seat for the Lib Dems (and not, perhaps, for the best reason) is Portsmouth South. In January 2014 the current MP, Mike Hancock, was suspended from the Liberal Democrat party whip following the leaked report of sexual misconduct towards a constituent and has since been standing as an independent. Gerald-Vernon Jackson, who had been the Leader of Liberal Democrat controlled Portsmouth City Council for ten years, won the contest to be the Party’s parliamentary candidate. Hancock, who has yet to confirm whether or not he will be fighting to retain the seat as an independent, lost his council seat on the Council to UKIP in the May 2014 local elections and the Council is now under no overall control with the Lib Dems the largest party. If Hancock runs as an independent it could split the Lib Dem vote but he may be too tainted by scandal whilst in office. The Tories are polling well locally and have a candidate who has run before. Whether Vernon-Jackson is well-known and well-liked enough will determine whether the Party can defend their 5,200 majority and ensure the seat stays yellow. As a former council leader Vernon-Jackson will be a competent voice on local government issues in Parliament and a supporter of the Royal Navy which is so important to the City of Portsmouth.

Layla Moran, Oxford West and Abingdon

The Oxford West and Abingdon seat went Conservative in 2010, but only by an inch. The current MP, Nicola Blackwood, defeated Dr Evan Harris MP, the then Liberal Democrat MP, by a mere 176 votes, making it one of the most marginal seats in the UK. Locally, the Tories are still ahead in the polling but not at the levels they won by in 2010 and the Lib Dems are still way ahead of Labour who are in third place. Given that education policy is the stick that may be used to beat a good number Lib Dems seeking re-election perhaps Layla Moran, who is a physics teacher by profession, could be the one to turn that around. If the Lib Dems can lose seats when their national polling is soaring then what’s not to say they can pick up one or two new ones with the national picture looking pretty bleak? Like many in her party Layla is a believer in evidence-based policy making and her career in education and interest in the environment are likely priorities for her if she is elected.

  SNP

John Nicholson, East Dunbartonshire

While this seat is traditionally a Labour – Lib Dem marginal at Westminster, it is held by the SNP at Holyrood. John Nicholson is a former Kennedy Scholar and BBC and ITV journalist who will be looking to unseat Junior Equalities Minister, Jo Swinson MP, who has held the seat since 2005. Nicolson will be hoping that the SNP’s extraordinary boost in the polls will translate into victory in the seat, which comprises a relatively affluent area, despite the fact that the SNP came fourth in 2010. A lifelong independence supporter, Nicolson first joined the SNP aged 16. Nominated to be a candidate by Alex Salmond, Nicolson is well connected with the SNP leadership and is likely to be a relatively public facing MP if he wins the contest. He was a vociferous campaigner ahead of the independence referendum and will remain a vocal advocate for full fiscal autonomy should he be elected.

Stephen Gethins, North East Fife

This is a rock solid Lib Dem Westminster seat which is held by the SNP at Holyrood. Retiring MP, Sir Menzies Campbell, currently enjoys a majority of over 9,000 and has held the seat since 1987. Stephen Gethins was previously a Special Adviser to Scotland’s former First Minister, Alex Salmond, advising on European and International Affairs as well as Rural Affairs, Energy and Climate Change. He was also a Political Advisor with the Committee of the Regions in the European Union and he worked at Scotland Europa, helping Scottish organisations gain influence and funding in the EU. As well as a keen interest in European issues, likely to come to the fore ahead of a referendum on EU membership, Stephen also has a strong background in international affairs having previously worked across the EU and the US in a variety of international NGO roles.

Natalie McGarry, Glasgow East

Shadow Scottish Secretary, Margaret Curran, currently holds the Glasgow East seat with an 11,000 majority. However the seat was held briefly by the SNP between 2008 and 2010 after John Mason’s narrow by-election victory saw him overturn Labour’s 13,000 majority. Again the seat is currently held at Holyrood by the SNP. Last month, Lord Ashcroft’s constituency polling predicted a 25.5% swing from Labour to the SNP in Glasgow East, with the SNP polling 51%. Natalie McGarry is a well-known SNP activist and a co-founder of the influential campaign group Women for Independence. A prominent figure in the party (she is niece of the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer), McGarry formed the Women for Independence group after concluding that women’s voices were missing from both sides of the referendum debate. So far in the election campaign, McGarry has focused on the idea of historic Labour neglect, arguing that the party has taken the area for granted for too long. However her opponents have questioned her links to the area given that she contested the Cowdenbeath by-election in Fife in 2014. ​