Des and David suffer in Labour dark night

BISHOPBRIGGS LEISUREDROME ELECTIONS'PHOTO EMMA MITCHELL'5/5/11'DAVID WHITTON

BISHOPBRIGGS LEISUREDROME ELECTIONS'PHOTO EMMA MITCHELL'5/5/11'DAVID WHITTON

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IT just wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Only three months ago, Labour led the SNP in the polls - and many of the party’s MSPs would have been quietly confident of returning to Holyrood.

They might not admit it but Des McNulty and David Whitton, repersenting Clydebank and Milngavie and Strathkelvin and Bearsden respectively, must come into this category.

But then came May 5 - and the political world turned upside down.

Their names were not added to a roll-call of the re-elected - but rather to a list of senior Labour figures, including the likes of Andy Kerr and Tom McCabe, who sudenly found themselves looking for work.

Mr McNulty entered the first Scottish Parliament in 1999 and secured re-election in 2003 and 2007.

A former sociology lecturer, he was previously Labour’s deputy minister for social justice and deputy communities minister. In opposition, Iain Gray had made him the shadow cabinet seceratary for education and lifelong learning.

He said: “I’m obviously disappointed. I’m proud to have represented the people of Clydebank and Milngavie for 12 years. It’s a great honour to have been given that responsibility and I hope I acquitted myself well. But elections are elections, and I wasn’t successful this time and I congratulate the victor.

“There were national trends going against me - if you look at the numbers, my vote remained steady.

“In the 2007 elections, there were something like 4000 Tory and LibDem voters, particularly in Bearsden and Milngavie, and both parties lost votes this time, which went to the SNP. This transfer of votes in these areas was always going to make life difficult for me.

“About two or three weeks ago, I became concerned about this potentially happening but I worked hard to put forward my case, but it’s up to the people and this is the choice they have made.

“I have greatly enjoyed my time as MSP for the area. Highlights include getting Scottish Water to redesign their reservoir plans - I think that has made a big difference to Milngavie and I’m also proud of helping to secure resources for schools in the area.

“But the biggest joy was always working on behalf of local people. Over the past 12 years, I have worked as hard as possible to make myself as available as possible to people, through, for example, my surgery in Tesco in Milngavie and I have got to know a great many people in Milngavie and Bearsden. Dealing with people and helping with their problems has always been the best bit.

“I’m going to sit down with my family and basically come to terms with this. This doesn’t just effect me - there’s the people in my constituency office, Lesley Whyte for example, who has done a brilliant job and it’s sad that we won’t be doing it anymore.”

Mr Whitton is a former print and broadcast journalist, who had been a special adviser to the late Donald Dewar when he was First Minister. He was seen as one of Labour’s big hitters, rising to prominence after defeating independent MSP Dr Jean Turner in 2007.

He said: “I’ve very, very disappointed. What else would you expect me to say?

“My vote actually went up - but the SNP’s vote went up more. I was hit by a triple squeeze, with the Tory vote and the Liberal vote going to the SNP.

“But I take some comfort from the fact that my vote went up - I think that shows that the people thought I was doing a good job as the MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden.

“I’m not the only one who has lost their seat. Many of my good friends and colleagues, people who had been in the parliament from the beginning, lost their seats but I suppose that’s why we have elections.

“I don’t know what I’ll do now. I’ll need to sit down and talk with my family. I’ve never planned my career so far, so we’ll see what happens.

“The first time I heard I was being mentioned as a possible future Labour leader was when a journalist called me about it. That was never in my head. I thought I was going to be the MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden.

“After such a heavy reverse, the Labour Party will have to have a root and branch look at what went wrong. Obviously our approach wasn’t right for this election. Our tactics were entirely wrong.

“The people have gone with the SNP, which is something I think they may come to regret. We now have to look ahead. There are local government elections next year and we’ll have to focus on that. We’ll see how the SNP government performs.”