Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Demise of the Working Class Orange Tory Vote in Glasgow

In the 1955 British General Election, the Conservative and Unionist Party won 7 of the 15 parliamentary seats in Glasgow in no small measure due to the large Orange vote in the city. While the Labour Party won all the seats in the east of the city, the Conservatives (Unionists) won most of the seats in the west of the city. The only seats the Tories did not win in the west were Glasgow Govan (in the south west) and Glasgow Maryhill (in the north west) because of the large Catholic vote in these 2 constituencies. Although the Tories did not win any seats in the east of the city, they came within a whisker of winning the Glasgow Provan parliamentary constituency (formerly known as the Glasgow Camlachie parliamentary constituency) due to the large Orange vote in the Dennistoun and Riddrie districts of the east end. Incidentally, if the Rutherglen seat to the south east of Glasgow (which the Tories won in 1955) had been included in the city of Glasgow, it would have meant the Tories would have won exactly half of the parliamentary constituencies in Glasgow, ie 8 out of 16.

The west end (Hillhead, Kelvinside, etc) and south side (Pollokshields, Cathcart, etc) of Glasgow were more middle class than the overwhelmingly working class districts of the east end and north side. In the 1950s, the Tories were still popular in the middle class areas of the west end and south side.

Moreover, there was still a large Orange vote in many of the working class districts of Glasgow in the 1950s. eg in Tradeston, Kingston, Kinning Park and Govanhill in the south, in Mosspark, Craigton, Cardonald and Pollokshaws in the south west, in Partick, Whiteinch, Scotstoun and Knightswood in the north west, in Dennistoun, Riddrie and Carntyne in the east, in Dalmarnock in the south east and in Springburn in the north east. These districts, which fell within various parliamentary constituencies, delivered many votes for the Tories in the 1955 General Election. In contrast, districts which were sometimes perceived (incorrectly) as being working class Orange strongholds such as Bridgeton in the east and Govan in the west actually delivered many votes for the Labour Party due to the large number of Catholics who in reality stayed in these districts.

In the early/mid 1950s - before the relocation of many people to the new peripheral housing schemes of Easterhouse, Castlemilk, Drumchapel, Pollok, Cranhill, Ruchazie, Garthamlock, Barlanark, Barmulloch, etc - the areas of Glasgow which had the largest Catholic populations were Gorbals (Hutchesontown, Laurieston) in the south, Calton in the east and Garngad in the north east. There were also large Catholic populations in Bridgeton, Mile-End, Gallowgate, Parkhead and Shettleston in the east, in Germiston, Blackhill, Provanmill and Balornock in the north east, in Cowcaddens and Possilpark in the north, in Anderston and Townhead near the city centre, in Govan in the south west and in Maryhill in the north west.

Since the 1950s, the traditional working class Orange vote for the Conservatives in Glasgow has crumbled. A similar thing happened in the English city of Liverpool. Working class Protestants started voting overwhelmingly for Labour like their Catholic neighbours.

An even more remarkable General Election than the 1955 Election was the 1931 Election. This Election was held at the height of the Depression with anti-Catholic feelings running very high in Glasgow. In the 1931 General Election, most working class Protestants in Glasgow voted for the Tories with the result that the Conservative and Unionist Party won an amazing 10 of the 15 parliamentary seats in the city. The Labour Party (including the Independent Labour Party) won only 5 seats. Labour comfortably won the Glasgow Gorbals (Hutchesontown, Laurieston) and Glasgow Bridgeton (Bridgeton, Calton, Dalmarnock) seats, the 2 most Catholic constituencies in the city, and they also had narrow wins in the Glasgow Govan, Glasgow Shettleston and Glasgow St Rollox seats where there were also large Catholic populations. The Conservatives won the 10 other seats in Glasgow though they only won by a whisker in the Glasgow Springburn seat due to the huge Catholic vote for Labour in Garngad in the south west of the constituency (which was offset by the large Orange vote for the Tories in Springburn proper in the north of the constituency and in Milnbank in the south east of the constituency). In fact, Labour would have most probably won the Glasgow Springburn parliamentary constituency had it not been for the presence of a Communist Party candidate who took vital votes from Labour. However, this was counterbalanced by the fact that the Conservatives would have probably won the Glasgow St Rollox parliamentary constituency had it not been for the presence of a Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate who took vital votes from the Tories. This was in spite of the large Catholic vote for Labour in the Cowcaddens area of the Glasgow St Rollox seat.


In the 1931 General Election, the voting pattern in Glasgow was religiously polarized: Most of Glasgow's Protestants voted for the Tories (Unionists) and Glasgow's Catholics voted overwhelmingly for Labour. As a result, the Tories won two thirds of the seats and Labour won one third of the seats in Glasgow which reflected the religious composition of the city.