I had a wee thought the other day when I read the candidate list for Gordon constituency for the next Westminster election.
Despite being 65 next year, current MP for Gordon Malcolm Bruce is expected to stand again for the seat for the Lib Dems. The Scottish blogosphere's Richard Thomson is the SNP candidate for the constituency while the Conservative candidate will be 21-year-old Ross Thomson, a fourth year politics student. Labour's candidate is Barney Crockett, and Aberdeen councillor (EDIT - Thanks to Iain in the comments).
So, as candidate names on ballot papers are listed alphabetically (and without knowing the Labour candidate's name at the moment) the ballot paper will look like this:
BRUCE, Malcolm (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
CROCKET, BARNEY (Scottish Labour Party)
THOMSON, Richard (Scottish National Party)
THOMSON, Ross (Scottish Conservative Party)
You may see where I'm going with this.
While the 2005 result was an easy hold (majority, 11,026) for the Lib Dems, the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary election saw Alex Salmond win the seat for the SNP, with a majority of over 2,000. Basically what I'm saying is that the SNP, from 4th in 2005 (and 13,000 votes behind the Lib Dems) are now within shouting distance of taking the seat - albeit with all kinds of caveats about different elections (Holyrood v Westminster, boundaries, the Salmond effect etc etc). So what impact will two candidates with the same surname (and first initial) have on the outcome here?
Well, like I said, the Lib Dems are still odds-on favourites to win the seat I suspect - and their vote would likely be unaffected by this. But we only have to look at the result from the Glasgow East by-election to see that it could have an impact.
John Mason won the seat with 11,277 votes to Margaret Curran's 10,912 - a majority of 365. Frances Curran, the Scottish Socialist Party candidate, polled 555 votes - 190 more than that majority. Now obviously there were many factors why the SNP (and John Mason) won that seat but I think - if we're being honest - there may have been some votes intended for M Curran that actually went to F Curran - and the first of the two "Curran" names on the ballot paper. Maybe not enough to swing the election the SNP's way... but then again, how much credit do you want to give voters when they couldn't handle two different electoral systems on the same day?
What's my point? Only this... if you are a voter in Gordon, look closely where you put your "X" in the next election. If you don't. you might end up voting for someone you didn't really intend to.