Tuesday, 24 March 2009

What's in a name?

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.


Stephen Glenn 24 March 2009 at 09:13  

Well there is also potentially the Prospect of S Glen (Green) and S Glenn (Lib Dem) standing in Linlithgow and Falkirk East.

Simon is the Green Party convenor in Falkirk area the other bloke may well be known to you.

Richard Thomson 24 March 2009 at 11:00  

Adding further spice to matters, my full name is Richard Gordon Thomson.

A bottle of Glen Garioch malt (Oldmeldrum's finest) to whoever comes up with the best campaign slogan :-)

subrosa 24 March 2009 at 11:24  

Richard, I think you should hyphenate your name. Gordon-Thomson sounds ok or is it rather too grand for up there?

Malc 24 March 2009 at 11:32  


I know I was writing half in jest, but is this something that will affect how you campaign?

Particularly CLEAR campaign material with your first name as big as your surname - for instance?

Oh, and on the slogan...

"Richard Gordon Thomson. Putting the Gordon in, erm, Gordon."

Anonymous,  24 March 2009 at 14:14  

Barney Crockett, Abdn city councillor, will be the Labour candidate.

And you're kidding yourself if you don't think Malcolm Bruce will hold.

Richard Thomson 24 March 2009 at 14:19  

To be honest, Malc, further 'brand differentiation' isn't something I've given a huge amount of thought to yet.

One of the things the SNP has in its favour that the party symbol is now included on the ballot paper - since the SNP's 'loop' has been described as the 27th letter of the Scottish alphabet, it ought to be pretty clear to most where to make your mark if you want to vote SNP. Not sure the Tories can say the same about their present squiggle, however.

Win, lose or draw, the name isn't something I intend to use as an explanation for whatever the result turns out to be. The prospect of others perhaps resorting to that explanation after the event simply serves as a spur for us to win and win as well as possible.

As for double barreling the name, Subrosa, enough folk know my family here to slap any such affectations out of me!

Shuna 24 March 2009 at 16:23  

Barney Crocket as Labour Candidate - thats a fab choice.

As for the name problem...wont cause me any problems ;-)

CrazyDaisy 24 March 2009 at 16:38  

If you drink Whisky chose Glen Garioch - Oldmeldrum's Finest, if you prefer G n T tick Dick (Richard) for a refreshingly positive political outlook.

Oldmeldrum's oldest go for Malky Bruce - as old as the Mither Tap Fort itself and no policies either just circling around with no direction isolated at the peak of his career!

Sorry tongue in ma moo!


Malc 24 March 2009 at 18:45  


Thanks for the info on the Labour candidate - I will update later.

And as for the outcome of the vote... I strongly suspect you are right. And it doesn't have much to do with the name thing.

Holyrood Patter 24 March 2009 at 19:11  

Hoping that your competition was serious (although im more of a macallan man) i have come up with the following, for your leaflets

Prime Minister Brown has robbed Scotland Dry
You have a choice between Dick Turpin and Dick Thomson.
Give Gordon a message from Gordon
Vote SNP

I'll email you my adress later:)

Aye We Can ! 25 March 2009 at 08:02  

dream on - Malcome Bruce by a Bucket load deserved or otherwise

But your comparsons to the Glasgow East by Election are almost laughable

I am no fan of the Lib Dems, but face facts. Dislodging an incumbent one is almost near impssible. Even Eck strugled against nora and he was an incumbent of sorts and with loads of other advantgaes - like daily media exposure.

use you resouces elsewhere. not on this pipedream

Malc 25 March 2009 at 08:23  

Aye We Can,

Is there something in the following phrase that suggests I disagree?

"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."

My point wasn't anything to do with winning the seat, nor comparing the respective elctorates of Gordon & Glasgow East. It was to point out that two candidates with the same name might have an impact on the voting - in this case, probably further down the results.

Maybe a new pair of glasses are in order?

Holyrood Patter 25 March 2009 at 08:25  

ay we can
surely you cant see willie rennie keeping on to his seat?
i hear nick cleggs in trouble down south aswell

Anonymous,  25 March 2009 at 13:06  

The intersting part of this is the boundaries and how they affect the seat as it changes from Hoyrood.

If you use the numbers from the 2007 election and apply them to Gordon for Westminster they work out as:

SNP: 13084
Lib Dem: 10753
Con: 4178
Lab: 4181

Gordon loses SNP Turriff for Westminster as it returns to Banff & Buchan, but gains parts of Aberdeen North, where SNP MSP Brian Adam still outpolls the Lib Dems by over 2:1

I wonder what sort of directorship Mr Bruce has lined up for after the election?

Jeff 25 March 2009 at 19:06  

A cracking consituency to follow this one.

Richard, to take you up on your challenge:

"Citizens of Gordon! My name is Richard Thomson, you complete me."

Contact details to follow about that malt... ;)

Malc 25 March 2009 at 21:19  


I'm aware of those figures. But as I pointed out in the actual post, they don't take account of differences in voting intention between Westminster and Holyrood elections, nor the fact that Salmond had a media profile before the election (no offence Richard!).

I know it's possible and I won't be shocked if the SNP do win it... but for me, at the moment, its still the Lib Dems' to lose. And as was pointed out previously, once they are incumbent in a seat, they are pretty hard to shift!

Holyrood Patter 25 March 2009 at 23:56  

put us out of our misery richard
who has won!

Richard Thomson 26 March 2009 at 12:20  

Hmmn... I was hoping for a few more before drawing a conclusion, but I'd say at the moment it's Jeff by a whisker.

Whoever wins should offer Malc a dram from the bottle, though, since it's his blog this cybersquatting is taking place on!

Jeff 26 March 2009 at 16:20  

"George Foreman believed in his toasty sandwich-makers so strongly that he put his name on them. I, Richard Gordon Thomson, similarly have my name sandwiched on this constituency. I am the heavyweight in this contest and Malcolm Bruce will soon be toast"

I'm now behind my a nose, amn't I?

Richard Thomson 26 March 2009 at 17:32  

I'm now behind my a nose, amn't I?

Behind by a nose? It's a trip to the glue factory for that one, I think ;-)

Malc 26 March 2009 at 23:07  

How about:

"Yes, one of my names is Gordon. No, I'm not afraid to apologise."

Russell 17 April 2009 at 20:03  

I'll go for "Vote Thomson - Conceived In Gordon"

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