'Religion may be a factor with a Baptist SNP candidate and a Labour one with an Irish name.'
-Paul Flynn MP on the Glasgow East By-election
Despite the fact sectarian voting patterns in Scotland broke down in Scotland in the mid 20th century and if they still exist at all it's barely a statistical blip, Welsh Labour MP Paul Flynn thinks sectarianism may have a bearing on the outcome of the Glasgow East by-election.
Presumably as he still thinks Labour will win he believes Catholic bigots will trot out for Margaret Curran and the black hearted Protestants will be split between the SNP, Tories and Lib Dems. Never in my thirty three years living in Glasgow have I ever heard anyone announcing their intention to vote along sectarian lines. The only anecdotal evidence I can find of it's existence are a few folk with grandparents who voted Tory to keep the Catholics out. Given the collapse of the Scottish Tory vote it's fair to assume that the Protestants of Scotland are taking into account issues other than the candidates background. As far as I can tell such attitudes reached something of a peak in the 20s and 30s and have been gradually dying out ever since.
According to the 2001 census 15:88% of Scotland's population are Roman Catholic 42.4% are Church of Scotland and 6.81% are other Christian. Add to that the 27.55% with no religious affiliation it doesn't seem likely that much voting goes on along sectarian lines. Unless of course he is implying that until fairly recently Labour were especially attractive to Protestants. Mind you, thinking of my own family I cannot think of a remaining Catholic Labour voter -they've been steadily abandoning Labour since the 1960's. In contrast our one remaining Labour voter is of a Protestant background.
Until reading Mr Flynn's remarks the religious backgrounds of the candidates hadn't entered my head, nor have I held anyone else mention them during the many lunchtime debates in work about who to vote for. Funnily enough people seem to be more upset about the abolition of the 10p tax rate and sleaze than the candidates belief or otherwise in transubstantiation.
I may be doing Mr Flynn a great disservice by suggesting that he knows about as much about sectarianism in the West of Scotland as I do about the Welsh language but given his disgraceful bid to save Labour's skin by trying to stir up religious bigotry I'm not inclined to hold back. I sincerely hope his insulting and offensive bid to mobilise the Catholic vote falls flat on it's arse.
Some good stuff from Will here.