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COLIN CAMPBELL: Was Drew Hendry a victim of backlash against SNP’s grim record in recent times?

By Colin Campbell

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Angus MacDonald. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Angus MacDonald. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Multi-millionaire Angus MacDonald may have invested more time and raised more money for an election campaign than any other Highland candidate in history.

Election newsletters, posters and leaflets began landing on doormats when the poll itself was still only a distant gleam in his eye. Maybe a dozen or more in total. They were supplemented by strategically placed billboards and extensive newspaper advertising. To say he gave it his best shot would be an understatement.

As he said in the run-up to polling day, in addition to his duties as a Highland councillor he devoted the past 16 months to trying to win the Inverness, Skye and Ross-shire West seat.

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And at the end of a 37-hour delay of the announcement (it was expected around 5am on Friday), it all paid off for the man who emerged triumphant after a nail-bitingly close contest.

Drew Hendry began election night as the favourite to win the seat, which had been extensively reshaped as part of major boundary changes.

Three weeks ago bookmakers - in a startlingly negative assessment of Angus MacDonald’s chances of winning - had been offering odds of 5-1 against him.

How many takers there were for these odds will never be known. But if anyone did make a flutter, today they’re rolling in money.

Drew Hendry. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Drew Hendry. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Neither was Drew Hendry in any way a less than formidable obstacle to Angus MacDonald’s thrusting ambition. He has carved out a reputation during his nine years in office as a solid and hard-working MP.

He may well have suffered damage by the failure of the SNP government at Holyrood to bring about adequate upgrading of the “killer” A9. Criticism for that failure rebounded across the Highlands as the death toll has steadily mounted on the most hazardous main artery in Scotland. The SNP was accused of neglect and failing to live up to their promises.

But that factor alone did not bring about his downfall.

Labour swept the boards in the Central Belt and the only question that remained was if the disastrous outcome on election night for the SNP would stretch outwards and upwards across the rest of Scotland.

Their misery was not mainly caused by voters’ assessment of the individual performance of SNP MPs or the work they’d done while in office. It was a backlash against a grim record for the party in recent times, too much scandal, too much failure, and too much focus on issues which many people felt were of little or no relevance to their lives. And the SNP getting the blame for chronic problems in the NHS and other core services.

In the end Drew Hendry could not escape the anti-SNP tsunami which swept so many of his Westminster colleagues away.

Had he been up against a less formidable, energetic and convincing challenger he might have held on.

But his main opponent was a man with a track record of success in virtually everything he’s been involved in in business in recent years. He harnessed his abilities in his long and determined campaign. Angus MacDonald for the past 16 months, backed by a fervently supportive team of volunteers, proved to be too powerful a force to resist.

And in the end all the unprecedented efforts he made to win the seat and gain passage to Westminster has now handsomely and comprehensively paid off.

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