In a prolonged bout of Twitter-based drama this morning, the candidates for the vacant Edinburgh council seat were eliminated one by one until only two remained, the SNP candidate Alasdair Rankin and the unliklely figure of Iain McGill, holding onto first place from round one. Alasdair won out, by a closer margin than perhaps expected even at that late stage, and the rest, as they say is history, or has been for the past 8 hours or so.

The voting went as shown below and, of most interest (to me at least) is how the votes broke as candidates were eliminated:

Round 1

Con 837
SNP 797
Lab 682
Green 494
Ind 394
LD 251 (eliminated)

Round 2
Con 904 (67 votes from LDs)
SNP 825 (28 votes from LDs)
Lab 716 (34 votes from LDs)
Green 576 (82 votes from LDs)
Ind 402 (8 votes from LDs) (eliminated)

Round 3
Con 1043 (139 votes from Ind)
SNP 893 (68 votes from Ind)
Lab 745 (29 votes from Ind)
Green 635 (59 votes from Ind) (eliminated)

Round 4
Con 1110 (67 votes from Greens)
SNP 1084 (191 votes from Greens)
Lab 968 (223 votes from Greens) (eliminated)

Round 5
SNP 1368 (284 votes from Labour) – ELECTED
Con 1264 (154 votes from Labour)

So pretty rotten luck for the Tories really but a lot can be learned from the above, albeit from one Council ward with a very low turnout:

The Lib Dems are in line for a proper hiding in next year’s local elections and we can expect defections to continue. Indeed, there is a local by-election in my neck of the woods in London and the Green candidate is, you guessed it, a former Lib Dem.

The Lib Dem vote continues to transfer well to the Greens but does not transfer quite as well as expect to the SNP, only 28 votes going to the Nats in the second round after the Lib Dem candidate was eliminated. I found this quite surprising to be honest. Indeed, it does seem to be the case that the Lib Dems remaining loyal to the Lib Dems are at the more extreme wings of the party – the lentil munchers and the orange bookers (to put it more than a little bit crudely!)

The Labour vote fell more heavily to the Conservatives than I expected too, 284 votes to the left(ish) SNP and a sizeable 154 votes to the right(er) Tories. This is perhaps a sign that more typical lefties and would-be Labour voters have abandoned the red rosette from the first vote and may well symoblise the cross-border identity crisis that Labour is currently suffering from.

The main outcome to take from this by-election though is the simple fact that the SNP won and that Edinburgh Council is safe. However, given the SNP largely stood on an anti-tram platform, does this send the death knell of the project? Is that what Edinburgh voted for yesterday? That’s how I read it, particularly with the financially conservative Conservatives doing so well. Only time will tell of course whether the SNP intends to scrap the project once and for all and, I suspect, that decision may be delayed until after 2012.

NB – James has a longer, deeper and frankly better post on the by-election at STV Edinburgh.