Given that the news and most of everyone’s thoughts on current affairs are currently dominated by the problems in the global financial system, it is easy to let relatively minor things like a by-election slip your mind. But when I turned my thoughts to the upcoming Glenrothes by-election and politics in general a few days ago, it struck me that the political narrative is quite different to the way it was, say, a month ago.
It’s funny. When the credit crunch was only a moderately bad pickle, Gordon Brown seemed like an incompetent, bumbling fool. Now when it is full-on, sirens wailing, women-and-children-first time, that has changed.
He is not quite a god, but people are no longer questioning his leadership all the time. People have noticed that he seems more confident. He certainly seems to have a spring in his step. He has even been cracking jokes! And people laughed at them!
When it was only Northern Rock that had gone belly-up, Gordon Brown was regarded as an idiot. Now they’ve all gone belly-up, he is a genius! I am being facetious, although Jeff has pointed out the conflict of interest that is at play here.
Because while it was cheesy and I didn’t like it, the “it’s no time for a novice, ZING!” line worked. It made you think about who else might be in charge and no matter how bad you think Gordon Brown is, in a lot of ways it plays into the conservatism that is part of human nature. Better the devil you know.
It’s been suggested that Labour’s polling boost is confined to its heartlands. That would usually be bad news for Labour. But if it’s true that Labour’s boost is amplified in Scotland, that could potentially bring them right back in the hunt for Glenrothes.
I imagine SNP activists have always approached this by-election believing they have a fight on their hands to win the constituency. But they will surely be hugely disappointed if they lose.
For one thing, this constituency must have been on their radar anyway after they won the roughly analogous Fife Central seat in last year’s Scottish Parliament election. Then the SNP spectacularly won the Glasgow East by-election. This by-election came at a time when Labour were at their lowest ebb.
The ‘dithering’ image that Labour have built up over the past year or so was not helped much by their apparent decision to delay the by-election for as long as possible. And their choice of date (only recently announced, but rumoured for a long time) of 6 November looked an awful lot like they wanted to bury the bad news under the aftermath of the US Presidential election. They might as well have just written “we’re gonna lose!” on their election literature.
But now the decision to delay is looking a bit smarter to me. It’s really interesting because I think previously the general view was that the UK as a whole had fallen out with Brown in particular, but Scotland fell out with Labour as a whole. And the SNP’s honeymoon period in the Scottish Parliament made that double trouble for Labour. Now it looks like all of those trends may be reversing somewhat.
The rebound in Labour’s popularity and the renewed confidence in Gordon Brown’s leadership bodes well for Labour. Then there is the fact that, as Anthony Wells pointed out, there is little space for opposition parties to grab many headlines at the moment.
Of course, there are still almost four weeks to go and a lot can happen in that time. And the fact that the SNP still have a great chance of winning Glenrothes, ostensibly a safe Labour seat (no matter whether or not the SNP took Fife Central last year), shows how far Labour have fallen.
Nonetheless, today I think Labour have a much better chance of winning Glenrothes than they did, say, a month ago. And according to this blog, the bookmakers have moved away from an SNP win recently.