Is Labour set to hang on in Gordon’s back yard?

Is Labour set to hang on in Gordon’s back yard?

    Will fellow Fife-MP, Ming, get a Dunfermline headache?

In what must be one of the quickest by-elections ever to be called the voters of Dunfermline and West Fife will got to the polls on February 9 – just 34 days after the death of their sitting Labour MP Rachel Squire.

Clearly Labour has gone for a snap election with the aim of stopping any band-wagon effect from the Lib Dems or the SNP.

At the General Election there was a comfortable Labour win with the Lib Dems in second place. The votes split LAB 47.4: LD 20.1: SNP 18.9: CON 10.3.

There’s an added interest because the next door constituency is Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, the seat of Gordon Brown – now sharply down to 0.45/1 for the Labour leadership.

It is also near to North East Fife, the constituency of Ming Campbell, currently 0.75/1 favourite for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

At Livingston, just across the Firth of Forth, Labour held on last year in the by-election caused by Robin Cook’s death but saw a 10.2% swing to the SNP. The interesting thing about the coming by-election is that the Lib Dems are in second place – albeit a long way behind.

    In better times for the Lib Dems you might have fancied a flutter on them overhauling Labour. But this looks like a Labour hold on a low turnout with a much reduced majority over, possibly, the SNP.

For there is little doubt that publicity hammerings, like the one the Lib Dems are currently going through, can undermine the morale of activists – and in a by-election they are crucial. Whether local-man Ming can do something is a moot point. A poor showing for the party on his door-step might just impact on his leadership chances.

In the by-election betting the best prices are Labour 1/5: Lib Dems 5.6/1 and the SNP at 6/1. Cameron’s Conservatives are 50/1 with the bookies but the party does not even get a Betfair listing. If you want to bet on them then take the 210/1 “any other party” option.

Lib Dem leadership. There’s been a sharp move away from Simon Hughes in the betting overnight following a story in today’s Sun about him having gay relationships. The main beneficiary seems to be Chris Huhne.

Mike Smithson

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