Will even a modest performance be spun as a “victory”?
With hundreds of activists from the four main parties heading to Dunfermline this weekend ahead of Thursday’s Westminster by-election there can be no doubt, surely, that Labour is going to hang on.
The party got 20,111 last May to the Lib Dems’ 8,549, the SNP’s 8,026 and just 4,376 votes for the Tories. This contest has got a “Labour with a substantially reduced majority on a low turnout” written all over it.
In the betting Labour are heavy odds on favourites and on Betfair there’s not even a separate listing for Cameron’s Conservatives.
For the Tories, as received opinion has it, don’t DO by-elections and they certainly don’t DO Scotland.
Yet could the first electoral test under their new leader see them getting the biggest boost when the result from from the Dunfermline and West Fife in announced early next Friday morning?
Starting from fourth place with just 10% of the vote gives so much potential for improvement – and this is where the spinners come in. For the current media narrative is that we are seeing a return two party politics and anything that even gives a hint to support this view will be be magnified.
Add to this the rows the local Tory party has had over candidate selection and that Dunfermline and West Fife is Gordon Brown-land – he even lives in the seat – and you have a good story for the Friday TV bulletins.
The other element that is part of the media narrative is the Lib Dem position and it is no wonder that the party is throwing everything into the fight over the final few days. Holding on to that second place is critical for them.
The SNP also badly need something positive out of the result and will be trying to squeeze into that number two position.
So next Thursday is not about whether Labour retains the seat but about which party is able to show it has got the most momentum behind it.