Does Labour’s candidate choice make it that more personal?
Given Labour’s by election record and the terrible poll ratings then as soon as the news came of the the death of John MacDougall, MP for Glenrothes, the assumption has been that this will be the party’s third loss in Scotland of the four Westminster seats it has defended since the last general election.
For after seeing a thirteen-and-a-half thousand vote majority overturned in Glasgow East in July, the real surprise will be if Labour hang on.
The objective for Labour, assuming that saving the seat is out of the question, is to survive with as little damage to the overall reputation of the party and the leader as possible.
But that’s not going to be easy. The constituency adjoins Gordon’s and now the defence will be portrayed as being even more personal because of the candidate that has been chosen.
For the party has picked Lindsay Roy to run and he’s the 58 year old head at Kirkcaldy High School, where the young Gordon went and has known the Labour leader for years.
A story about another Labour by election defeat has the same potency these days as another “20% poll deficit” – we’ve got used to it. But that could be different here with the added close personal Brown dimension.
One fact that might help is date for the by-election. Many in the party are urging Brown to move the writ early, perhaps prior to the Labour Party Conference at the end of September. The thinking is that this will allow for another re-launch.
Having endured Alasdair Darling’s interview with the Guardian this weekend, you cannot see Brown wanting to begin his Party Conference by adding yet another humiliating by-election defeat. Were he to delay, a pending by-election might be an incentive for the Labour party to hold ranks.
Unless he is convinced he can defy the odds and win in Glenrothes, he would do best to wait, perhaps until November as Morus has suggested here before. The juxtaposition with the US presidential election on November 4th should reduce the media coverage of Glenrothes.
Labour seem confident that they have selected a strong candidate, but will that mean anything to the electorate of Glenrothes, or will they avail themselves of the opportunity already taken by the voters of Glasgow East and Henley? Lindsay Roy might be standing for Labour, but this remains a referendum on Gordon Brown.
We’ll be betting on another SNP gain.
Morus and Mike Smithson