The result of the by-election yesterday will have come as a surprise to many people, and a disappointment to the SNP and to the media, which is increasingly biased towards the sensational.
Let’s look at the evidence: SNP Failure?
Well to be fair I never though they stood a chance in this by-election, and many will put this down to a failure of the SNP government in Edinburgh and a slump in support for independence. It’s probably not either of those, well not entirely. The SNP were always soft peddling their chances, after the surprise failure in Glenrothes.
The SNP’s candidate was superficially a strong one with apparently good local credentials, and apparent media savvy. Neither of these turned out to be true. His media performances were weak, which surprised many, and his local credentials turned out to be paper thin.
Labour learning from the lessons of Dunfermline and Glasgow East?
I favour this analysis myself and the other main parties need to learn that Labour is relearning how to campaign.
Their Scottish by-election defeats in this Parliament, in Dunfermline and Glasgow East, have shown them very much on the electoral back foot. This has been due to them being out of touch with local public opinion, combined with a national malaise in their fortunes.
In both Glenrothes and Glasgow North East they have managed to campaign effectively on local issues, which are more important in by-elections, and toned down their national misfortunes.
This will obviously be very difficult for them to manage on a national scale at a general election but may be possible on a limited basis if they can successfully deploy human and financial resources. The Labour Party is relearning targeting.
The main thing for the other parties to learn from this election is that long campaigns help the Labour Party; it helps them to reconnect with their electorate. The lesson is that, like John Major in 1992, this might be the longest election campaign in history. Although the election might well still happen in early May it seems likely that Gordon Brown will go the palace to ensure that the campaign will be as long as possible, something in the region of 6 weeks, as it was in the 90s, to give them the chance of managing this reconnection.
It will also dent the impact of the financial advantage the Tories have on a constituency basis, making them spread the cost due to the restrictions on constituency campaigning, making it more of a doorstep campaign.
Labour is back in the electoral race.