13 November 2009

A victory for Labour that changes nothing

After five months of planning, a "resounding victory"  for Labour in a safe seat. The turnout was the lowest ever recorded for a Scottish by-election.

Labour - 12,231 votes (59.39%)
SNP - 4,120 votes (20%)
Tory - 1,075 votes (5.22%)
BNP - 1,013 votes (4.92%)

Voter turnout - 32.97%

Mandy's strategy that Labour should fight as “insurgents, not incumbents” paid off in this one-off by-election, where the SNP are the governing party and defending their record.  In a general election this will not be the case.

It is too early to make sweeping predications for Labour nationally on the morning after, but this result probably does mean that Brown is safe for a few more weeks.  In any case, the parliamentary timetable, with the Pre-Budget Report on December 9 alongside the Christmas recess starting on December 16, makes it near impossible for Brown to be replaced before the new year.

So January is the time when Brown will be at his most venerable, especially if the national polls show little sign of any movement in Labour’s favour in the coming weeks.  Indeed, any immediate polls in the wake of Brown’s week of weeks could well show a small swing back to Labour, but that doesn't imply his position is more secure.

The weaknesses that Brown demonstrates as Prime Minister will not go away.  The result of this by-election changes nothing.  However, it gives the Cabinet and Labour MPs space and time to decide what they must do if the party is to have a reasonable chance of denying the Tory party a majority at the next election.

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