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Glow or gloom

Brian Taylor | 12:56 UK time, Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The contest in Glenrothes moves on apace, with nominations due to close today (Tuesday).

Time, perhaps, to cast another glance at the prospects.

I took the chance to chat with sundry SNP strategists during the party's conference in Perth over the weekend.

While decidedly hopeful of victory, they are aware of an impetus pulling the other way.

Firstly, Glenrothes is not Glasgow East - where the SNP secured victory.

Yes, the swing to take is smaller in the Fife contest but canvassers say they detect less of the visceral anger that was present in the Glasgow battle.

Glenrothes displays more in the way of community spirit than was evident in the socially and economically fractured east end of Glasgow.

In fact, that is multiple community spirit: the new town itself plus, quite separately, Methil and the former mining villages in the west end of the seat.

Nationalists say that folk in Glenrothes itself are perhaps more amenable to their arguments than they are in the smaller villages where a habit of voting Labour or indeed, in bygone days, Communist is ingrained.

Secondly, Gordon Brown's image has changed.

It is glib to say that he has gone from loser to superman, from zero to hero.

But there is an understanding of the efforts he has made to rescue the economy, building upon the respect which he attracts as a Fife MP.

Labour knows that and so is expected to field the PM's wife to campaign in the constituency, presumably as a prelude to the man himself: broadly, the role she played at the Labour conference in Manchester where she introduced her husband onto the stage.

Thirdly, Labour tacticians are frankly hoping that the Liberal Democrats in Glenrothes manage to avoid a squeeze of Glasgow East proportions.

The LibDems have a presence in Fife more generally and need to avoid humiliation here.

If their support holds up, that could split the anti-Labour vote.

The plus side for the SNP?

They won the comparable Holyrood seat, they are in joint control of the council, they believe Alex Salmond performed powerfully at their conference - and they believe the perception of Gordon Brown will change.

They believe the glow of the rescue will give way to the gloom of the consequences for jobs and mortages.

Labour privately acknowledges that prospect but calculates that the glow may survive until 6 November, polling day.

As ever, it's up to the voters to decide.

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