Why was that result so out of line?
Just look at the table above showing the change in the actual number of votes cast for Labour in by elections in the current parliament. The list only features those constituencies that the party was defending and the change is compared with the general election.
As is generally accepted parties in government do badly in such contests and Labour has lost half of them.
But what happened at Glenrothes last November? It is almost without precedent for a party of government to increase its actual vote numbers in a seat that it is defending and the result was not just out of line with by-elections in this parliament but with such contests over decades.
Was it because Labour was more popular in November 2008? Well Labour had leads in the national opinion polls at the time of Livingston, Sedgefield and Ealing Southall and was just about level pegging at the time of Dunfermline. Certainly Labour had recovered quite a bit by the time of Glenrothes but most of the polls were still showing double digit leads for the Conservatives.
Were there differences in the campaign strategy? The answer is yes because the seat is adjacent to Gordon Brown’s own constituency and both he and his wife Sarah did get involved in the campaign. The party also had a very long lead time to prepare.
Were there any other factors that stood out? The main one that came up three months after the vote is that the marked electoral register had “gone missing”. These are the only record of who voted and are normally available for inspection for a year afterwards.
So what was special about Glenrothes and could that be the secret to Labour’s survival at a general election? If the party could identify and replicate the “magic” ingredient then the general election might be less of a foregone conclusion after all.