Gordon Brown broke one of his self-imposed rules of political prudence yesterday when he joined a by-election campaign for the first time since becoming Prime Minister. He made a carefully controlled lunchtime appearance in Glenrothes, as his party claimed it was the underdog in what has traditionally been a safe Labour seat.
Mr Brown was guided through the town in Fife by the Labour Party candidate, Lindsay Roy. Mr Brown spent 20 minutes talking to three families in a cafe before pledging to return to the parliamentary constituency ahead of the poll on 6 November.
Labour holds a 10,664 majority in Glenrothes, but the Scottish National Party, the bookmakers' favourite, is threatening to overturn it.
Jim Murphy, the Secretary of State for Scotland, turned up the heat in a battle that has been dominated by the conflict between Labour and the SNP by declaring: "We started behind and we are still underdogs."
Mr Murphy said he was under the impression that the SNP had taken "victory for granted from day one" and he sensed a "degree of arrogance" that would help Labour. He added: "They are still favourites. We lost the election in the Scottish Parliament elections, and that's why Gordon's here."
Mr Brown denied his intervention was a mark of desperation following the party's defeat in similar conditions to the SNP in Glasgow East, when an even larger majority evaporated in a by-election at the end of July.
He said he was simply bringing the message to families that the Government was working to turn around the country's economic fortunes. Labour said the six people Mr Brown met were not party members, although five of them had voted Labour in the past. They were picked, aides said, because they had expressed an interest in meeting him. Mr Brown, who claimed he had visited the area "a few weeks ago", said: "I wanted to come and explain to people what we are doing in this global financial crisis to make sure people are properly protected."
The Prime Minister, who chose not to visit Glasgow East before Labour's thumping defeat there, added: "I am trying to explain also that we are dealing with a global financial crisis that has hit the Scottish banks. It started in America but it has hit all countries, and we are leading the world in taking action to sort it out."
Mr Brown's own Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency borders Glenrothes, and his wife Sarah has twice been involved in the push for votes this week, interventions she explained as lending a helping hand while back in Scotland for a half-term school break. Ms Roy, a head teacher at Mr Brown's former school, is up against the SNP's Peter Grant, the leader of the local council.
Mr Brown said: "We have gone against the advice of some of the other parties but have done the right things. Because of the work we have done over these past 10 years we are better prepared to deal with what is a world financial problem that's hitting every country."
The SNP leader, Alex Salmond, visited the constituency for the seventh time during the campaign yesterday. He met a truck driver with the same name as the Prime Minister who is planning to vote SNP, allowing the party to send out press releases that read "Gordon Brown backing SNP". Mr Salmond said: "The Labour campaign is all staged managed. They don't meet real people."Reuse content