Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Brown hails 'vote of confidence'

Lindsay Roy celebrates winning the Glenrothes seat for Labour
Lindsay Roy celebrates winning the Glenrothes seat for Labour

The prime minister has hailed Labour's Glenrothes by-election victory as a vote of confidence in the government's handling of the economic crisis.

Gordon Brown said the result proved people were prepared to support governments who offer them "real help."

SNP leader Alex Salmond described Labour's campaign as "scaremongering".

The SNP failed to overturn Labour's majority but managed to increase its vote by more than 4,500. The Tories and the Lib Dems lost their deposits.

Labour's majority of 10,664 at the 2005 election was reduced to 6,737, although the number of votes it polled actually increased.

The BBC has learnt that Mr Brown was told as late as 10pm, when the polls closed, that Labour would lose.

Government sources said the party only realised that it would win once officials started sampling the actual ballot papers as they were being counted, at about 10.30pm.

A central feature of Labour candidate Lindsay Roy's campaign had been concerns over an increase in home care charges for some people from 4 a week to 11 an hour.

SNP candidate Peter Grant is leader of Fife Council, which introduced the charges.

Nick Robinson
The question today is how much this was a local rather than a national election?
Nick Robinson
BBC political editor

BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor said: "Labour attacked the Nationalists day and daily over claims that the SNP-led administration in Fife Council had cut home care services for the most vulnerable.

"In vain did the SNP protest that this was driven by externally imposed exigencies, that they were doing nothing different from several other councils (including Labour ones) and that they had increased the budget in key areas of expenditure."

Mr Salmond, Scotland's first minister, said Labour's campaign had focused on "distorted" claims.

"I don't like their campaigning style - I think it was fearmongering and scaremongering," he said.

"It was, however, a successful campaign.

"We've got lessons to learn in terms of the tactics we employ."

Labour had also tried to focus on Mr Brown's stewardship of the economy during the recent turmoil.

Speaking to reporters in Downing Street, the prime minister said: "What I have learned from this by-election is that people are prepared to support governments that will help people through the downturn and offer real help to people.

bar chart
Results in full
Lindsay Roy, Labour: 19,946
Peter Grant, SNP: 13,209
Maurice Golden, Cons: 1,381
Harry Wills, Lib Dem: 947
Jim Parker, SSCUP: 296
Morag Balfour, SSP: 212
Kris Seunarine, UKIP: 117
Louise McLeary, Solidarity: 87

Labour majority: 6,737
Turnout: 52.34%

"They are less willing to support people who have no idea about how to solve the problems we have got."

Although the margin was down a third on that achieved at the 2005 general election, the Glenrothes win was seen as a huge personal boost for Mr Brown.

Speaking ahead of his visit to an informal meeting of the European Council in Brussels, the PM said: "I will redouble my efforts to ensure that people come fairly through this downturn and offer real help to people in tough times.

"My undivided focus is on mortgage holders who are having difficulties, homeowners worried about their homes, people worried about their jobs, people worried about gas and electricity prices.

"We've got a global recession that I believe we in Britain are dealing with as fairly as we can and will continue to take the measures that will give real help to people in difficult circumstances."

Tory leader David Cameron, on a visit to Glasgow, said: "The real loser is the Scottish National Party and as they want to break up our country, to destroy the Union that I'm passionate about, then maybe it's no bad thing that the 'Salmond bounce' has disappeared.

"The Conservative Party has now established itself as the third party and that's progress for us. We've still got a long way to go."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott said: "Alex Salmond predicted the SNP would win - he got it spectacularly wrong.

"Scottish politics has changed - the honeymoon is over."

The by-election in the Fife constituency was held after the death of sitting Labour MP John MacDougall.

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