by RAY FLEMING
LABOUR'S Glenrothes by-election victory was encouraging for Gordon Brown from several angles. First, his decision to break convention by campaigning personally was proved right. Second, the majority over the Scottish Nationalists, although reduced, was comfortable and the Labour share of the overall vote increased. Third, the result halted a run of election successes for the Scottish Nationalists that had begun to make them seem invulnerable. Fourth, the issue that proved most helpful to Labour was probably the evidence of the advantage to Scotland of being part of the Union when a financial crisis occurs - an advantage that will remain in people's minds in Scotland for some time to come.

The Prime Minister was right yesterday to dismiss talk of a snap or a Spring election and to place his emphasis instead on the need for an “undivided focus” by the government on handling the economic downturn at both the global and UK levels. The government's determination to act promptly and firmly was underlined yesterday when Chancellor Alastair Darling called in bank chiefs and told them to pass on the full interest rate reduction announced on Thursday by the Bank of England.

Given that the recession already being felt in Britain and more widely in Europe is likely to last at least through 2009 there are no grounds for thinking that an election in the UK need take place until the government's five-year span is close to ending in 2010.