Glenrothes: Where did it all go right?

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Voters in Glenrothes backed Labour in a surprise by-election win last month. The victory in itself was not the only boost for the beleaguered Gordon Brown.

Labour increased its share of the vote from the 51.9 percent won at the 2005 general election to 55.1 percent. And Labour not only increased its share of the vote for the first time since 1997, but also the actual number of people who voted for it. This hasn't happened in a Labour seat since 1978.

Just days before the poll, the Scottish National Party was crowing that it had already won. Leader Alex Salmond proclaimed, somewhat embarrassingly, "Yes we can win, and yes we will win."

Political commentators have been at a loss to explain the result. Some say it was Sarah Brown, Gordon's wife, visiting the constituency that won it. Others, weirdly, say it was Peter Mandelson's return to government.

But the fact is that Brown has changed his talk. He wrote in the Observer on the eve of the poll that the finance bailouts were not "to help the bankers, but to help people like you who put away your savings in the bank, or need a loan to buy a house or start a business...In this first financial crisis of the global age the old free market fundamentalism, no matter how it is dressed up, has been found wanting".

Add to this the apparent U-turn in policy following the government's decision to re-award the card account contract to the Post Office, and not the hotly tipped private sector rival, PayPoint.

But this is less a return to Old Labour than a change in appearance. The impact of Barack Obama's rhetorical skills would not have gone unnoticed.

As the economic crisis deepens one thing's for sure-Labour's trajectory, more than ever, depends on the pressure put upon it by working people.