On Thursday Fifers will join voters across the country in going to the polls in what is sure to be one of the most closely fought general elections in recent history. And the people of Kirkcaldy have been put in an unusual position of power. If it was the will of the people to do so, it would be us and only us that would have the power to instantly topple the Prime Minister, our MP. Even if Labour won outright across the country, hypothetically, we could still force a change in leadership by voting out Gordon Brown. That is, if the people of Kirkcaldy decide that is the right thing to do.
Indeed, some might say it is a slim chance that Kirkcaldy will vote any other way than Labour, regardless of anyone’s opinions on Gordon Brown himself, the Lang Toun having been a stronghold for the party since time immemorial. In general, the vast majority of voters don’t float, they simply vote for the party they have voted for their entire lives, vote for the party of their parents. Change is a slow process.
But it does happen. Just look at the surge in popularity of the SNP in the last Scottish elections, or even the nationwide rise in support for the Liberal Democrats on the back of Nick Clegg’s surprisingly masterful performances in the TV debates. Could either John Mainland or Douglas Chapman unseat the PM? Of course, the Liberal Democrats will want to capitalise on the sudden popularity of their leader, but it has to be said the real threat to Labour in these parts comes from the SNP. True, the Nats have taken a risk in fielding a candidate such as Councillor Chapman. He has no connection to Kirkcaldy, and may well be best known in the town for the way in which Fife Council’s education committee, of which he is chairman, relegated plans by the previous administration for a much-needed new school at Viewforth to the back burner while prioritising Dunfermline High School, which serves his own ward. However the SNP’s status as a vote against the perceived London-based “old politics” can’t be ignored.
And while the Conservatives are expected to make gains across the UK, nobody is betting on them taking too many seats in Scotland.
For the first time in the political history of the constituency, commentators (well, me anyway) genuinely couldn’t tell you with any authority who is going to come out on top. All that we know is, for good or ill, our votes matter this time more than ever. We are sitting with our fingers on a button which if pressed could change the face of British politics for the next five years, and beyond. Oh God, I can’t watch.