On the day back in May that it became clear the Glasgow North-east by-election was actually going to take place (yes, 'supremely confident' Labour have now been running from the constituency's voters for the same length of time there's left to go before the general election), I posted here to express my jitters. I was concerned at the past history of by-elections that had proved to be pivotal moments, and had changed the political weather. I was more than a touch uneasy that the SNP's fate at the next election might rest, as I put it, on a 'typical mad as a bucket of frogs by-election campaign'. But here we sit four days out from the Glasgow NE vote, and I can already say with confidence that is not the case. Why? Paradoxically, it's because of the prevailing narrative that this is going to be a routine Labour hold. I've no inside knowledge from the ground, so I don't know whether that's true or not, but the perception that it is true has one key effect - it's killed all interest in the contest, and there will therefore be very little interest in the result, unless there is a major surprise. Glasgow NE simply can't produce a momentum shift in public opinion without...well, a bit of publicity. This is not going to be another Glenrothes, with SNP activists having kittens on Thursday night pondering the consequences if they don't win. It's beginning to have the feel more of a Hamilton South-type contest, where a narrow defeat on a huge swing could potentially even produce a little momentum for the SNP. All thanks to the expectations game - one of the curious features of by-election campaigns. In the immortal words of Abba, you can feel like you win when you lose.
I saw a little of BBC2's 90-minute programme this evening to mark the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which reminded us of how the crucial factor was weekly Monday demonstrations in Leipzig that grew bigger and bigger until eventually the authorities could not cope with them. I started wondering how Tom Harris reacted as he watched those demonstrators on TV twenty years ago. Doubtless he would have been busily making snide comments about how all those "students" needed to "grow up" and embrace "mature" politics. After all, nobody ever changed the world by taking to the streets, holding placards and chanting slogans - eh, Tom?
And one other thought, Tom - doesn't an irrational hatred of inconvenient political demonstrations constitute an "emotion"?