At the start of the year, I noted that the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election was a contest that told us almost nothing about the parties' prospects for Holyrood, partly because the circumstances were so unusual, but mainly because Scotland has of late seemed totally cut adrift from UK-wide trends as relating to Labour and the Tories. However, the Lib Dems might just be a different matter, and their utter humiliation in Barnsley Central this evening offers further reason to suspect that their Westminster alliance with the Tories stands to cost them a number of Scottish Parliament seats in May.
As I've noted before, a poor performance for the Lib Dems is ultimately bad news for Labour. Not only might it harm Iain "the Snarl" Gray's chances of becoming First Minister, it also reduces the likelihood of any government he leads being stable. If he finds himself forced by the arithmetic to look beyond the Lib Dem (and possibly Galloway one-man-band) ranks, his options for reliable allies over the four - or five? - years ahead will be distinctly limited.
UPDATE : Stuart Dickson alerted me to this little gem. Note the commendable dedication to accuracy in the visual representation of a general election result in Barnsley Central that had Labour on 47.3% of the vote, and the Lib Dems on 17.3%. Note also the refreshingly open acknowledgement that there was a virtual dead heat for second place, with the Tories just six votes behind the Lib Dems. Those of us who support lesser parties can but feel humbled in the face of yet another example of the Lib Dems' legendary honesty and moral rectitude.
Which begs only one question - do they have a bar-chart template for elections in which they're starting from sixth place? I'm sure they must have all eventualities covered...