No part of the education of a politician is more indispensable than the fighting of elections. Another wise thought from the great Winston.

Let us hope that Gordon Brown for one will have treated the 16 per cent swing against Labour in last month's Scottish by-election as part of his learning curve.

Once it was easy to dismiss such defeats as a small blip on the overall electoral landscape. Usually errant voters returned to the fold the next time round.

Now this is by no means the case, and certainly not as far as Lib-Dem victories are concerned. In 1983 the multi-faceted Simon Hughes won Bermondsey from Labour, one of their rock-safe seats. He still holds on five Parliaments later. …

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