But then there are others. These are the by-election campaigns which fail to catch fire, failing to excite the interest of the press, the public or the voters – and which disappear without trace.
It would be great if this month’s contest for Inverclyde was one of the former, but there is a growing fear it may slip into the forgettable category. The political parties are trying hard to engage the public’s attention – but, after such a momentous Scottish election just a month ago, even they are finding it hard to generate any enthusiasm for the contest.
The bookies seem sure which way it is going to go. According to Ladbrokes, Labour are 2/7 to win the seat with the SNP on 5/2, the Tories on 100/1 and the Liberal Democrats tied with UKIP way back on 200/1.
There are several reasons for this: the late David Cairns was a liked and respected local MP. He was seen as principled and fair and his untimely death shocked and saddened many.
This is also a traditional Labour area and this is a Westminster by-election – and, as we now know, voters in the west of Scotland are much more likely to stick with Labour for UK contests than they are for Scottish elections.
All of this tends to point to an easy Labour victory and that is the way the bookies see it, clearly.
But the SNP would love to take this seat if only to prove that the political force that carried it through to its astonishing victory last month is not only still there but has the capacity to break through in Westminster contests too.
The overall feeling, though, is one of jaded resignation – on behalf of the voters, the media and (although they won’t admit it) the politicians.
Last month’s election was such a monumental contest that it is proving difficult for anyone (bar perhaps the candidates themselves) to raise themselves for one more effort, particularly when the result of this by-election will have little – if any – effect on the political process.
But they are trying (oh how they are trying…). Labour issued a press release yesterday which tried to tarnish the reputation of the SNP candidate by bringing up a vote from the last session of parliament.
In the last days before a tight and key by-election, this might have some effect, but more than two weeks out from what appears to be one of the most low-key by-elections of recent years, it really meant very little.
This is what Labour had to say. It published the voting record of Anne McLaughlin when she was an SNP MSP on proposed cuts to Inverclyde’s regeneration budget, claiming she had voted for a 60 per cent cut in funding to the urban regeneration company Riverside Inverclyde.
“It is totally hypocritical for someone to vote for swingeing cuts to investment in Inverclyde,” Mr McNeil said, “whilst claiming to want to represent the interest of voters here.“
The SNP, for its part, launched its campaign with Alex Salmond joining Ms McLaughlin to appeal to voters to build on the message sent to Westminster by last month’s Holyrood elections.
Ms McLaughlin said: “We have an opportunity in Inverclyde to say to the Tory government and the local Labour–Tory coalition that we won’t accept business as usual. It’s time to put Inverclyde on the political map, to grab jobs and job creating powers, a fair deal for families and build a better future.”
The chances of the SNP putting Inverclyde on the political map do appear slim – but not, it would appear, as slim as the chances of the Tories or the Lib Dems doing the same.
Ms Bridger may well have a successful political future ahead of her, but it is unlikely to start with a victory in Inverclyde this month.
Nevertheless, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie (who knows a thing or two about by-election upsets having won in Dunfermline West Fife in 2006) was unstintingly positive.
In an extraordinarily optimistic prediction, he said: “Sophie is the right choice for Inverclyde. She is a rising star within the Party and I know that she will be a fresh new voice for Inverclyde at Westminster. “
The Conservatives selected David Wilson, the depute provost for Inverclyde. On a slogan of “An Inverclyde Man for Inverclyde,” Mr Wilson said: “This area needs an MP who will put Inverclyde first in everything they do and who will work with the local Council, the Scottish Parliament and be a voice for Inverclyde at Westminster.”
However, despite all the signals emerging from the banks of the Clyde that this will be one of the dullest by-election campaigns of recent times, there remains a possibility that things may change.
It can sometimes only take the intervention of one figure or a gaffe by the frontrunner to turn a soporific non-contest into the by-election of the decade.
One has to hope, anyway.
– The Inverclyde by-election will be held on Thursday 30 June 2011.