09 March 2008

Revenge of the Hands

Yes, folks, it can only be Margaret Curran's Hands, the most vigorous, aggressive hands in Scottish Labour. The Shadow Health Secretary and MSP for Glasgow Baillieston - and one of the few people ever to terrify my mother, who will happily punch drunken Shettlestonians who are about half a metre taller than her - has confessed to briefing against Wendy Alexander.

The Sunday Herald reports that a newspaper article was run at the end of February, which quoted sources as damning Alexander's performance as "shocking and appalling". There were also questions about the competence of the Labour press office (this is obviously unfair - you try running a slick PR operation with Labour's staff turnover!). It turns out that in internal discussions, Curran used language that was eerily similar to the criticism used in the press.

Indeed, it was so similar that even Jackie Baillie noticed, and Baillie failed to notice that her microphone was turned on when she described a press conference in positive, yet colourful, language. Baillie therefore called Curran in for a chat, where Curran confessed, thus saving any further rows.

So you do have to wonder about the future of Margaret Curran on a Wendy Alexander front bench. She may be out quite soon, and Andy Kerr might be drooling at the chance of getting back an actual portfolio rather than the borderline-meaningless "Public Services" title he has right now.

Of course, it's now customary at times like this to wonder about Wendy Alexander's future: her own frontbench team is briefing against her; Scotland Office Ministers are performing routine flip-flps on just exactly what her Constitutional Commission will discuss (even Jack McConnell managed to stand up to Brown, even if it meant going into Opposition to do it); and an unprosecuted Charlie Gordon is sitting on the backbenches he was (probably) forced onto, a ticking timebomb ready to take the Leadership out.

Nevertheless, Wendy may just be safe: Curran was one of the potential successors, and if she's stupid enough not to check that the language she uses isn't similar to what she's said anonymously in the papers, then she's doomed to failure. Labour will hope she fails as a challenger/candidate. Other parties will hope she fails as a Party Leader, but it won't come to that: whatever doubts people may have about Wendy, Margaret Curran no longer looks like a viable alternative. Whether people remember this incident for her disloyalty or her stupidity, people will remember it, and Curran has, I feel, cost herself any shot at the Labour Leadership over this.

No comments: