Strive and wait
Here’s a question for you. Why did Labour lose the Holyrood elections last May?
No, come on, seriously. Was it a rejection of Jack McConnell? An insurrection against Tony Blair? A victory for Nationalism? A victory for Alex Salmond?
Is there perhaps another element, underpinning each of these options? Party organisation. Setting policy and leadership to one side for a moment, Labour was systematically driven down by a far superior SNP campaign, headed by the estimable Angus Robertson MP.
There are one or two voices in Scottish Labour still bemoaning the narrow scope of the defeat. Would it have been different if different candidates had been selected - or willing to stand - in certain key seats?
An alternative view, however, is: you lost, get over it. On balance, while casting an eye back, the leadership is inclined to the second view.
We now learn Scottish Labour is determined to match key elements of that SNP approach. For example, Labour has built and will maintain an online database of potential supporters.
During the Holyrood campaign, I witnessed this aspect of the SNP machine in operation. It was, frankly, awesome.
Instead of confronting folk with blunt doorstep questions purely about voting intention, canvassers were trained to pursue identifiers: that is, issues such as crime or education which might intrigue the voters and disclose potential sympathy for the SNP cause or particular SNP policies.
These doorstep surveys then generated targeted mailshots, dwelling upon the issues raised. In essence, the SNP was permanently talking about the concerns of the voters - not of the party.
Labour leaders claim their replica system has helped the party to win recent local authority by-elections.
Further, at the Scottish Labour conference the weekend after next, there will be a series of reforms to organisation designed to improve the party machine.
At this stage, these fall notably short of the complete transformation promised by Wendy Alexander at her accession to the leadership.
She explains that by saying that the party’s new general secretary in Scotland, Colin Smyth, is actively examining change.
Other items in the wind. Ms Alexander plans to publish a “vision thing” document this weekend, setting out her view of Labour’s core purpose in Scotland. Expect talk of aspiration, ambition and social justice.
Her front bench team are publishing new policies. These include, today, efforts to increase the number of modern apprenticeships: their wages would be paid or part-paid in small firms while large companies would be advised to take on apprentices in order to win public sector contracts.
These initiatives she can undertake. There are other small matters, of course, where her room for manoeuvre is somewhat more limited.
One thinks of the protracted controversy over her campaign funding. One thinks of the doubts over her performance in the chamber.
One thinks especially perhaps of the weekend poll by MRUK which suggested that Alex Salmond was a massive 75 points ahead of her in popularity.
(Mr Salmond had a substantial plus score, weighing those who like him in the balance against those who dislike him. Ms Alexander’s net rating was notably negative.)
What can she do about these? Strive and wait, I suppose. Strive and wait.