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'Just say no'

Brian Taylor | 13:04 UK time, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Perhaps it was the presence of Willie Bain, smiling wanly in the public gallery, but today's Labour/SNP exchanges at first minister's questions seemed notably antagonistic.

Mr Bain, of course, is a living, grinning reminder that Labour thumped the SNP in the Glasgow North East by-election.

Today, like an invited Banquo, he hovered over the pre-lunch feast of oratory that is the weekly question session.

Labour's Holyrood leader Iain Gray has not perhaps been universally successful in upsetting First Minister Alex Salmond in these exchanges.

So he made the most of Banquo Bain.

Mr Salmond, apparently, was "losing it".

Losing touch with reality, losing the support of business and the unions - and, above all, losing it on the streets of Glasgow NE.

Dual mandate

At which point, he welcomed the bold Willie. Labour MSPs cheered. They yelled. They crowed.

Helen Eadie even waved, maternally, to the new MP.

Perhaps Mr Salmond was temporarily discomfited. Not sure he should have made a gag about Willie Bain seeking a "dual mandate" with his Holyrood visit.

A collective growl arose from the opposition benches: a bit like the racket when the orcs first appear, defiant and furious, in Lord of the Rings.

Said growl reminded us that the one with the dual mandate, pending the next Westminster election, is Alex Salmond MP MSP.

In fact, take that back. The FM definitely shouldn't have made a reference to dual mandates.

Still, Mr Salmond rallied splendidly. After batting economic stats back and forth with Mr Gray, he closed by addressing the "losing it" charge.

'Young and ambitious'

He suggested, deftly, that the problem for the Labour leader was a widespread public perception that "he never had it in the first place."

PS: En passant, Annabel Goldie referred obliquely to the vacant post of Scotland football manager.

Touchy subject for me as a lifelong Arab when United's Craig Levein is said to be the hot tip.

Craig, just say no. You're young and ambitious. Better to build your profile at Tannadice than jeopardise it at Hampden.


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