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Newsweek Scotland: A post from Pacific Quay

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Derek Bateman Derek Bateman | 18:30 UK time, Friday, 22 April 2011

Pacific Quay

BBC Scotland, Pacific Quay, Glasgow

The leader of the country was in the BBC this week. But which one? Yes, David Cameron and, yes, Alex Salmond. BOTH national leaders appeared at BBC HQ. As it happens I bumped into Mr Salmond who, of course is busted down to plain SNP candidate for the duration of the election. We had a chat about events with some heavy emphasis on one of his private obsession - trying to take money out of the pockets of the bookmakers. Ladbrokes and William Hill are reporting substantial flows of money on to the SNP and it wouldn't surprise me if some of that appears on a docket in Mr Salmond's pocket.

I mention this because it struck me how different characters react differently to pressure. He won't thank me for the comparison but the ebullient Mr Salmond reminded me of the former leading American neo-con Newt Gingrich. Not in policy terms of course, but in exuding a persona that is a tool in trade of the politician. I went to Atlanta to interview Gingrich in the 90's and, again putting aside his political views, he was a consummate performer. We had a brief chat in his office where supporters had gathered and then he told me to wait while he addressed them. There were so many he led them outside and stood on a low wall. For 10 minutes he held them spellbound and me too with the power of his words and the sense of confidence. I asked him about it later and he said he came from a long tradition of Deep South preacher/politicians where you had literally to learn to work a crowd on the stump.

In Glasgow Alex Salmond was gleaming. Perhaps it was the spring sun or the opinion poll news but he behaved as if he were a master of the universe. It may because elections are in his DNA. He is hard-wired to react to the excitement and pressure. And it's true that's not to everyone's taste. You may well prefer the understated, deliberate, even shy approach of Iain Gray who is given to wry humour. I find it interesting that two entirely different types of people are in the running for First Minister. And I couldn't forget either that in the end old Newt overplayed his hand and lost. We have two poker players here and I wonder who will blink first.

We will debate the election with the panel. This week's rotating member is journalist Joyce McMillan who joins Angus Macleod and Peter Lynch. We discuss incapacity benefit and wonder how the government could announce a crackdown on people with addictions and obesity in the same week as the government agency guarding our investment in the banks approved a £7.7m payout to the boss of RBS. Is anybody coordinating their PR?

And I speak to Professor Tom Devine about the spiralling sectarian row disfiguring public life. I'm off to decide which persona to adopt - Salmond or Gray. See you tomorrow at 8.


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