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Not on top form

Brian Taylor | 14:35 UK time, Thursday, 11 September 2008

Nobody, truly, knows who will win the contest for leader of the Scottish Labour Party. (Or....fill in alternative title for yourselves.)

With thousands of postal votes to be counted from elected, party, union and affiliate members, it is impossible to say.

But herewith the gossip at Holyrood. It should be Iain Gray, given his relative strength in the nominations and his performance on the hustings.

But Cathy Jamieson may be coming up strongly on the rails. It is not forecast that Andy Kerr will win.

This is not utterly ill-informed chat. (Only partly.) It is based upon timing and impact.

When folk were filling in their ballot papers, Cathy Jamieson was prominent as acting leader.

Plus she was pursuing, vigorously, the case for an enhanced pay deal for public sector workers. That may not have delighted one or two entitled to vote in this contest.

Sympathetic comment

One thinks of Comrades G. Brown and A. Darling.

However, it may have gone down well with union members, particularly the substantial number who work in the public sector. Which was, of course, the purpose.

To be fair, both Iain Gray and Andy Kerr commented sympathetically on the dispute, stressing, for example, the merit in a single year deal.

But Ms Jamieson perhaps gave the issue greatest prominence.

Of course, even if she wins the union vote, that only contributes towards one third of the total.

Cathy Jamieson was on show again today, questioning the first minister. It is perhaps as well for her that the leadership contest is a postal ballot - and that the votes are in.

To be frank, she was not on top form.

She was pursuing the topic of the Glasgow SNP councillor, Jahangir Hanif. You'll recall the disclosure that, three years ago, he showed his children how to fire a Kalashnikov rifle during a visit to what was described as a "military-style" camp in the Pakistani border area.

Dismissive dealings

Councillor Hanif was suspended by the SNP.

Today's Evening Times reports comments on the issue from John Mason MP, who won the Glasgow East by-election for the SNP. Mr Mason avers that criticism of Mr Hanif contains "thinly disguised racism".

Ms Jamieson sought to pursue Mr Salmond over the issue. But she dissipated her attack by raising too many disparate elements of the controversy.

Perhaps, further, she was put off by two interventions from the presiding officer, Alex Fergusson.

To be fair to the PO, he was - rightly - reminding Ms Jamieson that her questions must address Mr Salmond solely in his role as first minister.

In any event, Ms Jamieson could have found a way round that dilemma. She could, for example, have reminded the first minister that he regularly adopts the role of speaking for Scotland - before inviting him to speak for the nation on this topic, as FM.

Mr Salmond was able to deal dismissively with what might, otherwise, have been uncomfortable for him. He described Mr Hanif's behaviour as unwise, he argued that suspension from the party was a substantial sanction.

Then he was enabled to broaden his reply into condemning racism, generally. Not Ms Jamieson's best day.

Wonder if Saturday will be any better for her?

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