Labour sounds alarm
Politicians frequently set alarm bells ringing with their comments. Today Labour managed the same by just turning up for their manifesto launch.
The wicked media and sundry Labour supporters had gathered in the elegant surroundings of Clydebank College to hear Iain Gray set out his plans for the parliament ahead.
Cue ringing bells and flashing lights. We did what all normal citizens do when the alarm sounds. That is, stand around looking bemused, thoughtfully dipping a biscuit into a cup of tea.
What had happened? SNP sabotage? Had someone lit up a fly fag under the smoke alarm? Was it a false alarm? Alas, no. We were efficiently shepherded outside into the gentle but persistent Clydeside rain.
When the event got going again - after a few droll gags from the platform party - we were treated to a form of political alarm-sounding.
But the menace detected by Iain Gray's sensors was not Alex Salmond, the First Minister he hopes to replace.
Rather, it was David Cameron, the Prime Minister he posits as an external threat to Scotland.
His biggest applause line (from the supporters, that is, not the wicked m.) came when he declared that the Tories feared a Labour victory in Scotland.
His argument is that the Scottish Parliament can be used as a bulwark to buttress Scotland against "Tory cuts" - that devolution, carefully deployed, can counter the policies being driven by the UK Government.
His words, the very venue, reached out to what he perceives to be an anxiety deep in the Scottish psyche.
He offered images of the evisceration of Scotland under Margaret Thatcher. He glanced out the window to the derelict site of the former John Brown's shipyard.
It was all quite deliberately designed to depict the Tories as an external evil, to summon the malign wraith - only to offer Labour as the party of calm exorcism.
Politically, it is intended to replicate the success which Scottish Labour enjoyed at the UK election last year - in contradistinction to their decline elsewhere in the UK.
As to policies, the emphasis is upon economic renewal and job creation - a target of 250,000 new posts over a decade with an early emphasis on eradicating youth unemployment in the next parliament.
Paid for, says Labour, by public sector reform (including a single police force), by other savings such as in the NHS drugs bill and by a continuing drive for efficiencies: a "conservative" two per cent a year, according to Mr Gray.
Other policies include training for more teachers, an emphasis on early years education, a National Care Service - plus, as billed in advance, free university education and a two year council tax freeze.
The sums - which, of course, rivals contest - are primarily set out by Andy Kerr. The manifesto objectives themselves appear to be something of a personal programme for Iain Gray - including the stress on education from this former teacher.
Likewise, the justice programme seems derived from his own personal perspective - allied, Labour believes, to popular proclivities.
So they would impose an automatic six month jail sentence on those found guilty of carrying a knife - despite claims, including from some senior police officers, that this might tend to criminalise rather than deter; and claims from others that the prison system couldn't cope.
Mr Gray says there would be a deterrent - but that they have set aside funds to provide more prison places. Again, his approach is populist (he would say "in tune".) Chastened, frightened communites, he argues, want and need this.
Attack on independence
And what of the SNP? In keeping with the strategy outlined earlier, there was relatively little mention of them. They had failed on key promises, he alleged. (They, of course, contest that.)
And they were "distracted" by independence from addressing the real challenges facing Scotland.
Again, intriguing phrasing there. Distracted? It is a mile away from the previous Labour strategy which was to major with an attack on independence.
Now, they seek to depict the SNP as an irrelevance. Alex Salmond, I suspect, may have more than a word to say on that topic when the SNP launch their manifesto next week.