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Sketch: Scottish Labour gets itself into another fine mess

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Sketch: Scottish Labour gets itself into another fine mess

Faced with the sad truth that most voters do not know who leader Richard Leonard is, a faction within Scottish Labour is pushing to replace him with one of the much more famous figures in the party. One of the icons. Like James Kelly, or Jenny Marra. Maybe Daniel Johnson will do it, the Barack Obama of East Newington.

Yes, you have that right, it's Scottish Labour infighting again. Another grubby, self-serving, cack-handed coup attempt within the party. Though in fairness that’s hardly a surprise, because there seems to be a coup most days.

And perhaps this time it will work. Maybe another cynical bit of factionalism, six months out from an election that could very well spell the end of the party, is the one thing that will win the voters back. Maybe that's what the focus groups have been saying. People just don't trust a party that isn't composed of a dwindling number of people apparently solely intent on stabbing each other in the back. At least if it does spell the end of Scottish Labour they can get James Kelly to do the eulogy, given the style is his standard approach to speech.

So why is this happening? It sort of brings to mind that TV clip from the 2017 election night, when Stephen Kinnock is apparently trying to concede the result hours before the votes are counted and his partner, former Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, starts asking him “Why are you doing this now? Why? Why?”

Well, why indeed. You don't need to do this, guys. In fact watching as events unfold you really need to remind yourself that at least part of a politician's job is meant to be in seeming like a decent person.

And that really is the strangest part. Because, despite the amount of time they spend doing it, they aren't even very good at knifing each other. It's a party full of slapstick assassins, jamming ice picks into their own thighs and wondering where the blood is coming from.

Or maybe we have all just lost perspective. These are heady times, after all. So to recap, a man called Richard Leonard faces being ousted by a group of other people who apparently believe they are more able than him, though none of them have such nice hair. He only came into the job after Kezia Dugdale quit, following claims she had herself been betrayed by the UK party.

To recap, four of the party’s MSPs have called on Leonard to quit ahead of the election. They even quit their shadow positions, under the apparent belief people knew they were in them.

So yet again the infighting was on show for all to see. The only way it could have got more attention is if Neil Findlay had sent it out as a private email.

It's probably FMQs that did it for Leonard. Possibly the fact he keeps bringing up reserved issues, over and over again, with the determination of someone obstinately trying to win a boardgame while utterly refusing to learn the rules.

Which is not to say it hasn’t been endearing. Voters enjoy seeing a man who bobs up and down like a pigeon as he talks. Or at least one of them does, anyway.

But the really fun bit is that it doesn't look like he's going anywhere, which is really the true Labour move in this situation. Ask yourself, what would James Kelly do? Would James Kelly quit? James Kelly wouldn't even sit down when the presiding officer repeatedly told him to. He definitely wouldn't resign just because four people wrote a letter.

In fact, responding, Leonard apparently then threatened his enemies – sorry, comrades – with deselection. As he told the BBC: “If any party representative thinks an internal faction fight is more important than this agenda, then they will have to answer to party members and the voters whom we serve.”

It was wonderful stuff. The plot then thickened further, with reports that a source had denied Mark Griffin was ever in the shadow cabinet, despite the fact he’d just resigned from it. It's really a shame they used up that Stalin-crossed-with-Mr-Bean line on Gordon Brown, when you think about it. He made these guys look like Machiavelli.

So basically the plan is to oust Leonard – who, for all his anonymity, seems like a genuinely nice man – and replace him with someone who is likely to be no more effective, while also being seen as far more treacherous.

And maybe this time it will work. Maybe they should waffle something about federalism and how Keir Hardie was Scottish. The definition of insanity is meant to be doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Sadly that is also now basically the definition of Scottish Labour. Never change comrades, it’s the voters who are wrong.

Read the most recent article written by Liam Kirkaldy - Scottish Government cannot mitigate impact of Brexit, Kate Forbes warns

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