Given the importance of Scotland to Labour’s fortunes and the arithmetic at Westminster, it is unsurprising that a more Stalinist approach to mundane things like open leadership elections might be in the wind. As the Telegraph reports here today, the Northern Politburo are making moves in anticipation of the demise, whether by his own hand or the Brutus blows of his Comrades, of erstwhile First Minister Jack MacConnell and his replacement by acclamation only with Wendy Alexander, who if anything (and one knows how hard this is to be believed) is more linguistically challenged than the Tub O’Lard.

Scottish Labour has been through a number of leaders since Donald Dewar took the High Road back to Edinburgh and Ms. Alexander will make it four since 1999, as many as the Tories have had nationally in the same period, though any diminution of Labour jokes at Westminster on the latter’s enthusiasm for regime change is unlikely.

What is interesting about this exercise is that anyone else who has a yen to run for the post is being assiduously dissuaded from so doing. At least at Westminster an open process of nomination if not election took place to carry Macavity to his throne. In Edinburgh it looks as though it is half-nelsons all round as Andy Kerr is leant upon to refuse the honour of standing against Comrade Alexander.

Given the importance of Scotland to Macavity, enhanced as that is by the raising of the Scottish Stakes since the SNP triumph of May, not a mouse could move in Scotland without the say-so of Macavity the Cat, so we may take it that the leaning on is being done by Macavity’s Catspaws, carefully ensuring, of course, that Macavity is himself absent at all times and that no trace of his clawprints may be found at the scene of the crime. And the moral is that Macavity does not do elections but prefers smooth transitions dressed up to look like there has been a contest.

The SNP are, by all accounts, perfectly happy with this arrangement, reckoning that Comrade Alexander will prove to be no obstacle to the salami-slicing activities of the smiling and personable Mr. Salmond. In addition there will be no contest in the competition to be more presentable to the rest of the UK: Mr. Salmond, whatever one may think of his nation-wrecking tendencies, is a smart operator in front of the cameras and is both presentable and personable. A dourish Scots Lady Comrade with an impenetrable accent will hardly make for Scottish Labour’s case being understood by those expected to pay for so much of Scotland’s electoral bribery system (AKA The Barnett Formula). In addition as the largest Unionist party it is important that that message is heard by English voters disenchanted with the separatist fantasies of the SNP. Comrade Alexander may ensure that that message is lost in the mangle.

There is also a matter of perception. Watching the First Minister’s questions or, indeed, any debate at Holyrood, is, with some honourable exceptions, an excruciatingly embarrassing and numbingly second-rate experience, proof, if ever it was needed, that Scotland’s finest still see Westminster as the best setting for their ambitions of power, something which speaks volumes for the attractions of the village hall play as against Westminster’s Grand Opera.

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