Sketch – The strange case of the Gray hard man

By Andy Mackie


Celebrity dancer Anne Widdecombe once said that there was ‘something of the night’ about Michael Howard. That being the case then many would say there is something of wet afternoon in Saltcoats about Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray.  With a Scottish election coming up that could be a serious problem for the Labour party’s hopes of forming the next administration.

As recently as last month a poll in the Scotsman found that fewer than 20% of the public could identify Gray’s picture. Set against the high profile of the SNP’s slick Eck – first minister Alex Salmond – Grays facelessness must be a major worry to party strategists. History tells us that, other than John Major, boring leaders do not win elections.

Gray is obviously trying to improve his image in the run up to May 5th. Unfortunately his performance in last weeks’ first minister’s questions suggests that his new image is of a faux hard man. Quizzing Eck over the NHS, always a fruitful subject for an opposition party, he started well enough pinning Eck down over waiting lists and operation cancellations. Things went awry when he offered to ‘take the first minister on any time’ over SNP and Labour’s respective records. Nothing wrong with a bit of confrontational politics it was just that Gray didn’t sound particularly convincing or threatening when he said it. Eck laughed, Nicola Sturgeon laughed and when Eck delivered his put down comparing Gray to Mr Angry even Conservative headteacher Annabel Goldie seemed to allow herself a small chuckle.

The Labour party of course still hold a sizeable lead in most polls, however, as we head into the nitty gritty of the election campaign Gray may yet find the road from Saltcoats to Bute House a rocky one.

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