Is this the next leader of Scottish Labour?

Is this the next leader of Scottish Labour?

    Henry G Manson says the 11/4 on Cathy is a good value bet

Cathy Jamieson is the acting Scottish Labour Leader following the resignation of Wendy Alexander. She was the party’s Deputy Leader before this contest and has previously been Minster for Justice and for Children. As the election race progresses her rivals for the top post, Iain Gray and Andy Kerr, risk being outshone by this feisty woman with a canny eye for a headline .

The nominations from the constituent parts of the party suggest Gray is currently ahead (, but Jamieson is snapping at his heels and should be vying for favouritism. Kerr started the betting as the early favourite but has steadily drifted out since then. Just like Peter Hain in last year’s Deputy Leadership, I fear he is becoming politically outflanked by more organised politicians with much more motivated support. I now think he’ll get the least number of first preferences of the three and will fall at the first hurdle. This turns the contest on its head. How his supporters will split their second preferences across the college is anyone’s guess.

Let’s look at the numbers so far. Gray has stacked up an impressive number of parliamentary nominations (27) to Jamieson’s (17) and Kerr’s (13). But this is only one third of the contest and I think he’s a touch too short a price as a result. This is a similar electoral college to last year’s Deputy contest with a third weighting of the votes of MSPs/MPs, party members and affiliated trade union levy-payers. If Jamieson can finish second in the parliamentary section of the college, she could romp away with a huge vote in the affiliates section and then beat Gray well in the members’ section too.

Iain Gray has moved to the odds on favourite in the last fortnight since he has bagged big trade union endorsements from the GMB and Unite. The Unite decision has all the hallmarks of a Charlie Whelan intervention from London to support Gordon Brown’s favoured candidate. On the surface this puts him in a strong position. However somewhat crucially I have been informed that unlike other contests these two unions have no plans to spend significant sums in promoting Gray to their members. This will substantially limit the impact their backing could have had and I think the market has seriously over-reacted to this endorsement.

Where the union executive decisions took place within Scotland, such as with the powerful union Unison, they have gone for Jamieson whose politics are closest to their rank and file. That support on the ground will be priceless. As a Labour and Cooperative MSP she can also expect to receive the support of a lot of co-operators in the ‘affiliate section’, many of whom will be able to vote again for her the party members’ section at a higher rate than trade unionists typically do.

    The relatively low membership of the Scottish CLPs will mean that those activists that do vote will hold considerably more sway within the voting college than in previous national contests.

There are some interesting battles. Gray got no Glasgow nominations (approx. 2000 members), but netted the nominations of all Edinburgh CLPs (1400). North Ayrshire and Arran have nominated Kerr (1200 members) but their MP, Katy Clark, is a big backer of Jamieson’s. My gut reaction is that the early CLP nominations aren’t a brilliant guide of the wider membership and tend to be determined by very small numbers during their executive meetings. Goodness knows how many within Orkney CLP took part in their meeting with a total membership of less than 30.

Instead it is likely to be the campaign that can motivate its supportive members that tips the result. What has surprised me a little is that as the campaign has developed Jamieson has been by far the best candidate at putting forward substantial eye-catching policy ideas to do this. She is supporting a not-for-profit rail franchise, expansion of student bursaries, measures against fuel poverty and reform of council tax. Gray and Kerr each have their pet policies (a literacy specialist for every school or a cabinet post for housing) but they’re meagre offerings to win back support for Labour and will frankly not give Salmond any sleepless nights. I think many members could conclude the same when contemplating filling in their ballot papers. Jamieson may also benefit from the disproportionate number of transfers women in internal Labour contests appear to receive.

At the very start of the contest I thought this was Andy Kerr’s to lose, but this is quickly turning into a bit of a Left v Right shoot-out. Iain Gray may have the backing of Gordon Brown’s machine, but Cathy Jamieson has the experience, credentials and the campaign to pip him in the manner of Harman versus Johnson. On current form Jamieson is overpriced to be elected next Scottish Labour leader on September 13th and is my value pick.

The latest odds with Ladbrokes are: Gray 2/3, Jamieson 11/4, Kerr 3/1.

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