At the end of last month, I wrote this blog, A Simple Question, . It is in some way a companion piece to a blog, Numbers, that I wrote last November. But last November, under Richard Leonard, I was resigned to Labour coming third in May and my blog was predicated on that. I fear it was as a result of my conclusions then however that neither Monica nor Anas thought it appropriate to answer my more recent question. For they thought that my conclusion in November was my preferred answer now. But it wasn't.
For now we have Anas and I will be surprised if that doesn't give us a wee bump in the polls. And only a wee bump might get us back to second place.
And I will be surprised if the Salmond affair isn't now finally having some cut through with the general public. We didn't get an answer from the Lord Advocate on Thursday as to whether representations were made by a "third party" before their unprecedented decision to threaten the Parliament with prosecution for contempt of court. We will however get an answer to that when the Lord Advocate returns to give evidence to the committee on Monday. Or a refusal to answer, which of course would be an answer in itself. Mr Salmond's (and the Spectator's) lawyers have written to the committee to say that in informal discussions with the Crown prior to the hearing of the Spectator's case, the Crown advised that only one small part of Mr Salmond's evidence in the Spectator gave them cause for concern. That then was voluntarily removed before the same evidence was sent to the committee. If that is correct then, at some point on Tuesday the Crown, in insisting other parts of the evidence should be removed, changed their stance. If that changed as a result of an intervention by a proxy of the Scottish Government that would be a very serious matter indeed for the principle that the Crown should be politically independent.
And then on Wednesday we will hear from the First Minister herself. A lot of what was taken from Salmond on Wednesday was irrelevant to the central issue. But the lethal bit was the evidence elicited by Jackie Baillie. Salmond told the committee that when his aide, Geoff Aberdein, met with a very senior aide to Nicola Sturgeon, a political appointee, not a career civil servant, on 9th March 2018, Mr Aberdein was given the name of one of the female civil servants who had made a formal complaint against Mr Salmond. If that is true, it destroys the argument that there was no political involvement in/knowledge of the process which had ensnared Mr Salmond until 29th March. It raises two further questions. If this aide knew to tell Mr Aberdein, when did she know herself? And secondly, is it remotely credible that being in possession of this information and willing to share it with Mr Aberdein, in early March (at least), the aide nonetheless did not share it with Nicola Sturgeon, her boss? An honest answer to that second question on any view would constitute a very serious breach of the ministerial code.
Now, all I'm saying is that this will have some cut through but even "some" might suffice to deny the SNP, even with the Greens, an absolute majority in the post May 6th Parliament. There are clearly reasons they are so desperate to hold onto that date. So what happens then?
I explained, back in my November blog, the rules in a post election period. In summary, there must be a new (although it can be the incumbent) First Minister elected within 28 days of the election. Otherwise there is another election. And in a vote for First Minister it's a yes/no choice. So the Nats/Greens could not cling on to power unless another Party voted with them or abstained. (In 2007 the Tories and the Lib-Dems abstained).
Now, I get the difficulty of a "Grand Coalition" for many in the Labour Party but, if we were second, would Labour need a Grand Coalition? If we, hopefully with the Libs, put forward a a candidate for First Minister and vote against any other candidate, as the twenty eight days approached, the Tories would have to make a choice. Do they abstain on an SNP Candidate, leaving the Nats, having won the Holyrood vote, still in power? Do they just keep voting no until there is another election, or do they, through gritted teeth conclude that ultimately, their enemy's enemy is their friend. I know where my money would be. And, after that, the Nats would be stuck in five years opposition unless they were willing to "vote with the Tories" to bring down a Labour Government. And we know that doesn't have a happy provenance.
So don't rule out at all that Anas Sarwar, having today been elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party will, within three months, be the First Minister of Scotland.