When nominations closed for Scottish Labour leader and deputy leader last Friday, two candidates most typifying the politics which were rejected at the general election were standing.
Ken Macintosh had been nominated for leader by seven MSPs (just enough to get onto the ballot paper) while Gordon Matheson had been nominated for deputy leader by two MSPs and 108 councillors.
When he stood for party leader in 2011, former leader Jim Murphy was one of his supporters. In 2011 Macintosh won the party members’ section of the electoral college, but lost in the trade union and elected representatives section. This time he is likely to lose in all three sections: he has been widely criticised for triggering a leadership contest by deciding to stand.
Macintosh is standing against Kezia Dugdale, the deputy leader under Murphy. Dugdale is not left-wing. On the other hand, she is not Ken Macintosh.
Three names have secured the number of nominations needed to stand for deputy leader: MSPs Richard Baker and Alex Rowley, and Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson.
In last year’s leader and deputy leader contest Baker backed Murphy while Rowley backed Neil Findlay.
Matheson combines the politics of Murphy (insofar as he has any politics at all) with the charisma of a second-hand doormat.
Since becoming council leader in 2010 Matheson’s only role in life has been to implement one cut in council spending after another, accompanied by a nasal whinge that Glasgow is getting more than its fair share of cuts imposed by SNP-controlled Holyrood.
“Defiance” is not a word to be found in his vocabulary. Matheson currently presides over the longest running strike in Britain – homelessness workers on strike for 13 weeks in a dispute about regrading. Matheson has refused to intervene, on the grounds that decision-making powers lie with departmental managers, not with him. He is after all, only the leader of the Council!
On a more positive note, opposition to Matheson, however late in the day, is beginning to take shape within Glasgow Labour Group.
“Whatever the question, the answer isn’t Gordon Matheson,” according to one Labour councillor, while another has claimed: “Even within the council a lot of those backing him are doing so hoping to see the back of him.”
But a more positive way of seeing the back of him would be to vote him out as Labour Group leader, not dump him on the Scottish Labour Party as deputy leader.