Ian Gray continues to come under heavy fire, with a dismal performance in the first televised leadership debate. The general perception of his position as probably the poorest Labour leader in living memory was thrust firmly into the public psyche during the first live televised debate. It could only be described, at best, as remaining unchanged through the Johnson Press stage managed affair.
And that he had finished last or close to last in that event was upheld by polling results taken on behalf of STV after the debate which had 87% of respondents stating Alex Salmond had won the debate, against only 5% for Ian Gray who trailed even the Tories. There was a second question which asked respondents if their perceptions of the leaders were better or worse after the event, again the news could only be described as dire for the labour leader with some 74% who had altered their opinions negatively towards him.
The Scotsman had a similar online poll, largely reflecting the same data, while the outcome of the debate was so dire for Labour and its leader that the BBC refused even to acknowledge an item of such national significance with so much as a mention.
These issues may be what led to yesterdays report of a severe grumblings in the Labour ranks with the following remarks attributed to Westminster MP’s, as they raised concerns over Iain Gray's leadership and questioned the direction of the party's election campaign strategy. The grumblings appear to be getting louder by the day following the exceedingly poor start that has seen Alex Salmond's team eliminate the Labour lead in the polls.
Multiple Labour MPs are reported to have [significant concerns] and be “very worried” about the direction of the party's campaign. Mr Gray's bland performance in the first televised leaders' debate this week coupled to yesterday's Scotsman poll that saw the SNP overtake Labour on the constituency vote have no doubt exacerbated this situation. Westminster’s’ Labour MPs are also understood to have been rather critical of his first live hustings, acknowledging he looked less accomplished than Alex Salmond.
"Iain Gray looked very poor in the TV debate," one MP went so far as to tell The Scotsman, while other comments included remarks like "He's coming over as angry and I'm not sure if that's the right thing. Salmond is coming over as reasonable, saying 'I'll work with anyone for the benefit of Scotland'. That's hard to tackle and Iain Gray doesn't seem to have approached it in the right way. He (Gray] is not a big hitter and whatever you think of Salmond, he is."
The seriousness of the situation as viewed by London is evidenced by comments in message boards of London based Laborites already being parachuted in, three reported as arriving in the Kilmarnock area alone today.
The message from London presently seems to be summed up by one MP’s reported comment: "I'm not sure if we have got the strategy right. We're struggling to get the message over." Meantime the polls, twitter [where Ian Gray trended for all the wrong reasons], comment boards and large sections of Facebook are being less than kind.
It might appear that this entire drop in satisfaction levels has been building for some time. A starting point could reasonably be highlighted as the most recent Holyrood Budget, during which we saw Mr. Gray’s Labour vote against everything they’d requested and been granted under the accusation of the party leader being led by “immature elements” within the Holyrood branch of the Labour Party. This largely tied in time wise with the surprise resignation of Wendy Alexander from the party, ostensibly to focus on more “family time” although rumors of other reasons have been rife.
Mr. Gray meanwhile dismisses the fact there might be any difficulty with the labour campaign, going so far as to remark "The story is absolute nonsense. This campaign is being fought in constituencies the length and breadth of Scotland, and Labour is out there fighting harder than anyone else”. An odd statement indeed unless Labour are shipping in activists from England as the Nationalists are acknowledged to have by far the largest membership and broadest activist base in present day Scotland.
Mr. Gray was further quoted yesterday stating "Our message is the message that Scotland needs to hear. At this moment, Scotland needs a First Minister who will be focused on the things which really matter - above all on jobs, growing the economy and opportunities for our young. And that is the message which is resonating with the voters." Apparently he’s correct, as by reading the wires and message boards the general voter is happy with the nationalist record here.