There are two types of objections that political parties tend to raise against their opposition.

The first is delightful objection. This takes the form of the fake outrage, the calls for suspensions, the stormy press releases when you know your political enemies have stuffed up and you can solemnly delight in their dismay. We have seen a lot of this this week. It won’t have been enjoyable for Eilidh Whiteford to have been threatened with ‘getting a doing’, if that is even what transpired, but there is surely no doubt that central SNP will have been secretly pleased at the opportunity to publicly bash a senior MP over the head with the story. Going the other way, Labour have been busy firing out emails claiming how insulted they have been by the conduct of SNP activists (who are suddenly more senior than they’d otherwise have been if they hadn’t let a comment or two get out of hand). Gail Lythgoe and David Linden will hopefully be reminding themselves that today’s newspapers are tomorrow’s fish supper wrappers, as a wise person once said.

It’s all puff though of course, and it’s the kind of nonsense that politicos delight in even while it pushes the public further away.

The second type of objection that members of political parties tend to raise is the genuinely angry rebuttal. The hairs stand on edge, the teeth grind and the passion spills over into real rhetoric, real emotion around the whys and wherefores of where an opponent has gone wrong. The reason for this energy is typically due to the supposed wrongdoer actually having hit a nerve and that is almost always due to there being a big old grain of truth to their argument.

No-one holds more examples of eliciting this kind of reaction in Scottish Politics than Tom Harris. His blogs, his Twitter feed and even some mainstream news stories show this.

For that reason, and for several others, Tom is my suggestion for who Labour should vote for when they are deciding who to select as their next leader.

The other reasons include the following:

– In my humble opinion, Tom Harris is intellectually superior to his opponents and West Wing episodes alone shows how important such a factor is when it comes to political leadership. That’s not to disparage his opponents or MSPs in general, and it’s not Westminster-inspired snobbery above Holyrood. It’s just a straight-up compliment that it’s clear from Tom’s online presence and his book (well worth a read) that he has a big old brain in his head and he is not afraid to use it
– Tom has Cabinet experience from his time serving in Tony Blair’s top team. That blooding in of how to run an office, how to handle the media, how to work with enemies (within and without your party) must surely be a massive boost to anyone who is next in line to juggle all the different complicated tasks facing the next leader of Labour in Scotland. The inbox includes managing Labour in Scotland’s relationship with Westminster/Ed Miliband, choosing and sticking to a strategic position on the independence referendum, maintaining and building on Labour’s base in next year’s Council elections, somehow nobbling Salmond’s deserved position as the king of all that he surveys and, last but not least, reasserting what it is that Labour in Scotland is actually for (as opposed to what it is against, which seems to be lots of things!)
– Tom is steadfastly opposed to Devo Max and rightly so. This is an issue that draws that genuine anger from Nationalists because they know deep down it is the best play for Labour. The argument that further powers being passed to Holyrood should be a slow and refining process is a convincing one (and one that I have to thank Aidan for making me aware of via an earlier post). The other potential leaders look set to meekly adopt Devo Max as an option but the strategy is ill thought-through. A No result from a straight Yes-No would be a body blow for the SNP that would leave them reeling during a Salmond-less devolution defeat in 2016 and a long way beyond. Yes, there is talent in Team SNP but how can you hold the Nats together as a happy group when you know independence is not an option for another generation? Tom gets that, and could deliver it.
– Also, thinking practically, Tom Harris could in time quite easily be parachuted into Holyrood through a swap deal with a sitting MSP and it’s safe to say that the more talent that Labour can get into Holyrood the better, given that is where Scotland is looking to for political leadership.

But it is Tom’s ability to draw genuine ire from his opponents that sets him apart. A political leader that doesn’t pull his punches and commands the support of his team is a fearsome combination. Most leaders have the latter but not the former whereas Tom has things the other way around. He would say the unsayable and think the unthinkable in order to stop the SNP in its tracks and, given the softly-softly approach isn’t working so well, perhaps taking someone out of left field isn’t such a bad idea (one of the few occasions you’ll see ‘Tom’ and ‘left’ in the same sentence).

The biggest risk to Labour, a risk that we saw with Gordon Brown and Iain Gray and we are probably seeing right now with Ed Miliband, is that they may end up choosing a leader that they know deep down can’t win the next election but the party is too collectively paralysed by inertia, by ennui, to do anything about it. It’s over four long years until the next Scottish Parliament election and I suspect two of the three Labour candidates would be effectively lame ducks throughout FMQs, throughout budget debates and throughout the independence referendum, right up to Holyrood 2016.

For Labour, there’s no smoke without fire and since Ken Macintosh and Johann Lamont fail to generate light let alone any heat around their campaign, Tom Harris, love him or loathe him, is the only leadership candidate that can put some flames back into Labour’s belly.

Labour needs to shed off its deep-seated risk-averse nature and back Tom 4 Scotland’s campaign.

So, any objections?