The spin from inside New Labour is that the party leadership accepts that it will lose the forthcoming Westminster by-election in Glenrothes to the Scottish National Party (SNP). It would be a shocking indictment of New Labour to lose yet another rock solid Labour seat.
Some 300,000 Labour members and people who pay their union political fund are voting for a new leader and deputy leader in Scotland.
It’s not much of a choice. Iain Gray is favoured by Gordon Brown. His rivals are Alex Kerr, an enthusiast for the Private Finance Initiative, and the current deputy leader Cathy Jamieson. The left was unable to muster the six MSPs needed to nominate a candidate.
However, deputy leadership candidate Bill Butler has opposed both the Iraq war and Trident replacement and deserves support.
Gray has proposed allying with the Tories to take on the SNP-led Scottish government. This chimes with the consistent stance of Gordon Brown, who favours an alliance with the Tories and Liberals to defend the unity of the UK.
What is missing from the contest is any recognition that the SNP under Alex Salmond has presented itself as the champion of Old Labour’s traditional social policies, despite its support for free market economic measures.
New Labour is paralysed because the one option which might restore its fortunes, a shift leftwards, is deemed impossible by all sections of the party leadership.