They say if you want to know the fate of a ship keep an eye on the rats. They'll be the first to desert a sinking ship.
Well about a quarter of Labour's Scottish MPs have now decided that enough is enough and they are getting out.
- Rosemary McKenna Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (turning 69 in May announced retirement some time ago)
- Mohammed Sarwar Glasgow Central (only 57 first elected in 1997 announced he would step down in 2007)
- Gavin Strang Edinburgh East (also late sixties flip-flopped twice on retirement before settling on the option after 40 years as MP)
- Adam Ingram East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (turned 63 yesterday announced retirement last March)
- John Reid Airdrie and Shotts
- Jim Devine Livingston (forced to step down)
- Des Browne Kilmarnock and Loudoun (announced retirement in November)
- Anne Moffat East Lothian (Deselected in November by local party in hands of NEC)
- John McFall West Dumbartonshire (announced retirement at 65 last week)
- Nigel Griffiths Edinburgh South (heading into education job rather than defend his 405 vote majority)
So what does that mean about the good ship Labour and Captain Brown, it sounds like Titanic proportions as he Darling and Murphy play on as the happy band. There are a couple of Select Committee Chairs and quite a wealth of ministerial experience in some of those. Not to mention Griffiths one of Gordon's closest friends. But look at the speculation and actual names of some of those that are seeking to replace them.
Cathie Jamieson has already been selected to replace Browne, but there is speculation that former leader of the Labour MSPs Wendy Alexander is going to seek to stand in John McFall's seat and Sandra Boyack MSP for Edinburgh Central is being rumoured to be after Edinburgh South's selection. The latter two make interesting reading as under boundary changes their Scottish Parliament seats are not as safe 12 months after the Westminster election as they were in 2007. This could be seen as an attempt to take flight before they lose at the ballot or have to look for a safer Holyrood option.
So as well as having lost a quarter of his Scottish MPs voluntarily and most likely some more at the hands of electors, there could also be the case of three high profile female MSPs having sought a dual mandate either having to serve both for a year, call a Holyrood by-election or return to Holyrood defeated. There really is a shuffling of the decks going on which indicates that the bravado and confidence that they are giving to the electorate may only be a mask.
It must be worrying times in Scottish Labour so maybe it was no wonder that they rejoiced in getting a defection from a first term councillor even if there are allegations that all is not that good in his record thus far.