Poor Ed Miliband. The press weren’t exactly kind to him over the course of last week’s Labour conference, but it seems the party are now more-or-less behind him, which is something of an achievement after the skin-of-the-teeth victory over brother Dave last autumn.All he had to do to successfully cap a challenging week was to get to the end without – say, for example – falling over on a beach in front of cameras, or forgetting the name of the Scottish Labour leadership contest frontrunner.
Surely he was briefed before that interview? This was a BBC Scotland journalist asking the questions after all, so you’d would presume that he and his minders might have expected a question or two that pertained to the matter closest at hand in Scotland. How could they forget something so significant to the leadership of the party in it Scottish heartlands?
It’s been almost five months since Iain Gray announced that he would stand down to let someone else lead Labour north of the Border and challenge the SNP. The three candidates who have come forward each have fine credentials, not least Ken Macintosh, whose name Ed Miliband forgot, but who delivered one of Labour’s few significant success stories of the 2011 election in Eastwood.
But, as a multitude of talented and experienced former Labour MSPs will tell us, credentials are important but vision is key at the ballot box. The fact is, the Labour leadership contest has so far failed to engage the collective imagination in Scotland by throwing up radical suggestions for taking on the SNP and winning.
Just compare the Labour candidates’ standing in the press to that of the battle royale unfolding for the heart and soul of the Scottish Conservatives. Whatever the outcome of that race, at least a debate is unfolding that is boosting recognition of the figures leading it.
That said, the party has been making a concerted effort to identify how it can be more devolved in Scotland and this is no doubt useful, and welcome to many of the voters who once voted for it, but turned to the SNP in recent years.
Yet the point Mr Miliband so ineloquently made in a bout of temporary amnesia, is that, as leadership contenders go, Scottish Labour’s aspirants have done little to set themselves apart from one another and stand out in the collective consciousness of the political or media firmament.
At some point, someone needs to get their hands dirty, say something radical, ruffle feathers and state a strong case for why they should be noticed, not just within the party’s Scottish ranks, but more widely.
And with a little luck, Ed Miliband will remember their name too.