Wendy Alexander appeared on the Scottish Politics Show yesterday, and gosh was it painful. She seems to have been left dazed and confused by the past week or so, and is trying desperately to portray herself, and Labour, as the "winners" of the happenings of the last week. Listening to her mumble and stutter it reminded me of Michael Howard's famous "Did you threaten to overrule" interview in that she simply couldn't answer the question put to her.
Clearly Wendy had prepared a stock answer to the expected question on the referendum (something to do with "exposing the SNP's hollowness" and "Gordon Brown has endorsed my right to choose tactics") and stuck by them, even when they didn't answer the questions asked!
You can see the interview here. Thankfully Ordovicius has provided a transcript of the interview, and it deserves to be quoted here...
Glenn Campbell: Factual question first of all: Who is the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland?
Wendy Alexander MSP: [sighs] Gordon Brown is the leader of the Labour Party and I am leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, and I think that goes to the heart of this issue, because...
Glenn Campbell: He's the leader in Scotland as well as elsewhere in the country..
Wendy Alexander MSP: Yes.
Glenn Campbell: In those circumstances then, when he's told the Telegraph newspaper this morning that he was "not persuaded" of the case of a referendum, was he speaking for the Scottish Labour Party?
Wendy Alexander MSP: No and he wouldn't seek to do so. What he was saying is laying out his position on the referendum. Where Gordon and I are at one is we want to expose the hollowness of the SNP and I have the First Minister's -Prime Minister's support- in pursuing whatever tactics are right in the Scottish Parliament. I mean this goes to the heart of the devolution settlement...
Glenn Campbell: But this is fascinating, you're saying that the Prime Minister who is as you've acknowledged the leader of the Labour Party everywhere, that his position is not the same as the position of the Scottish Labour Party.
Wendy Alexander MSP: No, what the Prime Minister said to me this week was that he supported my right to pursue whatever tactics we need to pursue in the Scottish Parliament to expose the hollowness of the SNP's position, and what we've learned this week is that the SNP are unwilling to let Scotland speak...
Glenn Campbell: We'll come onto that in a moment. Is this your universal declaration of the independence for the Labour Party at Holyrood?
Wendy Alexander MSP: No, far from it. What I've been about is so we can say that the SNP have been in power for a year, it's quite clear that their agenda is to fray the relationship with the rest of the UK, they want to parade around Scotland claiming there's support for independence, manifestly there's not...
Glenn Campbell: Are you going to toe the London-Labour Party line?
Wendy Alexander MSP: No what it's..it's not about towing a line it's about tactics in the Scottish Parliament to harry and expose the dishonesty of the SNP is one for Labour in the Scottish Parliament, and I have the support of the Labour Party in doing that.
Glenn Campbell: Even if that means gambling with the constitutional future of Scotland?
Wendy Alexander MSP: I don't think it's gambling with the constitutional future of Scotland to say we trust the people. I mean a year ago Labour in Scotland lost an election and I said we would listen. We've listened to people in Scotland and I think two things they want is that we look again at devolution, and through the Calman Commission which I proposed we're doing that, and the second thing is that Scotland does want to have its say and I think in a moment you'll have the Tories on...they have to explain why they think Scotland shouldn't have a say in the matter, and the SNP have to tell us why they don't believe Scotland should have a chance to speak before the next general election.
Glenn Campbell: Okay, well can you help us with a few things: If the Prime Minister is not persuaded of the case for an independence referendum why did you tell Newsnight Scotland on Tuesday that he had endorsed your call?
Wendy Alexander MSP: I said that he had endorsed my right to pursue whatever tactics were right in the Scottish Parliament to expose the SNP, including my right to call on them.
Glenn Campbell: What you were asked was, did the Prime Minister endorse your call for a referendum and you answered 'Yes'.
Wendy Alexander MSP: The Prime Minister has endorsed my right as the leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament to do whatever we think it takes to expose the hollowness of the SNP.
Glenn Campbell: But that's not what you said.
Wendy Alexander MSP: Well let me make this clear. On Wednesday the SNP refused our challenge, they confirmed it again on Thursday...
Glenn Campbell: But..you said you had spoken to the Prime Minister earlier that evening, and when asked directly if he endorsed your call for a referendum, you said 'Yes'. That's not true.
Wendy Alexander MSP: He has endorsed the right of Labour in the Scottish Parliament to lead on how we expose the SNP in the Scottish Parliament.
Glenn Campbell: But he has not endorsed your call for an early referendum.Wendy Alexander MSP: He's endorsed the right of Labour in Scotland...Glenn Campbell: Has he endorsed your call for a referendum?
Wendy Alexander MSP: Well I mean understandably I am not -and this is important- I am not calling on the Prime Minister in Westminster to pursue a referendum. I think people would think that was a very odd thing to happen in Westminster. This is about whether in Scotland...
Glenn Campbell: Isn't Westminster the only parliament that can call a referendum that would be binding?
Wendy Alexander MSP: Well, the SNP have put forward a proposal to call for a referendum in Scotland, we've said that there's no blank cheque but we will look at that issue, and they've declined, declined the chance to let Scotland speak...
Glenn Campbell: But obviously Gordon Brown has declined the opportunity to back your call for an early referendum on independence. Isn't the truth in all of this that what you did was try to bounce him into support by broadcasting his support on Newsnight on Tuesday?
Wendy Alexander MSP: No, I think what yo see is the press having a lot of fun this week. The big issue...I mean look at the press today, the Prime Minister is clear in his support for me, as people know we're great friends, we go back a long way, the issue is whether the tactics for pursuing the SNP in Scotland is the arena where Labour in Scotland lead in the Scottish Parliament, we have done so this week, goodness me, you spent years telling us that we should take the initiative. We take the initiative, put the SNP behind the eight ball, and the SNP's bluff was called. They are as yellow as the colour yellow that supports their party.
Glenn Campbell: Do you accept though that the SNP's referendum is now the only chance of a public vote on Scotland's constitutional future?
Wendy Alexander MSP: No, well self-evidently it's not. I mean the Tories and the Liberals have to explain to people why they believe that Scots have no right to speak on this issue. What happened this week and what history will record is that Labour was saying 'We do think'. This issue's been around for thirty years, the SNP are lying when they say a majority of people in Scotland supports independence...
Glenn Campbell: But this position you've already clarified is not Labour's position. This is Wendy Alexander's position. It may be the position of the Labour group at Holyrood but it is not the Labour Party's position, it's not the Prime Minister's position, it's not the position of the UK cabinet, including your own brother. It's your position, you tried to bounce them, and it didn't work.
Wendy Alexander MSP: No. The decision as to whether the referendum has support in the Scottish Parliament is a matter for the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament. Part of devolution is to say we will harry the SNP to bring forward a bill to let Scotland choose, and the SNP are not letting us do so.
Glenn Campbell: Well they say that they'll bring forward their bill on January 2010, and they say that they'd like to hold the referendum in the autumn of 2010 after the last possible date for the UK general election. In those circumstances will you back their bill?
Wendy Alexander MSP: What we've said is that we do want Scotland to choose, we'll scrutinise their bill, I've been saying that all week, what is deeply dishonest...
Glenn Campbell: Will you back their bill though?
Wendy Alexander MSP: Well there's no blank cheques here. We want to see the bill, we want to see the question, but I...
Glenn Campbell: But instinctively you're in favour of a referendum now?
Wendy Alexander MSP: I have called the SNP's bluff. They will not let Scotland speak.
Glenn Campbell: They're sticking to their manifesto commitment!
Wendy Alexander MSP: No, the reason for this is they want to fray the relationship with the rest of the UK for the whole of the foreseeable future...
Glenn Campbell: Now I understand something of the politics of independence, what I don't understand yet in this interview: whether or not you are going to lead Labour MSPs to support an independence referendum in 2010?
Wendy Alexander MSP: We have said that the people of Scotland should be allowed to speak and we will not vote down the opportunity for Scotland to speak, but we will want to harry them on things like what the question is, what the process is, we think it is right after thirty years that Scotland be given the chance to speak, and I just want to say...
Glenn Campbell: But this is really important, because you're now saying...I'd like you to clarify, are you saying here right now that you are going to back the SNP's independence referendum -with a couple of caveats- and theefore there shall be a referendum before the next Holyrood elections?
Wendy Alexander MSP: Well we have said this week that we believe that the voice of Scotland should be heard and the SNP are running scared, and they have got to stop claiming as Nicola Sturgeon claimed this week that there is majority support for independence. The truth is that they are running scared and they are trying to wait for a time that is politically oportune to them and they have also made clear this week, most importantly, that they are willing to put David Cameron into number 10...
It hurts just to read it doesn't it!