FMQs: Ricardini's ordeal by GERS
It’s finally here. They day we’ve all been waiting for. GERS day (insert dramatic music here). Whoever the wee wumman BBC Scotland papped out on the telly to do the intro spiel was, she was absolutely salivating about it. And then, in the let-down of the century, Ruthy just asked the same question she did last week. She didn’t even mention her beloved GERS. Come on Ruth, we know you don’t have to actually try anymore (being offered a sexy cloak, 350 quid a day and a permanent seat in the greatest stain on our democracy can do that to you) but come on. The Mail needs their champion. The 45% need their hero. I need a laugh.
But naw. Ruth seemed a bit feart today so guess who stepped up to the mark? Can you work out which brave MSP decided they would provide my entertainment for the afternoon? No seriously guess. You’ll have no idea. Literally none. No it’s not him. Nah, not her either. No it’s not Willie Rennie – someone should check up on him though, he’s probably lost in a museum somewhere. You can’t work it out? He is the hero of the union, the champion of the working man and the one person left in the country with enough brasso in his cabinet to try and go toe to toe with Nicola Sturgeon on her specialist subject. Step forward Richy Lenham… No that’s not right; Rickard Lino?... Reynholm Liver?... Richard Leonard! That’s it. Probably…
That guy who is currently being measured up for Jackie Baillie’s dagger. Don’t worry about remembering his name, he won’t be around for long. What we do know is that he reckoned he could take down the First Minister with GERS. He began by asking the First Minster to join him in calling for the UK government to extend the job retention scheme. What followed was ten minutes of Reinhardt Lekenbekker being ragdolled around the chamber. “I don’t know where Richard Leonard has been for the last few weeks” she replied, pointing out that she’s been asking for this every day for weeks.
“Use your imagination” she said, “Imagine Scotland was independent right now, he wouldn’t have to be asking me to plead with a UK government to borrow more money to extend a job retention scheme. We could do it ourselves here in Scotland like other independent countries the world over!” A few jibes about Scottish Labour’s dwindling support later and after pointing out that half of his supporters back independence anyway, Redwood Linneker got the chance to hit back at the First Minister. I was on the edge of my seat, what zinger did he have up his sleeve? What stunning retort was he about to whip out and use to show the First Minister that he wasn’t just a child in a suit?
“Well the First Minister will need to answer the question about how to make up the £15b deficit and where she is going to find the £100b it will take to set up the new currency she wants!”. He smugly pointed out. OK, not bad but not great either. Now we at least know he can read. Although no one is really sure where the £100b figure came from. Next he demanded the Scottish government extend the policy of banning evictions until next year’s Holyrood election, determined to win the upper hand.
The FM was no doubt licking her lips as he made this obvious blunder: “Again, Richard Leonard really needs to keep up with announcements as they are made by this Government. I don’t have the luxury of going at his pace on these things”. She said. Meanwhile the labour leader just sat in his chair looking sorry for himself, no doubt dreaming of an alternate reality where Scottish labour might ever stand a chance of holding any sway at Holyrood ever again. “If we were independent” she continued – seizing the opportunity to explain to him how a government works - “we wouldn’t have to be going cap in hand to the UK government pleading with them to use their powers”. I’m sure Leonard though it was over, he certainly hoped it was over. Alas it was not to be. Nicola Sturgeon decided to hammer the point home to the soon-to-be-former Scottish Labour leader.
“Can I say to Richard Leonard… talking about deficits at a time when the UK deficit next year is projected next year to be almost £400b and at a time when the UK debt has just topped £2 trillion is not the strongest territory for the tories to be on but it seems like politically suicidal territory for Labour to be on”. As our favourite scouse MSP slowly rose from his seat we all waited to see his next response (while Jackie sharpened her knife). He’d handled the last one reasonably well but could he go another round with the First Minster?
“Well… well… Scottish deficit is 9% of GDP while UK deficit is 3% of GDP” he bleated, afraid to look up from his desk. Like I said: soon to be former Scottish Labour leader. The 3rd and final round of this sparring match had arrived and Leonard was on form. Specifically a P45. His parting shot was to insist that the First Minister speed up the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment though he conveniently failed to suggest how. It’s at this point Scottish Labour’s biggest problem with being in opposition in Holyrood was brought up.
Nicola Sturgeon played that final card and asked him why he found it so egregious that it was taking a short period of time to set up a policy described by poverty campaigners as “game changing” while his own party in Wales were doing nothing of the sort? As he tried to hide his tears the First Minister went in for the killing blow: “If Richard Leonard really thought about what the true drivers of child poverty in this country are, he would stop being Boris Johnson’s cheerleader”. In one final jab at the now thoroughly humiliated Scottish Labour leader, she suggested that the sooner he “stops defending continued tory governments taking decisions about Scotland, the better for all of us and probably the better for his own party”. And with that it was over, Ricardini ducked down in his seat relieved that his ordeal was over for another week.