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Bold Baillie fails to strike blow against Salmond

THE Swiss ambassador was in the gallery for First Minister's Questions; it made a nice change from all that peace and neutrality.

NO LAUGHING MATTER: Jackie Baillie was ridiculed after claiming that the SNP stood shoulder-to-shoulder with David Cameron. Picture: Gordon Terris
NO LAUGHING MATTER: Jackie Baillie was ridiculed after claiming that the SNP stood shoulder-to-shoulder with David Cameron. Picture: Gordon Terris

Johann Lamont was away applying her best Politburo scowl to Tony Benn's funeral, leaving Jackie Baillie to defend Labour's corner, but the feuding never skipped a beat.

Ms Baillie's strategy was, as they say, bold.

No, scratch that. Not bold, barking. And doomed. And hopeless. And probably on fire as well.

It was - get this - to ask the FM to apologise.

Oh how we laughed.

She wanted him to admit he'd been wrong about Ed Miliband's plan to freeze energy bills.

Seriously, why not put in a demand for a pair of space unicorns while you're at it?

With no prospect of Alex Salmond complying, the proceedings turned enjoyably frivolous instead.

Ms Baillie accused the FM of "standing shoulder-to-shoulder with David Cameron".

The SNP backbenches exploded.

Ms Baillie, they recalled, is a director of the Better Together campaign.

Mr Salmond could scarcely believe his luck.

"When you're in a Better Together campaign, not just shoulder to shoulder, but hand-in-glove, umbilically linked to the Conservative Party, it's not the best idea to come along to this chamber and try and associate people with guilt by the Conservative Party," he crowed.

Ms Baillie never recovered.

By the end, she was asking feebly: "Is 'sorry' simply the First Minister's hardest word?"

Was it ever in doubt?

Returning to that Lab-Tory umbilical link, Mr Salmond gingerly held up a piece of paper.

"I have here the Argyll & Bute Conservative Party website," he announced, before quoting from a recent notice.

"The Cowal Conservative lunch club. Venue Argyll Hotel. Secretary Pamela Bellaby. Lunch, tea and coffee £10. Speaker - Jackie Baillie MSP."

As Ms Baillie did her best to shrug through the gale of laughter, some Nat MSPs looked on the brink of incontinence - the far brink.

"I've heard of shoulder to shoulder," the FM galloped on, "but I should tell the Labour Party, if you sup with the Tory party you should use a long spoon."

At least Ms Lamont can rest assured Labour standards were maintained.

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