BRAVE" was the instant verdict on Johann Lamont's decision to challenge the SNP on popular Government giveaways including free prescriptions for all, free university tuition and the council tax freeze.
It wasn't meant in a good way. The Scottish Labour leader has committed electoral suicide, the theory goes, by questioning the affordability and fairness of Alex Salmond's "freebies".
More of that later. First, though, the method behind what the Nationalists (and others) believe was a moment of madness. Ms Lamont and her inner circle knew they would provoke a firestorm of criticism this week but their eyes are on the 2016 election by which time, they calculate, John Swinney will no longer be able to promise another council tax freeze and offer generous universal entitlements with any credibility given the tightening squeeze on Government finances.
In the back of their minds is Gordon Brown's disastrous attempt to frame the 2010 General Election as a battle between Labour investment versus Tory cuts. For most voters, painfully aware the country was in deep trouble after the banking crash, bailouts and recession, that was literally incredible. There could be no real investment and people knew it. But Mr Brown and Ed Balls pressed on, bulldozing aside the more realistic pitch preferred by Alistair Darling and Peter Mandelson, and led Labour to the worst election defeat for 70 years.
Labour believes Mr Swinney will be putting himself in Gordon Brown's shoes in four years' time if he fails to face up to Scotland's greatly reduced circumstances and tries to sell a manifesto of milk and honey. He will have to do a U-turn on to Labour's ground or lose the trust of voters.
Time will tell about that. In the meantime it's also important from Labour's point of view to challenge Mr Salmond's flagship policies well in advance of the independence referendum.
If Ms Lamont drifts towards 2014 accepting that the SNP Government are broadly on the right lines, she tacitly accepts Mr Salmond's narrative – that Scotland is doing well, better than the rest of the UK, but how much better might we do if only we had the powers of independence? On top of that, she would ensure the constitution was the only subject of political debate for the next two years, giving independence a heightened importance Labour does not believe it deserves.
So that's the thinking and all very joined up it looks. But what do grassroots Labour activists make of it all?
Contrary to the SNP spin, comment on Labour websites and Facebook pages has been largely supportive. Frustration at the council tax freeze, especially, has come to the fore and there are many who share Ms Lamont's view that is unfair to give consultant doctors free prescriptions when the NHS is cutting nurses.
There is a sting in the tail, however, and it is summed up most succinctly in the very first comment appended to the full text of her speech on the Labour Hame website. It says simply: "Good luck!"
A thoughtful and loyal Labour stalwart I spoke to yesterday described Ms Lamont's gambit thus: "It's morally right but tactically disastrous. I don't think it's sellable. It means we'll enter the next election miles ahead in the polls but then, in the privacy of the polling booth, people will vote Nat." The scary thing is, he was pretty enthusiastic. The danger here is that Labour supporters are warming up for the kind of self-righteous wallow they really rather enjoy in opposition.
Of course, selling is the key. Labour's course is now set and, if the party is to avoid another term in opposition, Ms Lamont must persuade voters that Scotland can and must reorder its spending priorities in a fairer way. If she fails to do so it won't matter if John Swinney looks like Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling or anyone else for that matter.
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