In theory, the impressive debut months of Keir Starmer’s leadership of Labour should be of benefit to his Scottish comrades.

The Labour leader has proven a mature and effective opposition voice, most notably in his careful examination of government failings during PMQs.

Given his lawyerly background, it is not surprising that Sir Keir chooses his words and interventions carefully. He has broadly supported the UK Government’s response to the pandemic and where he has had cause to express doubt or dismay, he does so with purpose, and he offers to work with the Government on finding a solution. This gives his interventions that all-important air of credibility.

He knows that the first task of his party after its humiliation in the 2018 General Election is to rebuild trust with the electorate. He is playing the long game. The next General Election isn’t until 2024 (though in Brexit Britain, anything can happen) and he is biding his time. Slow and steady he goes, and though his approach may be too cautious and understated for some, it seems to be working.

Unfortunately for Scottish Labour, Starmer’s competence only serves to highlight what a mess it has become.

Contrast his agenda-setting intervention over UK Government failings on testing capacity with the utter shambles of a week Scottish Labour have had. After some internal jiggery-pokery, the plot to remove Richard Leonard failed. The motion of no confidence may have been withdrawn, but the problem: Richard Leonard as leader of a party that is on course for electoral oblivion, hasn’t gone away.

In a statement released after the plot against him failed, Richard Leonard said:

"I have listened to the concerns expressed about me, I will treat those with respect and humility, and I will fight with every ounce of my being to improve the fortunes of the party in the run up to next year’s election. We need unity – not division.’’

Richard Leonard is famously big on listening. In the wake of Scottish Labour’s humiliation in the 2019 General Election – where the party lost all but one of its Scottish seats – Leonard promised to "listen and rebuild’’. Current polling shows that a majority of the Scottish public still don’t know who Richard Leonard is, so you can judge for yourself how well that’s going.

Which begs the question: who exactly is Scottish Labour listening to?

The shameful spectacle we saw from certain Scottish Labour politicians this week goes some way to answering that question.

After launching a campaign that nobody wanted or asked for, key figures in the party, such as Jackie Baillie and George Foulkes, were successful in convincing the BBC to downgrade their coverage of the First Minister’s daily coronavirus briefings.

Instead of showing the briefings live on BBC1 and the BBC Scotland channel, as the broadcaster has done throughout the crisis, it will now decide which to show on those channels based on "editorial merit’’.

The decision has been roundly criticised and raises issues of accessibility for groups most vulnerable to coronavirus. There is no tangible benefit to the Scottish public from making information about current rules, restrictions and case numbers more difficult to access.

At points during the crisis, Scottish Labour politicians have grumbled that opposition leaders aren’t being given the same media prominence as the First Minister.

This lazy entitlement is characteristic of a party who took their dominance in Scottish politics for granted over a period of years and suffered the consequences.

Can you imagine Keir Starmer leading the UK party down the same path of whining self-interest?

If Boris Johnson troubled himself to update the English public and take questions from journalists about the coronavirus crisis in a regular televised briefing, does anybody seriously believe that Starmer would lead – or tolerate – a campaign for it to be taken off air?

It’s ironic, given Scottish Labour’s sensitivity about being branded a "branch office’’ that its autonomy is partly responsible for its continued demise.

The best thing that could happen to Scottish Labour right now would be for Keir Starmer to intervene and tell Scottish Labour politicians to toe the UK party line during the crisis. He would work to ensure that he became the person that voters thought of when they see Scottish Labour written on the ballot paper.

Of course, it wouldn’t be enough to save the party from the hammering it is heading for in 2021. But at least it would give Scottish Labour a temporary reprieve from being a laughing stock.

Its members would balk at the idea but it would ultimately be an act of mercy.

What greater kindness is there than to confiscate the guns of those that seem intent on shooting themselves in the foot?

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