For someone who by rights should be shaking with exhaustion and crushed by the weight of expectation, Michael Shanks is remarkably chipper on his last weekend of campaigning.

The frontrunner in the Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election starts the Saturday before polling larking about in a bicycle helmet at the Clyde Cyle Park in Cambuslang.

There’s a crowd of parents to meet and the chair of the project bends his ear in a friendly way about not-quite funded plans to expand the brownfield site into a national facility.

On Friday, Mr Shanks was galvanising activists at a whoop-filled rally alongside Keir Stamer. Today there are no big names or razzmatazz, just kids wobbling on balance bikes, but the modern studies teacher seems more at home and even - whisper it - rather relaxed.

Not that he or his minders would ever admit it. Until 10pm on Thursday, the message remains the same: every vote is being pursued, nothing is taken for granted.

All the same, it would be a hell of an upset if Mr Shanks lost to the SNP this week.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf admits stay-at-home voters could see SNP lose by-election

After SNP MP Margaret Ferrier broke Covid lockdown rules, almost one in six local voters signed a recall petition to turf her out the Commons. Add financial, internal and police-related troubles for the SNP, and the backdrop could hardly be better for Labour. 

As if the pressure on Mr Shanks wasn’t enough, Sir Keir said an “historic win” would be a milestone on Labour’s road back to power nationally. 

“It's a chance for the Labour party to really show that we're back in Scotland so it's incredibly important,” Mr Shanks says. “We've not hidden from that fact.” 

How does he sleep at night? How does it feel knowing he could go down in history as the guy who dropped the ball? “Well, hopefully that's not how I’ll go down in history,” he laughs. 

“I'll be honest, if you do 25,000 steps a day and have all the conversations that I have, you sleep pretty well. We want to offer people an alternative. That’s what’s been getting us through the last six months. Yes, there's a pressure in that, but it's also a real responsibility and a real enjoyment as well.”

This isn’t the 35-year-old’s first rodeo. 

He stood for Glasgow City Council in 2012, for Holyrood in Glasgow Kelvin in 2016 and for Westminster in Glasgow North West in 2017, with varying degrees of failure. 

But those fights were “not even remotely” like this one, with its media buzz, shadow cabinet visits and micromanaged schedules. However it’s the lower key encounters he relishes.

“I've worked in the Third Sector and I run a charity. So coming to things like this every day has been amazing. Rutherglen & Hamilton West is full of potential. 

“It's got an extraordinary sense of community and being able to go to all these community groups and food banks and cafes and church organisations, it's been remarkable to see them all. I've really enjoyed that side of it.”

Aren’t you knackered? 

“I'm a fairly resilient person. Someone asked me early in the campaign, Why would you switch teaching for the bearpit of politics? I said, You've clearly never been a teacher.

“If you don't have resilience you shouldn't be in the game.”

Talking of resilience, if he does become an MP shortly, he’ll have to do it all again at the general election under different constituency boundaries.

He’s clearly been thinking about it, despite the protests that nothing’s in the bag.

“This is an opportunity to say before the general election that there's a change on the table and then next year turn that into a government across the whole United Kingdom. 

“The boundary changes are going to be interesting - losing Hamilton and gaining Bothwell and Uddingston. But it's a chance to go and speak to those communities as well. 

“Of course, you'd rather have slightly more than nine months in a job, or however long.”

His geniality doesn’t extend to the SNP, who have attacked Labour relentlessly. 

“This isn't a career move on my part. It's something I think I'd be good at. I want to fight for the community, for organisations like this.

“We've not once seen the SNP do canvassing. We're the ones hungry for this, because we want to do something for the people who live here. They've hardly shown up to the fight.”

He goes on: “I think the SNP have run a frankly bizarre campaign, continually attacking the Labour party. But we haven't been in government for 16 years here. 

“[SNP candidate] Katy Loudon... can't say what her opinion is on tax rises or council tax raises, on a congestion charge, on downgrading a neonatal unit. 

“I think in a by-election you can't really get away with that. People want an MP that's got an opinion and that they know what they stand for. 

“I wish her well but I don't think she deserves to win because her campaign has not set out anything positive about what they would do with this community.

“Our message has been a fresh start for Rutherglen & Hamilton West and that has come from people opening the doors and saying, We need a change, the SNP have lost their way and the Conservatives have absolutely lost their way, we need a change.

“They're ready for something different. I hope they'll vote for it.”