Jackie Baillie has admitted that Labour failing to win disgraced MP Margaret Ferrier's Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency in a by-election would be a disaster for the party.

She told reporters that defeat here would lead to some serious “soul searching." 

The MSP was out in the constituency on Wednesday with Michael Shanks, the local activist selected to fight the seat in the event of a vote. 

The contest to pick a candidate has proved controversial with the local Constituency Labour Party writing to Sir Keir Starmer to question the integrity of the process. 

Ms Baillie denied there had been a “stitch-up”. 

“I can't sew,” she told The Herald, adding: “You wouldn't expect me as deputy leader to be commenting on internal matters, but let me say to you, it was a convincing win by Michael Shanks of the members in this area.

"They have come out in number to support him and that is to his credit, not to anybody else's.”

It is understood the modern studies teacher comfortably saw off his three rivals on the shortlist, winning around 60% of the vote. 

READ MORE: Labour pick activist who quit party to be by-election candidate

Ms Ferrier is currently appealing a possible 30-day suspension from the Commons for breaching Covid rules.

It's not clear on what grounds the disgraced politician is fighting the proposed sanction. 

She was ordered to carry out 270 hours of community service after pleading guilty to wilfully exposing people “to the risk of infection, illness and death”.

The Herald:

If her appeal fails and MPs back the punishment recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, it will trigger a recall petition. 

If 10% of her constituents sign that petition she will lose her seat and a by-election will need to be called. 

READ MORE: Disgraced former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier to appeal Commons suspension

Ms Baillie said there a was “huge positive vibe” in the constituency for Scottish Labour. 

“The activists are coming out. They are prepared to do the work that's required, not just in this area, but indeed from across Scotland.”

The deputy leader said the seat was “an important milestone” for both the UK and Scottish Labour. 

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“If we are going to win at UK level we need to be winning seats like Rutherglen and also for the party in Scotland, because if we cannot in the set of circumstances where you have a former SNP MP who broke the rules during Covid, who has embarrassed this constituency, if we can't take that then we will need to do some soul searching. 

“We are not complacent about this. We will fight for every single vote. But Rutherglen matters to the UK party and the Scottish party.”

She said this would be opportunity for the party "to demonstrate clearly the difference that Labour will make in this local community."

“So it's of huge significance to us. It's of huge significance to the SNP too, I have to say, and it really is going to be a contest between the two. 

“We are going to fight this hard. We're going to knock on every available door. We are not complacent about any of this, and we will treat it with the respect that it's due.”,

The SNP won the seat off Labour in 2015, before losing it back to them at the snap election in 2017. 

They regained it in 2019, with Ms Ferrier winning with a majority of 5,230. 

READ MORE: Labour to 'throw everything' at winning Rutherglen byelection

“We will be working really hard to win in this election. But on paper, the SNP have a substantial majority in this area. We need to work hard to reduce that majority and to take the seat for Labour and I'm very clear about that. 

“If we don't win, I will, of course, consider why that happened.” 

Mr Shanks said it was important people in the constituency had a “fresh start.” 

“People are crying out for trust in their representatives,” he added.