A revealing scene played out after Mishal Husain brought the BBC’s seven-way election debate to a close last Friday.

As is customary, the participants shook hands, relieved the combat was over for another night.

Labour’s Angela Rayner and Penny Mordaunt of the Conservatives, who had been going at each other like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, were sharing a joke, pals again. It’s the Westminister way.

Meanwhile, the more minor figures, a Plaid Cymru chap, your Green woman, the Lib Dem, were hovering awkwardly. From centre stage the SNP’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, strode forth, offering handshakes all round.

But when it came to Nigel Farage, the last person in the line-up, Flynn turned on his heel and walked away, leaving the Reform UK standing there like Johnny No Mates.

Perhaps Flynn relented when the cameras were off. I doubt it. The Tartan Army member is more likely to cheer on England than grip paws with Farage.

In social media land the 35-year-old Scot was attracting attention.

“Flynn absolutely romped that debate” wrote one X user. Another said: “I’m moving to Scotland and joining the SNP to just listen to Stephen Flynn all day.”

It was an echo of the adulation that had come Nicola Sturgeon’s way in general election debates gone by. The then First Minister was an able saleswoman for independence, largely because she hardly talked about it to non-believers, and if she made herself look good in the process, where was the harm? Flynn did the same last Friday and has seen his political share price rise as a result.

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He had already made a name for himself at PMQs, where the SNP, as the third largest party, had the spot after Keir Starmer. To lose that “perk” in a new parliament, as the polls predict, would be a blow to the SNP’s Westminster leader. Where once his predecessor, Ian Blackford, was a figure of fun to both Labour and the Conservatives, no one mocked Flynn to his face.

He caught the eye of the sketch writers, who variously described him as a skinhead or otherwise drew attention to his lack of locks. It is a style he shares with the party’s new leader, John Swinney. When photographed together they look like a Right Said Fred tribute act.

Pictures of Flynn with hair have become the equivalent of that Bullingdon photo of the young Boris, Dave and George - rarely seen and often the subject of debate. A couple of “with hair” pictures surfaced at the time he was rumoured to be challenging Blackford for the leadership of the SNP at Westminster. He admitted to the hair but denied the challenge, saying: “As much as I love seeing photos from the days when I was still clinging on to some hair, I can confirm I’ve no intention of standing.”

That was November 2022. By Christmas Blackford was out on his ear and Flynn was in. It was a nose bleedingly-fast rise to the top for someone who was only elected to the Commons in 2019, but then Flynn has always had the air of a man in a hurry.

After studying politics at Dundee University, he went straight into working for an MP. No hanging around in a civilian job for this guy.

The most formative experience of his life, one he referred to in last Friday’s debate, was suffering from avascular necrosis, a condition where the blood supply to the hip is lost, resulting in arthritis. From age 14 to 32 he was unable to walk unaided. The pain only ceased when he had a hip replacement in 2020, a year after becoming an MP (and a father; he and wife Lynn, a teacher, have two children).

Living with chronic pain can make or break a person. Flynn described the pain before the op as “hellish”, telling the Daily Record: “I’m quite a resilient person so I just powered through. But I think that knowledge, and that understanding of being a disabled teenager and a disabled man for that length of time, is quite a good grounding for what’s important in life. “

Being in a hurry can make a person bold, not always to their advantage. Flynn at times brings to mind that old Facebook motto about moving fast and breaking things. In debates and at PMQs he starts strong before sliding into press release speak. Last Friday, for example, a solid answer on defence ended with a cheesy plea for the public to do “our national service” and vote the Tories out.

In February this year Flynn’s fearlessness took on a ruthless edge in his row with the Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle. In an extraordinary break with convention by Hoyle, an SNP call for a ceasefire in Gaza was not put to a vote. Hoyle was accused of trying to spare Labour blushes; he said he was worried about the safety of MPs.

Flynn was incandescent. He told the Speaker in private that the SNP no longer had confidence in him, and then he told him straight to his face in the Commons chamber. Once again, Flynn had made a move at which many a longer-serving MP would have baulked, and it paid off.

Flynn’s favourite television show of all time is The Sopranos, that everyday story of New Jersey folk led by an individual with a robust style of management. For the benefit of any learned friends reading, there is of course absolutely no resemblance between Tony Soprano and Stephen Flynn (even if such an approach might come in handy in Scottish politics).

The SNP’s Westminster leader is, however, fond of another individual from the Garden State, telling Holyrood magazine that his dream dinner guest would be Bruce Springsteen. The boss likes The Boss. Flynn is also fond of Billy Joel, prefers dogs to cats and tea to coffee. He comes across well in interviews, being serious and knowledgeable but with a sense of humour.

Flynn is considered a safe bet to return as the MP for Aberdeen South. How happy he will be as the leader of a much reduced SNP at Westminster remains to be seen. The call to come back up the road in time for 2026 could grow stronger by the day. After all, politicians with Flynn’s ambition are born to run.