Yesterday's Politics Show leaders' debate shed considerably more heat than light, but all the same there were a few extremely telling moments, none more so than when Isabel Fraser asked Tavish Scott why he hadn't distanced himself from Nick Clegg by conceding that his UK party leader had made a massive mistake and let people down. This was the rather extraordinary reply -
"Because I think it would have looked like panic..."
That's a strikingly honest answer, but I'm not sure it's one that's going to be terribly attractive to voters. He's essentially openly admitting that what he says about the actions of the Westminster coalition will not be based on principle or even on loyalty, but simply on a crude calculation of 'what would look bad'. Well, if that's the sole test, perhaps he'd like to know for future reference that his indignant cries of "this is so unfair!" when he was put on the spot for politicking over alcohol pricing didn't come across at all well.
Alex Salmond had a brilliant and unanswerable reply when Fraser raised his supposed 'problem with women', namely that if he has such a problem then all the other leaders must have as well, because he actually has the highest personal ratings with both genders. Nevertheless (and at the risk of sounding like a broken record here), I look forward to the day when an interviewer gets round to asking a leader about his or her 'problem with men'. For as long as there are gender gaps in polling data the issue will always cut both ways, but the media don't seem to have spotted that rather obvious point yet.
As ever, the debate's much-needed comedy moments were unwittingly supplied by Iain "the Snarl" Gray. When asked if anyone who carried a knife would be automatically sent to prison, he replied "no" emphatically. Only those who were convicted of carrying a knife would be subject to mandatory jail terms. OK, so we've now established that Labour don't want to introduce internment without trial. Given the recent direction of travel, I suppose that's a relief of sorts.
But it got better. Fraser challenged him on the cost and practicalities of sending far more people to jail, and added with a touch of irony "presumably you've done the figures". A look of sheer panic appeared on Gray's face, and as he tried desperately hard to think of something to say he very sloooowly intoned the words "yes-I-have-done-the-figures", as if it honestly hadn't occurred to him that he was being asked what the figures actually were. There's really got to be a better way of flannelling than that - it was right up there with his all-time classic "well, yes I can speak Portuguese actually".
Having said all that, Gray successfully managed to avoid his finger-jabbing excesses of the STV debate, and with Scott looking so uncomfortable on a number of occasions it's a bit harder to say who was the outright loser this time. Here is how I would rate it -
Alex Salmond 8/10
Annabel Goldie 6/10
Iain Gray 5/10
Tavish Scott 5/10