Although Iain Gray didn't exactly sparkle in any of the leadership debates during the Holyrood campaign, he never quite repeated his finger-jabbing low of the first STV debate, which suggested that he had at least analysed what had gone wrong and learned from it. Sadly, the same can't be said for Labour's Inverclyde by-election candidate Iain McKenzie, who made an idiot of himself in the first debate by trying to shout down the 20-year-old Lib Dem candidate and failing, and who in the second debate yesterday simply tried yet more of the same. Having spent much of his own first answer lambasting Anne McLaughlin of the SNP without any interruption, it looked absolutely ghastly when he reacted with such fury to McLaughlin returning the compliment that he instantly boomed "I'LL NEED TO STOP YOU RIGHT THERE". It also didn't look great when he later tried to shout down the moderator Isabel Fraser when she was admonishing all the candidates for speaking over each other - McLaughlin, by contrast, looked completely in control of herself and just smiled mischievously at the collective telling-off. Angus Macleod suggested on Twitter that McKenzie's agitated performance may be a sign that Labour are worried about losing the seat - I've no idea if that's true, but you'd certainly be forgiven for suspecting that.
McLaughlin had also very cleverly prepared a "heads I win, tails you lose" trap for McKenzie - she again asked her question from the first debate about whether he, as the head of the Labour-Tory coalition on Inverclyde Council, could guarantee that there would be no compulsory redundancies. If he had repeated his non-answer from the first debate, the implication would have been obvious - as it was, the fact that he gave a completely different answer this time and offered a firm guarantee allowed McLaughlin to claim a first success as a prospective MP for Inverclyde.
A quick word about Sophie Bridger of the Lib Dems - I thought she had improved markedly from Thursday, although her hesitant response on the question of whether the operational life of Hunterston should be extended gave the impression once again that she simply hasn't done her homework on the local area properly. Her best moment, ironically, came when Isabel Fraser challenged her on her agent's comment that the Lib Dems couldn't win - Bridger refreshingly didn't try to flannel her way out of a sticky question, but instead smiled and admitted her agent had been foolish to say it. David Wilson of the Tories, by contrast, after a reasonably impressive first debate, came across as insufferably smug this time.
Overall verdict - another clear win for Anne McLaughlin, but this time without anyone laying a glove on her.
Anne McLaughlin (SNP) 9/10
Sophie Bridger (Liberal Democrat) 7/10
David Wilson (Conservative) 5/10
Iain McKenzie (Labour) 4/10