Is the writing on the wall for Labour in Glasgow?

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DAVID Cameron will arrive in Glasgow East today to deride Labour for treating the voters of Glasgow East "like fools" and for relying on a "fifth-choice" candidate in this month's crucial by-election.

The Conservative leader will make the first of what is expected to be a series of visits to the Glasgow East constituency during the campaign.

Even though the Tories are not anywhere close to challenging for the seat, Mr Cameron is aware of how important the by-election is.

A Labour defeat to the SNP would give the Nationalists a massive boost, but it would also help the Conservatives because it would result in massive repercussions within the Labour Party and possibly the removal of the Prime Minister.

Mr Cameron, however, was keen to play down the importance of this by-election for Gordon Brown's future last night.

"This election must be about what we can all do for the people of this part of Glasgow and not about the future of any party or politician," he said.

But he was equally keen to highlight Labour's problems in the seat, which were worsened by the decision of George Ryan, a local councillor, to withdraw as a potential candidate.

Margaret Curran, the MSP for Glasgow Baillieston, agreed to stand in Mr Ryan's place, but only after the candidacy was declined by Stephen Purcell, the Labour leader of Glasgow council, and Frank McAveety, the MSP for Glasgow Shettleston.

Ms Curran's decision to stand in Glasgow East all but rules her out of the race to be the party's leader in Scotland. Her decision makes it likely that the party leadership will be a straight contest between Iain Gray, the former enterprise minister, and Cathy Jamieson, the former justice minister and deputy party leader.

Mr Gray has the support of Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, as well as a number of MSPs and is on the centre right of the party. Ms Jamieson is from the Left and has strong support among the unions.

However, Mr Cameron said it was clear that Ms Curran was Labour's fifth choice for the seat.

"Labour is treating the voters of Glasgow East like fools," he said.

The SNP also hit out at Labour, pointing out that some Labour MSPs had criticised Alex Salmond in the past for his "dual mandate" – remaining as an MP and an MSP until the next election – but they would have to change their message if Ms Curran was elected as the MP for Glasgow East.

Ms Curran has made it clear she will stay on as an MSP until 2011 if she wins in Glasgow East later this month.

The SNP's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, said yesterday: "Labour are treating the people of Glasgow East with contempt – and the people will have their say on 24 July, and the opportunity to elect an SNP MP who is on their side."

But David Cairns, the Scotland Office minister, hit back for Labour by blaming the Conservatives for problems in Glasgow East and criticising Mr Cameron, who will be touring the constituency with former leader Iain Duncan Smith, who started an initiative to help tackle the worst urban poverty in Britain after visiting Easterhouse.

Mr Cairns said: "The Tories devastated the East End in the 1980s and voted against measures to help people here like the minimum wage, tax credits and pension credits.

"Iain Duncan Smith may be sincere, but he is wrong. His party put thousands of local people on to long-term sickness benefits and was happy to leave them there.

"Labour is getting people off benefits and into work."

However, Labour also came under attack from the Left as Frances Curran, the Scottish Socialist candidate in Glasgow East, accused New Labour of "offering part-time representatives" to the people of the East End.

She said: "Desperate Labour bosses faced panic among potential candidates as one after another refused to face the voters.

"By asking Margaret Curran to stand, arrogant Labour chiefs are trying to impose a part-time MP and MSP on the area which, as one of the most deprived, needs a full-time voice in both parliaments.

"The truth is that Labour is running scared from voters who they have taken for granted for years and who are now feeling the heat of soaring prices and falling living standards.

" A vote for the Scottish Socialist Party will also be a warning shot to Alex Salmond that he needs to deliver for working people before the interests of rich business men like Trump."

Selection debacle has piled on the woes for party

IT WAS, sniped Alex Salmond, Labour's "lost weekend". The party had lost its leader in Scotland, it didn't have a candidate for the Glasgow East by-election and the Prime Minister was refusing to visit the constituency.

However, there was no indication of the furore to come on Friday night, when local Labour activists arrived at the Tollcross Leisure Centre in Glasgow at 7pm for what was expected to be a routine selection meeting for their by-election candidate.

George Ryan, a local councillor, was due to be selected in what was to be no more than a formality. But he failed to show at his own selection meeting. Councillor Ryan had faced allegations ten years ago about housing benefit fraud and had been exonerated.

He had been contacted by a journalist about these allegations last week and did not want to put his family, or his party, through that particular mill again.

Margaret Curran, the feisty MSP for Glasgow Baillieston, agreed to put herself forward and another selection meeting was arranged for tonight.

Labour leaders were desperate to avoid yet another by-election so Ms Curran agreed to stay on as an MSP if elected to Westminster for Glasgow East. Labour had to arrange a hurried meeting of its National Executive Committee to give Ms Curran the go-ahead to stand for the Commons while she is still an MSP.

The end result is that Labour will select its candidate tonight – Ms Curran – and begin its campaign tomorrow a full four days after its rivals. And, in a by-election campaign as short as this one, that four-day delay could make all the difference.

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