Clark becomes political pawn

A PLOT to keep Alistair Darling in power by sacrificing the career of Scotland’s Advocate General is being hatched after it was confirmed his constituency would vanish from the redrawn Scottish political map.

It is understood that Mr Darling’s supporters want to do a deal with Lynda Clark which will see her give up her Edinburgh Pentlands seat to spare the Scottish Secretary the humiliation of losing his place in parliament.

If Dr Clark bows to their demand, she will walk away from one of the highest-paid posts in government - but the deal will not guarantee Mr Darling’s political future; the Pentlands seat fell to the Tories at the Scottish Parliament elections.

The Scottish Conservatives pledged last night they would launch an all-out campaign to thwart Mr Darling’s ambitions by winning back the re-drawn Westminster seat, which was represented by Sir Malcolm Rifkind for 23 years.

A spokesman said: "This is certainly one seat we will be fighting extra hard to win. The tide is turning against Labour in Edinburgh and it’s turning faster in Pentlands than anywhere else."

The Boundary Commission has confirmed that Mr Darling’s Edinburgh Central seat will disappear to reduce the number of constituencies in Edinburgh from six to five.

The majority of Dr Clark’s constituency will be incorporated into the new Edinburgh South West constituency, along with wards from Edinburgh Central constituency.

Labour will hope that Mr Darling’s high profile as Transport Secretary combined with Scottish Secretary will ensure voter support at the next general election.

Dr Clark has a dismal public profile after years of toiling at her Westminster job of advising the UK government about issues which affect Scots law, for example on human rights and freedom of information. She enjoys a salary in excess of 100,000 but her virtual disappearance from public life has turned her into a political target.

The new Edinburgh South West constituency could swing either way at the next Westminster election as it will be home to a mix of traditional Labour and Conservative voters.

Mr Darling was not alone among Scots heavyweights in the Cabinet to see his seat vanish under the terms of the Boundary Commission’s final report.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, and John Reid, the Health Secretary, will also both be looking for new constituencies after efforts to save their seats failed.

However, it is not expected that either of them will face the humiliation of losing their place in parliament and government.

It is understood that Mr Brown has already done a deal with Lewis Moonie, the Kirkcaldy MP, who is expected to stand down at the next election, allowing the Chancellor to take over the new Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency.

And while Mr Reid lost his tussle with the Boundary Commission to save his Hamilton North and Bellshill seat, it also looks unlikely his political career will suffer.

There is speculation at Westminster that Rosemary McKenna, the Cumbernauld MP, may agree to retire at the next election to create a vacancy for him.

One MP who looks certain to be a casualty is Helen Liddell, the former Scottish secretary, whose Airdrie and Shotts seat is abolished.

Another dramatic outcome of the Boundary Commission report will centre on Glasgow, where Mohammad Sarwar, Britain’s first Muslim MP, has vowed to fight George Galloway for the new Glasgow Central seat. Mr Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party earlier this year.

The shrinking number of Scottish MPs - from 72 to 59 - will thrust Mr Sarwar and Mr Galloway, once former allies, into a formidable battle.