[In the course of a profile of marginal constituencies in the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election, an article in today's edition of the Sunday Herald contains the following:]
But even if [incumbent Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis] did not have to contend with these factors, he would still have a bare-knuckle fight on his hands. For the past two elections he has been stalked by Christine Grahame, who through the list system has represented the SNP at Holyrood but who would dearly like to make the constituency her own. Eight years ago Purvis held her at bay with a majority of 538 which in 2007 he increased to 598.
Who knows how things will pan out. Few doubt that the SNP are favourites. Talking to Purvis, he is happy to defend his record while philosophical about the hand fate has dealt him. Little love is lost between him and Grahame. “This is the third time that she’s tried to beat me,” he says. “I’m just worried that if I beat her a third time I’ll have to keep her.” (...)
In this eight-year war of attrition, Grahame, over a cup of Earl Grey in the nearby Eastgate theatre, says she is convinced she now has the upper hand. Lest this be interpreted as arrogance or complacency, she stresses that between now and polling day anything can happen and probably will. Did not Neil Kinnock topple over into the sea? Wasn’t Gordon Brown fatally scuppered because he didn’t have the wit to unclip a microphone?
Grahame recalls that in 2007 some 1400 votes were spoiled. Had they counted she might well have won. Or not, as the case may be. A former teacher and lawyer, who owns two cats and is an “aficionado” of gardening, she rejoices in being dubbed by Alex Salmond “the most non-PC member of the team”. With no desire to be a front-bencher she intends to maintain her maverick, republican persona, as vocal on the subject of wind farms – a sore and divisive issue hereabouts – as she is on al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber, whose innocence she advocates.
“I don’t think he’s the guilty man,” she says. “There was insufficient evidence. As my mother used to say he’s not a clean potato. But you wouldn’t frame a clean potato.”
Mention of Megrahi is a reminder of the complexity of elections. Who knows what makes floating voters bob one way or another. It may be a local issue or it may be that they are swayed by the national mood.