ANAS Sarwar insisted that in the wake of a chaotic week for his party leader, the polls always tighten as elections approach – but there is much more behind the onslaught Keir Starmer is currently embroiled in. 

After days of fallout from not one but two Labour candidates being ditched by the party for alleged antisemitism, polling put the party’s lead over the Tories at its lowest level since last June.

Savanta’s survey took place between February 9 and 11, so before Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali’s comments were publicised.

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But the issues around Gaza and Starmer’s much-criticised reluctance to call for a ceasefire are flaring up old dividing lines in a party that can’t quite resist infighting.

Take Scottish Labour, for instance, who are set to hold their party’s conference this weekend in Glasgow, and where a pro-Palestinian march is due to descend on the SEC on Saturday.

A motion calling for a ceasefire is up for debate on that day, with Sarwar calling for protesters to be “peaceful” and insisting he “understands” the anger of those who want an end to the bombardment of Gaza.

And yet, Sarwar also went on the defensive for his boss during a media round on Wednesday and insisted that he would not listen to criticisms of Starmer as they came from political opponents or those with a vested interest in seeing the Labour party fail ahead of the next General Election.

The National: Anas Sarwar has defended his UK Labour boss Keir Starmer

So will Sarwar or other members of his party join protesters outside of the SEC on Saturday, or will they remain inside and talk amongst themselves?

Will the SNP’s latest call for a ceasefire vote in the House of Commons next week land a further strategic blow on Labour? Or did the last mass exodus of MPs who backed the SNP’s amendment to the King’s Speech on a point of principle leave Labour’s frontbench devoid of those with conscience on the issue?

And it isn’t just Gaza that’s the problem for Labour. Starmer’s ditching of the £28 billion green spending pledge last week was yet another in a long line of U-turns, particularly for a party promising change.

As top pollster Professor John Curtice told The National’s podcast last week, Labour’s successes in the polls are down to the Tories failures rather than to their own message.

He insisted that any spin of polling that suggested Labour was picking up votes from the SNP north of the Border was a “misinterpretation of the evidence”, and credits the shambolic Tories for the boost to Starmer’s electoral chances.

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In the same week that Labour Together director Josh Simons suggested that people smugglers could be put on a barge and “shipped up to Scotland”, Labour’s mask is beginning to slip.

Fault lines between the left and right have been reignited and Scottish Labour are once again trying to distance themselves from their Westminster bosses.

Whether or not the public believes that remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain – Starmer’s mounting pile of problems are starting to cut through and victory is never guaranteed.