THE inside of Anas Sarwar's head is certainly an interesting place. That's "interesting" in the same sense that opening your curtains and seeing a vision of a distant alien planet instead of Agnes next door putting the bin out is "interesting".

Labour's Scottish branch manager would have us believe that his party's victory in yesterday's by-election in the Brexit-voting northern English constituency of Wakefield could cause a "huge shift" in the mindset of voters in Scotland towards Labour and that could lead to a revival of Labour's fortunes in Scotland.

Lots of things "could" happen, but that doesn't mean that they are likely to happen. Some guy in the next town winning a fortune on the lottery last night could mean that my numbers are about to come up and I can look forward to buying a private island. It is, however, unlikely. What is far more likely is that one event has no bearing on the other.

Sarwar is pinning a great deal on a by-election in a different country where voters have very different concerns. Labour in Scotland has not been performing disastrously in elections in Scotland since 2014 because Labour in England has struggled to be credible. Labour in Scotland has been doing badly because of the party's stance on the constitution and because voters in Scotland see Labour hand-in-glove with the Conservatives in failing to deliver on its promises of 2014 and trying to deny Scotland the right to choose its own future.

Labour doesn't protect Scotland from the Conservatives, it enables the Conservatives. It can only ever stand any chance of getting into power in England if it apes Conservative policies, and what use to Scotland is that?

We see this just now with Labour under Starmer. Labour has become a pro-Brexit party, it refuses to stand with the unions in the rail dispute, and it shares Johnson's denial of Scotland's democracy. In any event, the by-election results this week were voters giving their verdict on Johnson's lies and law-breaking – they were not a show of support for Starmer. It was notable that in Wakefield, the Conservative vote declined by far more than the Labour vote increased.

However, the by-elections were catastrophic for the Conservatives who now face the serious danger of being squeezed between Labour in the English north and the Midlands and the LibDems in the south. 

The Conservatives lost both seats, and both by much bigger margins than the worst forecasts.  Following the declarations, the chair of the Conservative party Oliver Dowden resigned and in a pointed resignation letter said that someone "must take responsibility" for the by-election defeats. Although he did not mention Johnson by name, it was obvious who he meant, particularly since Dowden did not state in his letter that he remained loyal to the Prime Minister.

In an interview with the BBC on Friday afternoon, former Conservative leader Michael Howard joined in the calls for Johnson to resign and called on cabinet ministers to move against him. Howard's remarks were backed by Malcolm Rifkind, who was Scotland Secretary in Thatcher's government where he spent his time denying that there was any demand in Scotland for a Scottish Parliament.

Rifkind told Sky News that government ministers should go and tell Johnson to go. Rifkind added that the leadership crisis in the Conservative Party "has to be brought to a conclusion" – because Rifkind is more concerned that the Tory Party gets the government it wants than that Scotland does.

Johnson has of course made it plain that he has no intention of resigning and in interviews this morning during his visit to Rwanda refused to accept that his personal conduct had played any part in the by-election defeats, and put it down to governments being punished at the polls mid-term. With no sign that cabinet ministers are preparing to move against him, we can be certain that the Conservative leadership woes have still got some way to run.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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