I THINK I speak for the majority of people in Scotland when I say: I cannot wait to see the back of the SNP leadership contest.

Even the soon-to-be former First Minister seems to echo the sentiment. Just the thought of it going on for another week makes me want to call in sick and hide in bed.

Seriously, it is draining to watch. I realised how bad it was when I sat on my couch yesterday to catch up on the Sky News debate in which Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf confronted their views – or should I say, politely jumped at each other’s throats.

By the end of the programme, I was curled up into a little ball of cringe on my couch.

I have been like that for the past four weeks, just heaving heavy sighs as I thought: “Well, I guess it is my job to pay attention to the display of unhinged political brutality”.

It is not that this level of acrimony in leadership contests is unprecedented – after all, the Conservatives had an incredibly violent leadership contest not even a year ago, and Labour have had their fair share of division over the past few years.

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Everybody expects these sorts of robust debates to take place as a party decides what route it should take, especially when the task is to replace a leader who managed to take the party to unprecedented highs, and when it has been so long since party members even had the opportunity to make such a choice.

However, there must be a better way to do it, and I do find it ironic that the tone of the debate chosen by the three candidates looks exactly like what their soon-to-be-predecessor pointed out as one of the reasons she decided to call it a day.

You would expect people who have been in the same political family, in the same government even, to show a bit of kindness towards each other, but it is nowhere to be seen.

The state of the SNP bears a striking resemblance to the Socialist Party in France.

Remember them?

They were once a massive political force, counting on thousands of activists, ruling the country and implementing some of the most important social reforms in recent history, such as the 35-hour work week without loss of pay. Now, they are nearly anecdotal, as the 2017 presidential election saw Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party practically destroy them and took them to the brink of bankruptcy.

In 2011, after nine years in opposition, socialiste decided to do something new to reverse their losing streak – they gave ordinary voters the power to choose who would be the candidate in the presidential election.

It was revolutionary – people who were not members of the Parti socialiste could cast their ballot and decide who would carry the banner of the party against outgoing right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The National: French President Francois Hollande at a Socialist Party rally back in 2011French President Francois Hollande at a Socialist Party rally back in 2011 (Image: -)

It was an exhilarating democratic moment that I remember very fondly, especially when I listen to Alex Beaupain’s nostalgic yet catchy song Au Départ, which became an anthem of these elections, and which narrates the recent history of the left as a love story.

Nearly three million citizens took part in the second round. The only requirements were to contribute at least €1 to the organisation of the vote, and to sign a charter reading: “I recognize myself in the values of the Left and the Republic, in the project of a society of freedom, equality, fraternity, laïcité, justice and progress in solidarity.”

The goal was to give the candidate a solid popular backing from the get-go, thus creating an irresistible momentum to win the election. But there were opponents to the process who feared they might expose the deep-rooted divisions in the party. Those fears weren’t unfounded.

Three years earlier, an incredibly violent leadership contest pitted socialists against each other, with accusations of widespread ballot fraud, lies, manipulation – every possible horrific thing that could happen in politics. It was difficult to see how the party could come back from such generalised rancour, with so many senior figures holding grudges against each other.

READ MORE: Those celebrating SNP resignations will find it is a hollow victory

So they went back to the working table and thought about what they actually wanted to do for the country. They met with union leaders, academics – professionals from all sectors – and put together a prospectus that would be the baseline for any presidential bid. And then they gave the people of the left the power to choose.

There are a million ways this could have gone badly, knowing the socialists and their taste for schism, so they even drafted an ethical code, prohibiting personal attacks by which all six candidates had to abide.

That didn’t stop some sporadic unkind comments, but nothing like what the party experienced in the past – now the consensus is that the whole process was a big success. The socialists united behind their candidate, François Hollande, who secured a narrow victory in 2012.

This is probably the last time I saw a united Parti socialiste. In 2017, despite the crystal clear rules that they must unconditionally rally behind the winner, they were unable to unite behind Benoît Hamon, who won the primary election. In the end, only 6% of voters supported him.

The party never managed to recover.

The Parti socialiste is no longer the heavyweight of the left – and this too is cause for infighting. They are, again, reeling in the aftermath of a damaging congress in Marseille which took place a couple of months ago.

Accusations of fraud reappeared, and the divisions on the strategy the party should adopt now they are no longer the left’s heavyweight were laid bare. Should they remain in the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale, NUPES), an alliance comprising the Communists and the Greens, led by the left’s new, more radical heavyweight, Jean-Luc Mélenchon?

The leader, Olivier Faure, thinks so. But his deputy doesn’t.

How does a party come back from such serious divisions?

The Socialist Party, or what remains of them, are still trying to find an answer, and I wonder how exactly the SNP are going to be able to mend themselves after a month of vitriol.

The National:

Are the losing candidates going to accept their fate for the sake of the party unity that the SNP have been so well-known for? Or, on the contrary, especially if they represent a sizeable minority, are they going to continue having a dissident voice to represent their specific wing?

Are we witnessing the beginning of the party’s split, or with time, will all wings be able to talk and think together?

The socialists have lost count of how many times they were predicted to splinter and disappear – in mid-2008, it was common wisdom to say that compare them to a decomposing corpse.

Still, they managed to come back from the dead thanks to the right leadership who understood that the socialists needed to stop talking to each other and maybe talk to the wider electorate, for a change. Do the SNP have what it takes?