Curran rides to the rescue of battered Brown
06 July 2008
By Eddie Barnes, Political Editor
LABOUR'S battle to win the Glasgow East by-election
and save the premiership of Gordon Brown looked increasingly
desperate last night after party chiefs were forced
to parachute in a new big-hitting candidate.
Margaret Curran, a local MSP and former minister, was
persuaded to step forward after the front-runner suddenly
backed out on Friday night amid financial allegations.
Labour sources say local councillor George Ryan withdrew
because decade-old claims about housing benefit fraud
– over which he had been cleared – were about to be
repeated by a tabloid newspaper. Ryan, it is understood,
did not want his family to be put through a public ordeal.
Just a week after the departure of
party leader Wendy Alexander, allies of Brown first
tried to persuade Glasgow City Council leader Steven
Purcell to put his name forward as a candidate for the
July 24 by-election, but were rebuffed.
Finally, Curran was persuaded to step
forward and will fight the seat for Labour if she wins
the backing of local party activists tomorrow.
The by-election – in a seat which Labour
held by 13,500 votes in 2005 – is seen as a critical
test for Brown, following the party's dramatic losses
in the English local elections and the Crewe and Nantwich
by-election. Should Labour lose the Glasgow seat, the
Prime Minister would face fresh calls to quit.
SNP leader and First Minister Alex
Salmond claimed the Labour campaign was "in complete
meltdown". He said: "This is their 'lost weekend' –
they don't have a leader in Scotland, they don't have
a candidate in Glasgow East and they have a Prime Minister
who refuses to come to the constituency."
The by-election was forced by MP David
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