News arrives of a stairheid rammy in Strasbourg, with Alex Salmond being challenged by old bruiser John Prescott to prove his “socialist” credentials after the SNP MP attempted to join a Labour-dominated grouping in Europe.
Prescott, I'm told, barred Salmond’s path into a meeting of the Socialist Group of the Council of Europe this week.
Salmond, the SNP’s Foreign Affairs spokesman in Westminster, and Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh MP were attending the Council of Europe, a grouping of European politicians, as first-time delegates.
On the eve of the meeting in Strasbourg Salmond boasted on Twitter that he was “happy to announce the SNP’s membership of the Socialist Group”.
That was news to the Labour party, so when Salmond turned up the following morning Prescott, the leader of Labour’s UK contingent, met the SNP MP at the door, accusing him of "playing a flanker" by posing as a socialist.
Prescott told me: “ I said to Alex: ‘You’re not coming in to this meeting’. To which he replied : ‘You’re not big enough to stop me.’ He meant politically, not physically, but he didn’t get in.”
According to Salmond's account the former Deputy Prime Minister “blew a gasket” and created such a scene that it was best to diplomatically withdraw while things calmed down.
Salmond countered: John really needs to calm down and move with the times. Lord John is still living in the past in the by gone days when Labour ‘ruled the roost’ in Scotland. This sort of blind sectarianism has laid Labour low in Scotland."
After this Strasbourg Stramash, and SNP protests, the duo were allowed in to the evening meeting as “guests”, but with no speaking or voting rights within the group.
Prescott admitted: “He did get in later. When I wasn’t there the chairman invited him to come and listen. We do that for some politicians but we don’t do that for nationalists as we are all opposed to nationalism.”
But because of complaints by Prescott the SNP’s application to join the Socialists will be re-considered by the group’s bureau in April.
To be a member a party has to be affiliated to the Socialist International. On that basis the SNP does not qualify. In more bad news for Salmond Prescott sits on the Socialist group bureau.
Salmond's is starting to sound less confident than he was about an independent Scotland getting into the EU.
He said: “I’m sure the Socialist bureau will pursue the SNP membership in due course and so meanwhile we have held the invitations from two other groups who have been in contact already”"
The final jab from Prescott: “I have some doubts about his socialist credentials, Alex is flying under a flag of convenience, he’s calling himself a socialist but he’s hiding it well.Maybe he can borrow Jeremy’s little red book to prove it.”