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banner Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 21:04 GMT
MSP's phone in 'vote rig' bid
Scottish Mirror
The article which prompted the 169 mobile calls
One of Jack McConnell's supporters has been accused of trying to "rig" a newspaper telephone poll set up to gauge his popularity among readers.

The Scottish Mirror reported on Thursday that a mobile phone belonging to Labour MSP Cathie Craigie rang the "voteline" 169 times to back Mr McConnell in his bid to become first minister.

The newspaper had asked its readers to vote on whether the education minister "was fit" to lead the country after his admission of having an affair seven years ago.

Ms Craigie said the individual involved had since been disciplined but opposition parties used the incident to question, "what she does for a living".

Cathie Craigie:
Cathie Craigie: "Serious discussions"
The newspaper said that another mobile phone was also used to back Mr McConnell "a remarkable 217 times" but the number was not attributable to anyone.

Ms Craigie told BBC Scotland's Holyrood Live programme that the phone did belong to her but she never asked for the calls to be made.

She said: "I have spoken to the staff member involved, established that the staff member involved did use the mobile, had very serious discussions with her this morning and have taken the necessary action."

The MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth was working in the chamber and in committee when the calls were made to the newspaper but she stressed that it was her personal phone and not paid for by the taxpayer.

But the Scottish National Party said the incident was so bizarre that "you couldn't make it up".

Political worry

The party's finance spokesman, Andrew Wilson, said: "I know some folk spend a lot of time on the phone but 169 calls to a phone poll from an MSP?

"You've got to wonder what it is she does for a living?"

He added that Ms Craigie should spend more time on her constituency business than trying "to help her buddy 'Jack the Lad' McConnell".

The incident, according to the Scottish Mirror's political editor Lorraine Davidson, is evidence that the McConnell camp is worried.

Ms Davidson said: "I think supporters of Jack McConnell would have been upset today to see the poll running as it was at three to one against.

"That was always going to be a bad story for them but by trying to intercept it and rig the poll they look even worse because it does smack of desperation and panic within their ranks."

See also:

15 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Wallace strolls through question time
15 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
McConnell admits cash request
14 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Date set for Labour leader vote
13 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
McConnell alone in leadership fight
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