Douglas Alexander (Scottish Secretary) was yesterday abandoned by Labour MPs angry over his handling of the Holyrood election fiasco that saw around 100,000 ballot papers rejected last week.
It has been confirmed that he did not even bother to read a research report from the Scotland Office which detailed how the combined ballot paper could confuse voters and cause them to spoil their ballots. He went ahead and chose that style of ballot anyway.
Yet, when MPs summoned Alexander to the Commons on Tuesday 8 May, he refused to apologise or order an independent inquiry. He further suggested that the report had not indicated any problem with his choice of ballot - it is unclear how he came to this conclusion as he did not actually read the report, just a covering letter from Sir Neil McIntosh, the Scottish Electoral Commissioner, that did not mention the problem.
He has also tried to blame this on his assistant, David Cairns, who did read the report but clearly did not mention the problem to his boss. This was described to the Scotsman by one labour MSP as "outrageous and pathetic". The source also noted: "Douglas is trying to make out David Cairns should carry the can for this when he took the final decision that led to this cock-up."
The situation has been described by some as a "stitch-up" by the main parties as the direct result was to squeeze out the smaller parties. Colin Fox (Scottish Socialist Party) said: "This was a stitch-up by the big parties to put the list candidates right next to the constituency candidates, to try to get larger votes for their own political needs. The voting system was like something out of a banana republic - only we haven´t got a republic and we haven´t got any bananas." However, it is equally likely that the SSP returned no MSP´s because of the disastrous schism between the party and their ex-leader, Tommy Sheridan.
The green party (whose tally of MSP´s dropped from seven to two) more reasonably stated "It is appalling that so many voters were disenfranchised" adding, "It is no secret that the intention was clearly to diminish the vote for smaller parties by putting the second vote first. If Mr Alexander intended confusion, he certainly got it - by the ballot-boxload."