IT was Winston Churchill who said: “The opposition occupies the benches in front of you, but the enemy sits behind you.” But it’s not a cast-iron rule.

Alex Rowley was sitting two rows in front of Anas Sarwar at First Minister’s Questions, for instance, and he could well prove the aspirant Scottish Labour leader’s nemesis.

Now, Mr Rowley is no orator. No dramatic Churchillian rumble for him. His Fife drone sounds more like Stephen Hawking with a cold. But don’t be fooled.

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He didn’t become Scottish Labour general secretary back in the day on charm alone.

He doesn’t just know where the bodies are buried, he’s a right dab hand with a spade.

As interim leader of Scottish Labour, Mr Rowley is quite neutral in the leadership race.

That’s he’s close to candidate Richard Leonard, and his daughter runs Mr Leonard’s campaign, is therefore undoubtedly irrelevant to what happened next. Undoubtedly.

Why was Nicola Sturgeon planning a £180m-a-year tax break for “frequent flyers” when there was so much child poverty, he asked.

“Every single time the SNP has a tax decision to make it sides with the millionaires rather than with the millions,” he said.

There was a snigger, then a ripple, then a roar.

Led by John Swinney and Derek Mackay, SNP MSPs pointed at Mr Sarwar, whose socialist credentials keep getting tripped up by the inconvenient fact he’s filthy rich.

The family firm behind his wealth also pays workers below Labour’s real living wage.

The SNP was “another party for the few, not the many”, Mr Rowley added, laying down an irresistible trail of bait for the sharks across the aisle.

Ms Sturgeon was hooked.

“It was really unfair of Alex Rowley to personalise this debate by bringing Anas Sarwar into it,” she grinned.

“We have a Labour leadership candidate lecturing others about doing the right thing on pay, yet his own family firm won’t pay the living wage voluntarily.”

A livid Mr Sarwar beckoned with his hand. “Bring it,” he said.

Afterwards, Mr Rowley and his chums professed themselves shocked - shocked! - that anyone could possibly think he had set Mr Sarwar up for a fall.

But to quote another famous expert on politicians: “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

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