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Duty calls in Malawi

Brian Taylor | 14:39 UK time, Wednesday, 15 August 2007

As promised, more on Jack McConnell. Rather a lot more.

He is to be the next High Commissioner to Malawi. But not yet.

He will succeed the current incumbent, Richard Wildash, who is currently due to complete his tour of duty in early 2009.

That would, of course, be before the next Holyrood elections which are scheduled for 2011. Under Holyrood rules, that date is fixed.

However, I understand that Mr McConnell doesn’t want to provoke a by-election (would you, given the latest polls?).

So either Mr Wildash may be prevailed upon to extend his duty or a temporary diplomat might be put in place. To be frank, I do not think these details are anything like settled.

So what do you make of that then?

Version One: this is the Westminster/Labour patronage machine in top gear, despatching a departing leader to a former colony.

Version Two: this is a signal honour for Jack McConnell, an opportunity to extend his work in Malawi with the Clinton Hunter foundation.

For myself, I think I incline mostly to Version Two - with just a tangy hint of Version One on a side plate.

Couple of reasons.

Jack McConnell is not being despatched. He is choosing to go, admittedly under the cosh of an electoral outcome.

Further, he is not going yet. He does not intend, I understand, to go full time to Malawi before 2011.

More, he is genuinely interested in Malawi and genuinely intrigued by the prospect of helping that desperately poor nation. This is not a sinecure.

However, when postings are announced by powerful colleagues, there is always the faintly acrid scent of patronage in the air. Jack McConnell, I suspect, can live with that.

As to his successor, stand by for an announcement this very afternoon from Wendy Alexander that she intends to be a candidate.

Asked to comment about her intentions immediately after the McConnell news conference this morning, she declined, saying that it was “Jack’s moment”.

That moment, it would seem, has not been over-prolonged.


  • 1.
  • At 03:23 PM on 15 Aug 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

What is the current salary we are paying for High Commissioners?

Do we have to offer a further inducement to the current incumbent to prevent embarrassment to the Labour Party with an untimely by-election?

  • 2.
  • At 04:23 PM on 15 Aug 2007,
  • Mac wrote:

A four year redundancy package with a cushy overseas job at the end of it.

This is not what one would call the price of electoral failure but Labour cronyism at it's most obscene.

  • 3.
  • At 05:09 PM on 15 Aug 2007,
  • Steven Manson wrote:

I for one will not miss him when he goes. He might as well go now for all I care about him. He did nothing for me, nor for hundreds of thousands of ordinary Scots.

Perhaps less time spent on and in Malawi and more on our own poor might make me think rather differently. But he can go away to Malawi safe in the knowledge that he leaves Scotland in far better hands now.

  • 4.
  • At 09:36 PM on 15 Aug 2007,
  • Ken Mac wrote:

I've nothing against Jack McConnell but this certainly smacks of party favours and jobs for the boys.

  • 5.
  • At 10:20 PM on 15 Aug 2007,
  • Guy, Edinburgh wrote:

The post of British High Commissioner in Malawi - one of the world's poorest countries - is neither cushy, nor a sinecure. It is a challenging post, and one, I would imagine, that demands boundless energy, 100 per cent committment and a drive to help change things for the better.

All attributes that Mr McConnell displayed as Scotland's First Minister during his five and half years tenure.

He achieved a lot for his country. He had the courage to challenge the scourge of sectarianism, to ban smoking in public places, and his education policies were rooted in a desire to give young Scots the tools to escape povery.

And yes, he had the courage to reach out a hand of friendship to Malawi.

Real Scots don't see their horizons - or their responsiblities - end at the English border. We accept, as Jack McConnell does, our responsiblity as global citizens.

  • 6.
  • At 12:37 AM on 16 Aug 2007,
  • Dave "Boy" wrote:

Well said Guy, disappointingly posters 1,2,3 are unable or incapable of displaying the same good grace and sense, instead they display their narrow minded and anti English view of the world.

Whilst their leader may be displaying a commendable level of statesmanship, it disappointingly clear that many SNP supporters still cling on to the politics of grievance that characterised so much of their activities in the recent years. Time to ditch it, guys. The landscape is yours to paint for the next 4 years. The days of "a big boy dit it and ran away" are history. For now, anyway.

  • 7.
  • At 08:36 AM on 16 Aug 2007,
  • Peter Thomson wrote:

Joke McConnell - wasn't that can't be right...maybe he was on the TV once.....Malawi you say?.......Wasn't that Dr Livingston?........nope, no recollection of him at all.

  • 8.
  • At 09:55 AM on 16 Aug 2007,
  • interested by-stander wrote:

Civil servant posts, such as these, are funded by the public purse and should be filled in a transparent way after a competitive procedure on the basis of merit.

There is no evidence that Mr McConnell is the best person for this job.

The appointment is Labour cronnyism, pure and simple, and reflects poorly on Gordon Brown

What a difficult job interview that must have been. Imagine having to prove your fluency in all the languages spoken in Malawi to the selection panel:

Chichewa 57.2% (official), Chinyanja 12.8%, Chiyao 10.1%, Chitumbuka 9.5%, Chisena 2.7%, Chilomwe 2.4%, Chitonga 1.7%, others 3.6% (1998 census)

  • 10.
  • At 07:09 AM on 17 Aug 2007,
  • Craig wrote:

Wikipedia states the following
regarding Malawi.

1)Poor access to medical treatment

2)Low Income

3)Insufficient school education

4)Government economic restrictions


6)Extreme lack of foresight by

I feel it's only fair that the
good people of Malawi know that our
former First Minister Jack McConnell
is an expert in all of these fields.
One only has to recall 'Wishawgate'
or 'Villagate',waiting periods for
simple operations were in excess of
20 weeks. I could go on forever!

Last but not least Malawi's largest
export and main crop is of course,
wait for it.......tobacco.

Having lived in southern Africa for
21 years I assure you, Malawi needs
Jack McConnell like a canoe needs
a trap door.


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