Duty calls in Malawi
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.