Shaking it all about
Who’s in, who’s out and who’s shaking it all about? I’m talking about Wendy Alexander’s new front bench team at Holyrood.
Definitely on the way up are Iain Gray and Pauline McNeill. Mr Gray - who spent a sabbatical away from Holyrood at the invitation of the voters - will shadow a fair chunk of John Swinney’s finance brief.
Labour sources say his spell working as a special adviser in the UK Government gives him valuable experience.
As John Swinney has already emerged as perhaps the most influential member of the cabinet (apart, of course, from you know who), then Iain Gray is set fair to wield serious clout in the Labour team.
The Swinney brief is so enormous that Wendy Alexander has opted to split it, asking Andy Kerr to shadow public services.
Strictly, John Swinney’s remit in this regard is public service “delivery” because, of course, education and health have their own cabinet secretaries.
Presumably, therefore, Mr Kerr’s brief will be to allege non-delivery, to build upon Labour’s tactic of challenging SNP ministers to turn their manifesto promises into reality.
Most observers, I believe, would think that the promotion for Pauline McNeill to the key post of shadowing the justice secretary is well-merited and somewhat overdue. She handled justice issues well as committee convener in that sector.
Ms McNeill is a close colleague and chum of Ms Alexander. Indeed, had Wendy chosen to stand against Jack McConnell six years ago, then Pauline McNeill would have been at the head of her campaign team.
Perhaps, on reflection, her absence from cabinet/shadow cabinet in the intervening period isn’t all that surprising.
Who’s out? Hugh Henry (like Ms Alexander, a Paisley buddy).
He leaves the shadow cabinet - but he’ll become convener of the Scottish Parliament's Audit Committee, subjecting SNP spending plans to close scrutiny. Out too goes Patricia Ferguson.
Who’s shaking it all about? Well, Wendy Alexander, obviously.
But look a little closer at the list. Look at the key role for Jackie Baillie, sacked by Mr McConnell in his “Jack the Knife” purge - but back now in the leader’s own team, working on parliamentary business and the constitution. Big remit.
Look too at Dave Whitton - a new MSP but a former journalist and highly experienced spin doctor, who worked for Donald Dewar. He’s listed as parliamentary aide to the leader.
Look finally at Tom McCabe. He’ll sit on the Holyrood corporate body, the organisation which handles pay and rations in the Scottish Parliament - and, incidentally, the building.
But he’s also Labour’s campaign director - and he’ll sit in on the Holyrood shadow team, where appropriate. The makings of a kitchen cabinet right there, perhaps.
PS: Where’s Alex Salmond while all this is going on? He’s at Balmoral. With the Queen. As first minister.