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Shaking it all about

Brian Taylor | 18:08 UK time, Monday, 17 September 2007

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.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 09:17 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

Well Wendy’s cabinet, what can one say about it? Not much really we will get the same rhetoric all about broken promises. There will be no positive movement with putting Scotland first that has to be the SNP’s position.
And the leader of the Scottish MSP’s (that after all is that Wendy is) doing what Gordon allows her to say and her record as a subservient politician stands great scrutiny and is not found wanting.
Never mind the Northern Rock problem has meant the outside chance of an election is running away faster than Northern Rock’s share price is falling. The Question which bank will be next to suffer a run on its accounts with withdrawals.

  • 2.
  • At 09:21 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

Well Wendy’s cabinet, what can one say about it? Not much really we will get the same rhetoric all about broken promises. There will be no positive movement with putting Scotland first that has to be the SNP’s position.
And the leader of the Scottish MSP’s (that after all is that Wendy is) doing what Gordon allows her to say and her record as a subservient politician stands great scrutiny and is not found wanting.
Never mind the Northern Rock problem has meant the outside chance of an election is running away faster than Northern Rock’s share price is falling. The Question which bank will be next to suffer a run on its accounts with withdrawals.

  • 3.
  • At 10:18 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Scamp wrote:

Elaine Murray as Enterprise spokesthing !!!!!

A former chemistry lecturer she's never had a real job in a real business in her life.. Jim Mather will eat her alive poor girl.

Wendy does pickem!

  • 4.
  • At 01:18 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

Brian,
You forgot to give us your views on oor wee Cathy Jamieson, why has she no portfolio? As deputy leader she is in a lesser position than Nicol Steven was in the last administration.

  • 5.
  • At 08:22 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

A mixture of nearly men and women in association with those who are most easily described as who?, unless of course to their immediate families; if these appointments had been made in less memorable circumstances, accusations could be laid that the new leader was gathering around her those that would prove no threat to her leadership, however in this case and in the case of the leader’s appointment is indicative of a lack of established and new talent in Scottish politics.
This of course is combined with Wendy Alexander’s desire to indicate publicly she has made changes away from Jack McConnell’s failed team, the public would not accept that merely a change at the top would change Scottish Labour; however Wendy’s desire to remove some of Jack’s advisors may in effect prove to be a waste of time as many of his advisors were out with the official political team.

This lack of new talent is not purely a Labour disease, if you scratch below the surface of the other political parties there is not an abundance of new Scottish political talent; the credibility of those currently in British political life and those who have recently left Westminster and Holyrood must in some way be held accountable.

Would you choose to follow in the footsteps of some of those politicians who have vacated or are about to vacate their seats of political power, or is this phenomena indicative of a society that no longer produces angry young men?

  • 6.
  • At 09:42 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

re: "Labour’s tactic of challenging SNP ministers to turn their manifesto promises into reality."

So no chance of consensus politics by the Labour party at Holyrood. The voters will dislike that.

This very negative stance by Labour may actually bring the business of parliament to a grinding halt - censuring debates - a critical motion here, a critical motion there - voting against, voting down. 4 years of focusing on the negative will simply bring Scottish parliament further into disrepute, but crucially not for a SNP minority government which will simply maintain a positive outlook to retain it's popularity.

The SNP can then simply claim that the opposition parties are fixated by the very act of opposition, and not about the good governance of Scotland, and so will seek other means and sow division to proceed with their manifesto commitments.

  • 7.
  • At 09:51 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

I see your love in with Wendy continues Brian.

To be honest I couldn't care less about who's on Labours front bench. None of them were of any use in the last administration and none of them in my view are a patch the current SNP front bench.

  • 8.
  • At 10:21 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • James in Japan wrote:

Dear number 1 I share you feelings and my thoughts turn to the impending Westminster general election. I can help that Westminster Labour is going to get a good spanking in Scotland!

Brian what would be the score if Labour get thumped in the General election, could the results be used for Wee Eck to go to the country and call a devolved election -- how would that work?

  • 9.
  • At 10:43 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Hugo wrote:

The short term problem - picking her shadow cabinet - is perhaps the easiest. The predominance of women says something and it is a courageous act, and that also says something about Wendy.

The next problem - relations between the Scottish and London Labour parties - is probably going to be much more difficult, given Londonopolis (i.e. London and the southern counties) egocentricity.

However, the long term problem - modernising the Scottish Labour party is likely to be the hardest of all.

  • 10.
  • At 10:56 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Ewen McPherson wrote:

Ah dear....Those not keen observers of the Holyrood Village might well be tempted to say "Who ?"

Lucius Cornelius Sulla (Dictator of Rome) is once supposed to have said “When in company of the Sun, become a cave” (He was meeting an Eastern Potentate, all done up with fake beard and dripping jewels under a canopy of cloth of gold. So, instead of trying to compete, he turned up in his sun hat, marching cloak and on his favourite mule)

I’m sure that you all see the analogy, but I’m not sure that Wendy will be coming off as well as Sulla did.

I've no doubt Eck may well be taking a wee dram this morning to flavour his antioxidant rich and age-prolonging Balmoral Water with, along with a smiley muttering of "come and have a go if you think you're hard enough".

Cathy Jameson, one of New New Scotch Labour's fieriest performers in the chamber ? Where She ? "Deputy Leader" - Might as well be Deputy Dawg.

Like it or not, the public perception of the Parly is the news shots and soundbites from FMQs. OK, Cathy may have got her murds in a wuddle every now and then, but at least you knew what she (if not NNSL) stood for.

(Still, I guess that they can work round that one, all it takes is for Wendy to have her weekly orders, sorry, I mean, weekly discussions with Gordon scheduled for FMQs, and we will all be delighted to see Cathy firmly clamped onto Eck’s behind with “bulldog” like tenacity as she fills in for the Leader of the Labour Contingent in the Scottish Parliament. Say kids, can anybody remember the plot of the “Hungry Caterpillar” ?)

And it takes two of them to take on "Two Brains" Swinney ? Can't wait for the Nats machine to get going on that one.

I suppose that at least the thankful thing is that she will be leaving His Lordship George Foulkes (The Accidental MSP) outside the tent. Thing is, would he have been better inside and under the discipline of Collective Responsibility rather than rentaquoting and making NNSL look Very Silly every time he opens his gob. What’s todays campaign, George, try and have another go at the Private Schools ? Or will it be more deep and philosophical musings on the State of The Union ?

I think that the most telling bit from the blog, however Brian, comes when you describe the new Parliamentary Aide to the LLCSP (I get tired writing her full title and refuse to pander to the “shorthand “ of calling her Scottish Labour Leader) as a “Highly Experienced Spin Doctor”.

Says it all really.

  • 11.
  • At 11:17 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Chris Law wrote:

Brian,
Thats possibly the best post script I have ever read. Short snappy and to the point. Brilliant

  • 12.
  • At 11:26 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

Totally agree with Peter.

The only thing the Labour "Government" got right was the smoking ban and even that wasn't there idea, copied from Dublin....

  • 13.
  • At 11:30 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Scamp wrote:

Pauline McNeill as Enterprise spokesperson!! Never had a job in real industry in her life. Mind you neither has Wendy.

  • 14.
  • At 11:41 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Graeme wrote:

"Pauline McNeill to the key post of shadowing the justice secretary is well-merited and somewhat overdue"


This isn't the MSP who decided to rant at her constituents on election night is it ?

  • 15.
  • At 11:44 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • JK Doran wrote:

Good to see so many women on the new Labour front bench. Pauline McNeill's promotion is overdue and it's certainly well deserved.

I hope Wendy Alexander takes a leaf out of Gordon Brown's book and sets about having an opposition of 'all the talents': bring in backbench MSPs, party activists, trade unionists, business people, academics, members & supporters of other parties, in as many ways as possible. All will have something to contribute to the reconnection with Labour's core voters and the reaching out to potential voters. It'll then be for Wendy & her team at Holyrood and within Labour to fashion a cohesive, a comprehensive and, importantly, a progressive platform to win power. And all the while harrying the Executive.

It no mean task but I for one am feeling optimistic.

  • 16.
  • At 12:03 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Home Rule for England wrote:

Labour are on the opposition benches. Let's hope that they stay there along with the Tories and the Lib Dems.The SNP must build on their successes.

  • 17.
  • At 12:40 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Moira Chisholm wrote:

Hi Brian,

You state -

"Look too at Dave Whitton - a new MSP but a former journalist and highly experienced spin doctor, who worked for Donald Dewar."

Like we need guys like this in the Parliament - more of the same from tired old London Labour.

Labour are stale and berift of policy and intellect, a split where the more pro Scottish forward thinkers move on is on the cards!

Moira

  • 18.
  • At 01:14 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Chasa wrote:

With one exception what an uninspiring bunch epitomized by the wholly incompetent Rhona Brankin. Well do I remember two parliaments ago, when Mike Russell comprehensively filleted her as she babbled away about an arts strategy that she clearly did not fully understand. I cannot wait to see her crossing swords with Nichola Sturgeon, what a one way contest. I give her no more than nine months before she is once again shown the door.
The one exception in this whole sorry bunch is Sarah Boyack a women of integrity, competence and genuine expertise in her field. A pity there is not more of them.

  • 19.
  • At 01:26 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Neil King wrote:

I saw Wendy Alexander on the TV for the first time the other night, same old re-iteration that SNP want independence and the majority of Scotland do not. She seems like she is aiming for some sort of justification for the kind of obstinate opposition which Politicians seem particulary adept at. I think she should perhaps ignore this pointless pushing match, and instead concetrate on devoloping some policy to actually counter the SNP interms of innovation. What about moving disruptive children out of Maths and English classes and let them do something which actually interests them, like building car engines, or welding pipes and allowing them an education. What about developing qualifications for the so called paraiah "neds" in order to give them some pride, even if it is to stop trying to educate to speak a foriegn language - English,, and get them to paint the scheme or something. Develop a sense of long departed pride, and no nannying partonising.
What about the development of national crime, and health database?
I am proabablt naive calling for some sort of progressive governemnt,

I'm sure they're all very talented. However the most obvious flaw as regards each of them is that they are all members of the Labour party, which means that hopefully none of them will ever be in government.

  • 21.
  • At 01:58 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • sheena wrote:

Thanks for your feedback, Mr Murrell

  • 22.
  • At 02:17 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • David, Edinburgh wrote:

So Brian:

If Hugh Henry goes to Audit, who replaces Jackie B on European and External Relations - where the White Paper will be discussed?

Any hints

  • 23.
  • At 03:37 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • sandymac wrote:

A good combination theoretically, let's hope it is the start of a less consensus orientated politics, it's so drab. There is less people with talent and experience in the SNP, let's hope the new Labour team run rings around them.

  • 24.
  • At 04:49 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Andra wrote:

I don't think this bunch will worry the SNP too much.

  • 25.
  • At 01:30 PM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • Ross wrote:

The very fact that so many Nats feel moved to spout their predictable vitriol just goes to show that they are worried. Even before Wendy Alexander's appointment, Alex Salmond's performances were becoming shaky as your blog noted. These developments certainly won't help.

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