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The waiting's finally over

Brian Taylor | 15:30 UK time, Friday, 14 September 2007

And so finally, after weeks of waiting, Wendy Alexander has been confirmed as the new leader of Scottish Labour.

Why the wait? Because, although she was sole nominee, her election had to be confirmed by an electoral college comprising Labour MSPs and the party’s executive in Scotland.

Today it was announced that she had received 100% support from those voting.

“Better than Stalin”, one party aide was heard to mutter, the comment somewhat stifled by the presence of tongue in cheek.

And better than Donald Dewar. In similar circumstances, he only got 99.8% of the vote.

On investigation, it turned out that one union had rashly declined to offer support. Plainly, discipline has improved.

Wendy Alexander wants organisation to improve too.

The new leader wants root and branch reform - extending the party’s campaign reach across the whole of Scotland.

When Harold Wilson became Labour leader in 1963, he compared the party’s organisation to a “penny farthing”, quite unsuited to winning power in contemporary politics.

Wendy Alexander plainly feels the same now about Scottish Labour.

Stand by for policy movement too. She plans a virtual think-tank, tapping into ideas from a wider base.

Stand by for a new team of advisers - and for her shadow cabinet, due to be unveiled on Monday.

But perhaps she faces a more fundamental question.

What, precisely, does she lead? Strictly, it is Labour in the Scottish Parliament.

Her focus upon party organisation would suggest that she definitely envisages a wider role.

But how will that square with the role and influence of MPs - including one Gordon Brown?

Wendy Alexander wants more autonomy for the Scottish party on policy. She says the Scottish party should lead on devolved issues while the UK party leads on reserved matters.

It will be intriguing to see how it all shakes down.


Comments

  • 1.
  • At 04:50 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

Wendy Alexander is trying to prepare the ground for a UK general election in May 2008.

That job of convincing Scots to vote for Labour at these elections has now been made impossible by the pictures of Gordon Brown glad handing Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street. That stunt has repulsed many in her own party, convinced others that Labour is back to it's spinning ways, and will bring back some truly horrible memories for many Scottish voters.

"New Labour - New Tories", will be the cry that Wendy will hear ringing in her ears right up to polling day.


  • 2.
  • At 05:07 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • PMK wrote:

Welcome the new caretaker of British Labour (Scottish division). Related to the incompetent one who messed up Scotland's elections in May. Protege of the dour (similarly unelected) one in control of number 10.

Radical? She said it herself - today, the only thing Labour know they want is to change who is currently in power! This lot are clearly still in the William Hague, IDS phase of recovery that can be best summed up as "self-delusion". 'All we need to do is be Labour ... more than we were before'. No you need to change.

When did Labour ever control the "politics of aspiration" incidentally? What I remember from countless Labour election campaigns is the politics of fear! It will be a long time before they even get to the Cameron touchy-feely "were listening" phase!

  • 3.
  • At 05:31 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Gordon from Ayr wrote:

I think the PM has already started his campaign in Scotland for a 2008 election. He said 'we' when referring to Scotland's great result in France on Wednesday night, and he phoned Alex McLeish on his mobile to congratulate him, something he didn't to to the other successful Alex four months ago.

Will McFadden's goal replace Gazza's one against us in 1996 as his favourite goal of all time?

Watch out for more clues as we head towards Euro 2008!

  • 4.
  • At 05:51 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Matt McLaughlin wrote:

Providing Wendy Alexander listens and the Labour Party remains disciplined, she will do fine.

Alex - "only one thing on his mind (independance or bust)" Salmond will run out of gas and shoot himself in the foot.

Time, patience and a robust, effective opposition is the secret to success.

  • 5.
  • At 06:07 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Alex Buchan wrote:

"Stand by for policy movement too"

There already has been policy movement. See for instance this article on her speech at the culminating meeting of her national tour in the Apex Hotel in Edinburgh, where she said there would be a referendum on Scottish government in 2010 after all.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2165513,00.html

This was by far her most dramatic policy statement and contradicted all that had been said by the Labour party on this issue to date, but you would be excused for not noticing. Neither the BBC nor the Scottish press gave it any coverage. The journalists who were present were informed by her press team that this was no a slip of the tongue. But does this represent independence of thinking on her part? I hardly think so. Just how likely is it that Gordon Brown, who’s support secured the Scottish leadership position for her, would allow her to make such a monumental decision on her own.

For some reason no official statement has been made to inform the Scottish public of Brown’s change of heart. Perhaps it is because he is desperately trying to fend off pressure for a referendum on the EU Treaty, and perhaps also he doesn’t want voters in England reminded of the pressure in Scotland for a fresh look at the relationship of Scotland has to the rest of the UK. This would of course focus attention on those negative voter perceptions; the fact that he is Scottish, the Barnett Formula, and the West Lothian Question. These are the perceptions that no amount of PR such as having Maggie round, or having members of other parties in his government, can do anything about.

All of this doesn’t represent new politics, but a return to the old practices of subordinating Scotland’s interests to Labour’s UK electoral needs. The fact that Wendy Alexander let slip that Labour’s intentions before the general election is safely out of the way, could have been her first major gaffe, but thankfully for her the Scottish press obliged in not letting on.

  • 6.
  • At 06:47 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • john wrote:

Who are they kidding ?
Wendy is Browns stooge
Scottish Labour is rotten to the core and until it becomes an independent Scottish Labour party it will continue to loose out in Scotland. New Labour are Conservatives with a different badge nothing else.

  • 7.
  • At 07:31 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • karin wrote:

I cant believe the BBC is calling Wendy Alexander "Red Wendy" the only thing that should be red about Wendy is her face. She is an embarrassment to true socialists everywhere. This is the woman who thinks thatcher is "interesting".

  • 8.
  • At 08:11 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Forsyth wrote:

I heard part of her speech and it was the same old garbage from Labour.It is almost as if they really believe that only they have the right to govern in Scotland, then of course she set about attacking the SNP for not delivering on election promises. Surely after all these years of Labour rule everything is wonderful and there is no need to change anything.
Labour still dont get that what she was saying may appeal to the core Labour voter but I and many others are sick of their negativity and lack of ambition.Dinosaurs the whole lot of them.

Wendy Alexander can run up and down Argyle Street in a chicken suit for all I care. After that disgraceful election campaign, and everything that English Labour has inflicted on us from Holyrood and Westminser, I will never vote Labour.

  • 10.
  • At 09:13 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Dougthedug wrote:

Wendy Alexander is described on the Labour in Scotland website as, "Labour's Scottish Parliament leader".

http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/

Even though you acknowledge that Ms. Alexander is no more than, "Labour's Scottish Parliament leader", in your post you headline it with, "Wendy Alexander has been confirmed as the new leader of Scottish Labour." This sloppy journalism seems to be endemic in both the Scottish and English media.

In the interests of accurate journalism are you going to stop using the phrases, "Scottish Labour" and "Leader of Scottish Labour" or "Scottish Labour Leader", in print and on the television as no separate Scottish Labour party exists either within or without the Labour party and the post of Scottish Labour Leader is equally fictional. All the use of these phrases do is reinforce the widespread misapprehension that there is a Scottish Labour party and that Wendy Alexander leads it.

Wendy leads the Labour MSP's in the Scottish Parliament. That's her only official role within the UK Labour party.

  • 11.
  • At 12:04 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

The problem for Scottish Labour is that they are always going to be seen as part of the English Labour Administration.

A Scottish Labour Party, truly independant of London - ooerr, starts to look somewhat Nationalist.

This is why Independance is ultimately a given - because all the parties must evolve to looking principally after the needs of the Scottish electorate.

I look forward to an independant multi-party Scotland - I might even vote labour again then...

  • 12.
  • At 09:39 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Thomson wrote:

The big 'policy' is to hike council tax to pay for Edinburgh's trams; otherwise what?

From the Herald:

"The Labour Party has suffered because of the influence of the private sector, particularly on public services, and by giving them privileged access and positions, they're going to alienate the membership."

So the membership is clearly unimpressed as am I, a member of the middle class. Wendy work this out:

My house has increased in 'value' by 15% per annum over the last four years and my net income by 2.2% per annum over the same period. Explain why your pan is 'fair'?

Do you really think Scots will buy this nonsense.

  • 13.
  • At 10:49 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Pendragon wrote:


The only person who wil be more pleased than Wendy Alexander at her "Election" is Alex Salmond.

He must be so looking forward to her brand of 1980s-style, Politicaly Correct student Politics.Taken along with her membership of the Ronald Regan and Rupert Murdoch inspired "British-American Project" and her familial connections to the New Labour Establishment,she has serious credibility problems.Don't be too hard on her Alex !

  • 14.
  • At 12:55 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • michael loftus wrote:

So Wendy Alexander is the new labour leader, I expect the people of Paisley wont have long to wait for a public apology for the destruction meted out by her party on its town centre. But no, she is now saying that her party would revitalise Paisley and that it was a mistake to vote SNP. Does she really think that the majority of people in Paisley have a short memory. Tell this hypocritical MSP to get back to basics and stop treating the electorate as fools.

  • 15.
  • At 01:34 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Ken Kennedy wrote:

PMK i dont want to alarm you but Gordon Brown was elected as an MP, we in Bitain do not operate a Presidential system where we directly vote for the leader of the country, we vote for local representatives for various parties the party that returns the majority of members then become the government and the leader of that party becomes PM. Should the leader of that party stand down then the party will find a new leader as ANY party or organisation would do.


Malcom I would hate to live in the world you inhabit where celebrated former leaders are left to rot. For all her numerous faults Maggie did a lot of good for Britain and i think its only right that she should be afforded the opportunity to visit a new prime minister who as a young backbencher she invited to speak with whilst at the hieght of her power.

So Wendy says she wants to revalue all the homes in Scotland? Now is this not going to cause problems for those with the overinflated values around at present? And the pensioners who have lived in their house for decades being ripped off yet again and not a word about the ability to pay. So far under Labour council tax rates have increased above the rate of inflation every year without fail with no improvement in services, in effect local government is becoming a luxury we can ill afford. You have not listened Wendy, you have learned nothing, you are still in denial regarding the wishes or ordinary scots.

  • 17.
  • At 02:22 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Honest Joe wrote:

I wished she would have made a good introductory speech but sadly she did not. Labour are failing to capture the hearts and minds of the people of Scotland. Alex Salmond and the SNP are doing a good job but they require a good opposition to provide the spur to perfection. I am afraid tricks for Tory heartlands like resurrecting Maggie Thatcher on the steps of number ten are actually severely negative for me and my friends. I was gobsmacked.

They had eight years in power to prove themselves worthy,competent and listeners.
They did none of these!!!
Ready to meet the aspirations of the people?I think not!

  • 19.
  • At 04:22 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Neil Small wrote:

Someone mentioned and "Independant Scottish Labour Party". Well, that could describe some of the Labour Councils in Scotland, especially South Lanarkshire, which was only returned to power because a TORY councillor agreed to powershare with them.

I don't want the SNP in power at all, but Labour need to sort themselves out.

Wendy is a stronger force than Jack McConnell ever was, at least she doesn't give the impression of being a local councillor suddenly handed the nation's budget.

  • 20.
  • At 04:29 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • douglas eckhart wrote:

Wendy leads the Labour MSP's in the Scottish Parliament. That's her only official role within the UK Labour party.
---------------------
No 8:

And that my friend is why you and your similar thinking Labour MPs are being increasingly left behind.

The political scene in Scotland is evolving.

The movement is without doubt towards autonomous Scottish parties, with an affiliation to their Westminster counterparts.

It matters not a jot about your 'formal designation', the reality has already moved beyond it. Eventially the formal set-up of the Labour party will reform itself to reflect the reality on the ground.

You need to accept what is actually happening on the ground rather than being hung up with the 'official designation' of Scottish Labour.

The future success of the labour party in Scotland is dependent on it coming to terms with the evolving trend of the new polity known as Scottish Labour.

The Lib dems have accepted this development with regards to their own parties, as have the Tories. Labour appear archaic. They are in danger of becoming political dinosaurs.


  • 21.
  • At 05:55 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Did Irving Berlin display a greater foresight than was perceived in 1911 when he penned "Alexander's Ragtime Band", seems an ideal call to arms with the exception of, “…Up to the man, Who's the leader of the band…”; but Hey Ho the PC brigade had not darkened our doorsteps in those early years of the twentieth century.

Will Wendy adopt this as her theme tune or is the rather obvious alternative interpretation cause this to be a title too far?

  • 22.
  • At 09:12 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Craig M wrote:

The only reason Wendy Alexander is leader of the London Labour party in Scotland is because no one else bothered to contest the position. Why didn't Andy Kerr or Cathy Jamieson or any of the others who previously held ministerial jobs contest the leadership? They surely have more right to the job and more ministerial experience than Wendy has. Could it be they declined the contest because,

1)Wendy was hand picked by Gordon Brown as his 'stooge' in Scotland, a case of like sister, like brother.
2)Her colleagues in Scotland want to see Wendy crash and burn so are only to happy to see her get the job.
3)Her colleagues in Scotland lack the ambition or ability to take on the job.
4)Her colleagues in Scotland think she is the only person for the job given her previous examples of leadership qualities, her popularity within the London Labour party in Scotland and her warm and engaging persona.

Me thinks 4) is the least likely reason, Wendy has questionable leadership qualities, she isn't popular within Labour regardless of what the spin doctors say, and she certainly does not have a personality that would have most people running out to the ballot box to vote for her. This leaves 1), 2) or 3) as the reason why Wendy is now the head honcho in Scotland, any of which speaks volumes about the lack of quality and ambition of the London Labour party in Scotland and their contempt for the Scottish electorate.

  • 23.
  • At 09:19 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Tom Findlay wrote:

I think another Political Editor got it right when he said the other night on television, that she was not an orator or telegenic communicator.

First we get Donald Dewar, who the public never liked, then Henry who disgraced us all, and then inarticulate mumbling Jack.

And now finally Wendy, who I think will distance Scottish Labour from the electorate, more effectively and efficiently than the previous three put together.

  • 24.
  • At 04:08 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • mark cooper wrote:

i hope wendy's cabinet reflects the whole of scotland . I say this because she is MSP for paisley North and with Cathy Jameison the MP for Cummnock there is currently a western imbalance

  • 25.
  • At 04:40 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • mairi macleod wrote:

brian,
some of the answers you seek were on the politics show today, its a conn!! wendy WANTS more powers, its
looking unlikely, browne,not that
one (the other invisable one)was
very bashfull, giving loads of waffle,the usual saying plenty of nothing, does not want to burst her bubble so soon,
now we all know there IS no such a
thing as THE SCOTTISH LABOUR PARTY.
ITS labour all the way,HEAD QUARTERS LONDON ENGLAND. we are not fooled,

  • 26.
  • At 02:42 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

The saddest thing about the political situation is that the voting populace has become so complacent. I can't stand the fact that the politicians in Scotland seem to think that it is OK to pour out the same old formulaic drivel when asked direct questions.

I also cannot stand the fact that the voters seem to lap it up. Well Scotland's got a new emperor with the same old clothes, hurrah, pity there are no wee boys or girls who can see through the facade.

Politicians. Pity that we have them - and have to pay for the privilege of having them represent their own groupthink and not the needs of their constituents.

Long live Emperor Wendy - I hope you wear underpants.

  • 27.
  • At 09:07 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Bill wrote:

Is Politics about getting elected by sticking to your principles? Since New Labour "reinvented" intself i.e. changed its stance on many of its principles, other parties have done the same e.g. David Cameron. Now Wendy is proposing the same for Scottish Labour. The question is, has her principles/beliefs simply "evolved" (a not unreasonable thing to happen), or is she simply going for policies that she thinks will get Labour elected? The electorate will not be fooled. For what its worth, my view is that "career polititions", of which I think Wendy Alexander is one, are more concerned with their standing in the polls that their principles.

  • 28.
  • At 01:36 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Moira Chisholm wrote:

Brian,

What sort of party are the London based UK Labour Party in Scotland?

No one of substance has put his or her name forward to lead the party's Scottish region. This suggests the post is not of sufficient importance to the UK Labour party.

Alternatively is it because there have no leaders of note? Those in Labour see their career and allegiance to Westminster and not the Scottish people. Was it ever so and will continue to be!

Difficult to pick one reason, I believe it is a mixture of the two, that combined ensure Labour will treat Scotland with contempt, no surprises there either.

Brown and Thatcher on steps of the Downing St in London. It is a pity Brown did not tell us of his admiration for Thatcher when she was closing Scotland down in the eighties. He wouldn’t have, Brown was playing the London card, not really caring what Scotland thinks.

Only time Brown, Blair or the Alexanders care about Scotland is when they want votes or someone to fight for them in a war that without Union, would have nothing to do with Scotland.

Surely people are beginning to see what a curse the Union is to Scots?

Moria Chisholm

  • 29.
  • At 02:42 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Duncan wrote:

There is nothing about Wendy Alexander that encourages or persuades me to believe she will truly listen and re-act to what people think.

After 40 years supporting and voting Labour I have switched to SNP and with the news that the Lib Dems are going to back them, I await the introduction of their replacement Council tax proposals with anticipation and delight - I couldn't wait any longer for the fairness in taxation I expected Labour to provide.

I await the Proclaimer's new hit single with money to spend:

'Labour no more'

  • 30.
  • At 03:12 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Wendy Alexander is yet another member of the West Coast Mafia, just from a different 'family'

The Labour party in Scotland is now being led by the only person who wanted the job; there were no obvious contenders for the Labour Leadership and have been none since the demise of Donald Dewar, clearly the Scottish Labour Party is displaying the symptoms of a dearth of talent; Wendy previously ran away in the huff with Jack’s ‘family’, how long will she last this time?

Could John Reid be contemplating a run for the Scottish Leadership once he has spent enough ‘time with his family,’ he would at least be a credible figure in the role of Labour Leader / Prospective First Minister; could he become the second Westminster politician to re-cross the border?

  • 31.
  • At 03:50 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Ewen McPherson wrote:

At the risk of sounding cliched

"Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss"

So, "Red Wendy" has now been anointed as Gordon's Representative to Northern Britain.

Can anyone tell me what's going to change ? Will New New Scotch New Labour Policy be made in Scotland or will it have to be run past Westminster first ? What's Gordon's, sorry, Wendy's "Big Idea" to chivvy the Sweaties back into the traditional "weigh the vote" fold ?

Let's not forget that but for the eagle eyes of Dave Thompson we would now be sitting in a third term of a moribund and morose New Labour/Liberal administration and Wendy's husband wouldn't have to be giving up the day job. Jack wouldn't be planning his retirement in Malawi and Nicol (Who?) Steven wouldn't be trying to pick Tavish's daggers out of his back. Ross Finnie would still probably be telling the Farmers not to panic and wait and see what London decides.

And there's still that deafening silence about the "stringencies" of the Spending Review...

I give her about....until Brother Doug tells Gordon that it's safe to call an election.

Anyone for Wendy being the shortest serving Labour "Leader in the Scottish Parliament" ? I'm sure that Doug'll give her plenty warning.

  • 32.
  • At 11:27 AM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • PMK wrote:

No 15 - Ken Kennedy.

I am well aware how the system is supposed to work: and I am also well aware how it does. Dont delude yourslef. Consider if Tony Blair, Gordon Brown - or indeed your precious Maggy - govern/governed as the first among equals? No, they acted rather like Presidents in fact!

Also, how quickly can a promise be forgottn Tony Blair was elected to serve "a full third term", not two years. As much as I despised Tony Blair, you had to recognise his legitimacy as he was elected as PM (even if it was by a crooked system). But Gordon Brown has never been elected by anyone outside of Fife! There were no promises of an orderly transition at the last general election, and it was Brown and not McConnell who lost in Scotland in May.

Put away the textbook and view reality.

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