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The life of Pia

Brian Taylor | 15:36 UK time, Tuesday, 19 February 2008

There is a new face in the Garden Lobby at Holyrood. One Simon Pia.

Who he? Wendy Alexander’s new spin doctor, that’s who.

Simon, an amiable and estimable chap, should be well equipped for the trials of his new task.

He has, after all, known pain as an avid supporter of Hibernian Football Club, having chronicled their exploits in book form.

As a former newspaper diarist, he was also less than complimentary about Ms Alexander, calling her “Gruppenfuhrer” in reference to her supposedly brusque manner.

Could have been worse, I suppose. He could have used a lower SS rank, such as Rottenfuhrer. (No, I didn’t invent that: look it up.)

Plainly internationalist in his insults, the bold Pia also shifted eastwards to call her “Stalinist”.

'Courageous decision'

All in the past, we are assured - although it made for an entertaining moment or two this morning when Ms Alexander and Mr Pia reviewed the newspapers which recalled these comments. In detail. With a cartoon.

Says something for Ms Alexander’s resilience and sangfroid, I suppose, that she can hire a chap who has previously described her in such terms.

Encountering the new doctor of spin, whom I know from his past guises, I congratulated him on his “courageous decision”. (Source: Yes Minister.)

Pressed by self and others, he immediately assured us, with only the hint of a self-conscious smile, that Labour’s lunchtime group meeting had been comradely and supportive. (Or some such phrase: I had rather tuned out by then.)

It is to be hoped, certainly by Ms Alexander, that Labour’s new sunshine from Leith will last a little longer in the political firmament than his immediate predecessors.

PS: In the interests of political balance, herewith the sporting allegiances of Mr Pia’s rivals.

• Kevin Pringle, who spins for the First Minister, supports St Johnstone.
• Ramsay Jones of the Tories is a rugby fan, adhering to Heriot’s.
• Neil Mackinnon of the LibDems favours Ross County but, if pressed, prefers shinty.
• James Mackenzie of the Greens is a Jambo. (Tr: Heart of Midlothian)
• Margo MacDonald, an independent self-spinner, is a Hibbie.


  • 1.
  • At 03:59 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Anglo Celt wrote:

Resilience and sangfroid? Do you think she had any choice, Brian? It's them big boys again!

  • 2.
  • At 04:13 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Andrew wrote:

Simon, how could you?

You're too laid back man, to spout all that Nulab guff and keep a straight face.

You'll be barred from the Windsor!

  • 3.
  • At 04:27 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Chris Morrison wrote:

Poor Wendy,

She's not been in the job a year and she's already ran out of people who like her that she could employ!

  • 4.
  • At 04:28 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Tom wrote:

A long time ago, I was a spinner in Dundee. I used to take those short contract jobs as well. They were marginally better than the burroo.

  • 5.
  • At 04:46 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Pendragon wrote:

I find it hard Brian,to welcome the appointment of any Party Spin Doctor even if he is an adherant of the One True Football Faith.

Hopefully he will help Wendy to sound a bit less like the School Swat ("Please Sir !,Please Sir !,You havn't answered My question !" ) .

  • 6.
  • At 04:49 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Colin wrote:

Did she REALLY know what he REALLY thought of her before she hired him?
Still, he may continue to spin after her revolutions have ceased to be!

  • 7.
  • At 05:11 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Mhari McAndrew wrote:

Poor Wendy is broken beyond repair.

All Pia's soldiers and all Pia's men, will not be able to make poor old Wendy electable again!

It is not whom should be Wendy's spin doctor, but whom should be UK Labour's regional leader to provide opposition against the SNP.

  • 8.
  • At 05:21 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • thoughtfulone wrote:

There seem to be an awful lot of Hibs supporters in powerful places around politics and the media. (David Begg, Irvine Welsh, Margo, Aidan Smith, Rab McNeil, the Proclaimers, Andy Murray, Dougray Scott, Brian Monteith, Peter McMahon).Care to out a few more Brian ???

  • 9.
  • At 06:38 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Traquir wrote:


Do you think it is just
coincidental that Simon Pia
is a close associate of Gordon Brown ?

"He was a big star and had a natural way with people," radio presenter Simon Pia, who was taught by Brown during this period, would later recall.

  • 10.
  • At 06:54 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Colin wrote:

Perhaps Pia is actually the appointment of whoever becomes Wendy's successor?
Until today, did she REALLY know what he REALLY thought about her?
Hard to see this being a long-lasting relationship.
You'd almost think that the SNP deliberately appointed him.
What fun the FM will have with any number of Pia's quotable quotes.

  • 11.
  • At 07:21 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • L.Telfer wrote:

It's not a spin doctor our Wendy needs, it's a pshyco-analyst that can convince her that she's not quite on the same wavelength as the rest of Scotland. He might even convince her that Crusher Broon will have her insides for violin strings if she doesn't get her act together. Or better still he might convince her that another career path might be more suited to her talents.For instance : primary school teaching, geriatric care or possibly the fish factory.

  • 12.
  • At 08:29 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Andrew Taylor wrote:

"Or better still he might convince her that another career path might be more suited to her talents.For instance : primary school teaching, geriatric care or possibly the fish factory. L.Telfer"

Please God make it the fish factory. I can't recall meeting a politically motivated fish, and the media are much less likely to ever tell us about her again.....

  • 13.
  • At 08:48 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Steven wrote:

Who cares? Just another "Brit" pretending to be Scottish aboard the "New" Labour ship of fools.

  • 14.
  • At 09:22 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • bert wrote:

Tom and Jack brought more pleasure to the Scottish people than Douglas and Wendy ever will...

  • 15.
  • At 09:48 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Leuchars wrote:

Now there is a man who likes a challenge, I give him till the 15th of April at the outside.

Wendy till june.

  • 16.
  • At 09:53 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Andrew wrote:

8 Derek Bateman--Radio Scotland

Jim Sillars was at Easter Road on Saturday with Margo.

  • 17.
  • At 10:18 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Alex Brodie, Edinburgh wrote:

"her supposedly brusque manner"

This tells us all we need to know. I'm sure everyone reading this has met one. And we all wish these types would figure out that no matter their so-called "status" they really don't have the right to treat other people like dirt.

  • 18.
  • At 10:20 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Big Stu wrote:

Nice try Brian. You're sneakily reminding us that everyone has a Spin Doctor - so that's Ok isn't it? You're telling us that Mr Pia is a nice chap and we needn't worry, yes?
This won't do. Mr Pia is joining the organisation that virtually invented spin and is the home of this mode of thinking. In Labour's hands spin is lying, misinformation and gross distortion. You've mentioned Kevin Pringle, can you tell me anything of his that could even remotely be described in any of these terms? Then think of Labour........yes, quite.
Mr Pia may indeed be "an amiable and estimable chap" but by taking up this position he is in grave danger of becoming an amiable and estimable distorter of the truth. I don't see how he can effectively (in Wendy Alexander's terms) do his job otherwise.
We may speculate on what he will do. Present Wendy Alexander as a competent and talented Politician and Leader? In the face of the tidal wave of contrary evidence, without recourse to bluster and untruth, I think not. He may try G.Browns sly trick of presenting her as a future competent Leader, although again the sheer weight of evidence makes this unlikely, without a great deal of economy with the verite. A Stateswoman, perhaps? Nope, far too gaffe prone, build her up and she'll crash all the harder. How about as a gifted Administrtor and Legislator? Best hurry up then. The Wendy Commission or review or whatever, is falling to bits as we speak.
No, it'll be more of the same, I guess. The grotesque spectacle of presenting the middle class bully Wendy Alexander, hog-tied by big business, as the champion of the poor and downtrodden.
Perhaps I misjudge the man, maybe he's telling Ms Alexander that the way forward is for her to abandon spin, put the people of her country before self and career. To work with the Scottish Government where Scotland's interests demand this, to genuinely reform the Scottish branch of the Labour party....but what am I saying? He'd be putting himself out of a job, wouldn't he?
If anyone knows this Gentleman and if he is a decent guy, tell him to get the heck out of it before his name is mud all over the country.

  • 19.
  • At 06:40 AM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Craig wrote:

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made.

Jean Giraudoux (1882 - 1944)

  • 20.
  • At 10:26 AM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • PJ wrote:

Not an old firm fan amongst them. Clearly an east coast bias in the corridors of Holyrood. Perhaps all the talented west coast spinners prefer to earn their crust in the more lucrative private sector.

  • 21.
  • At 11:43 AM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • alan reid wrote:

Is number 14 referring to the Alexander Brothers as bringing us more pleasure?

  • 22.
  • At 12:37 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Brian McHugh wrote:

Totally agree with Big Stu #18,
The word 'Spin' only ever seems to pop up when it is paired with the word 'Labour'.

I think that speaks volumes.

  • 23.
  • At 01:35 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

So he’s Wendy’s mouthpiece; big job that, I hope he is well remunerated.

If only West Coast Jack had managed to transfer all these jobs there would be none of the aforementioned individuals with East Coast allegiances; that would also have included Tannadice Arabs.

"As a former newspaper diarist, he was also less than complimentary about Ms Alexander, calling her “Gruppenfuhrer” in reference to her supposedly brusque manner."

Seems to be a running theme in Wendy's world of spin. I can only guess how long her newest recruit will last.

  • 25.
  • At 09:14 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Alistar wrote:

" IT IS TO BE HOPED",Oh Brian,I do not think so,neither dose the vast majority of the Scottish Electorate,you see the problem that you people in the Media just don't get, is that left today in Scotland there is but a handful of people whom carry the Labour Party Membership card and for the foreseeable future certainly will not advertise the fact.Unlike yourselves,card in one hand,pen in the other and troubled mind between

  • 26.
  • At 02:04 AM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Michael McFarlane wrote:

Who cares?.

After that excuse of a human being - Alastair Campbell - all spin doctors should be banned.

Wendy Alexander, she whom yourself and others have often portrayed as a kind of intellectual giant who was always destined for greatness, saviour of the Labour Party in Scotland etc, etc... . What she needs is a `Huge Miracle`.

Her reputation for failure grows every time she speaks.

  • 27.
  • At 02:02 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Ed wrote:

Splendid article Brian, always interesting to hear the insiders angle on defections from the Fourth Estate. Poacher turned Gamekeeper? Not sure that Ms Alexander will be around long enough to allow Mr Pia an opprtunity to show us what he can do.

I think I should point out however, that the singular of "Hibbies" is "Hibby". Although "Hibee" is an alternative.

Bon chance to the Arabs on Cup final day!

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