Wednesday, August 15, 2007

So, Farewell Then...

To no-one’s great surprise, Jack McConnell has decided to stand down as leader of the Scottish Labour Party. His decision was seen as inevitable following his party’s defeat at the hands of the SNP in May. It is believed that he had decided to stand down several weeks ago, but had taken the summer to ‘reflect’ – something interpreted widely as code for waiting for a Peerage or a similarly prestigious sinecure elsewhere.

Regular readers will know that I have a pretty low regard for Jack McConnell, and it would be hypocritical for me to try and pretend otherwise now. Most politicians, whatever they say about their opponents on the stump, are usually able to sink their differences in private. In my personal experience, McConnell was different. Too often, his seemed to be the demeanor of the small-time party fixer. Despite the periodic purple rhetoric, the role of national leader never seemed to sit particularly comfortably with him.

My own memory of dealing with him is when he rather cack-handedly tried to bully me over the choice of chairman for a debate I was organising between himself and Nicola Sturgeon back in 1996 (prescient or what?), when he was General Secretary of Scottish Labour and Nicola was merely a ‘rising star’. As a student, I wasn’t short of self confidence, so had no hesitation in telling him exactly where he could get off. The arrogance of youth, etc, but it seemed to have the desired effect. More amusing was his assertion at the debate itself that he had once been a member of the SNP, but had seen the light… just seconds before he managed to accidentally hit the light switch and plunge the entire lecture theatre into darkness!

That said, he did manage to sort out the Scottish Qualifications Agency as Education Minister. Having taken over as First Minister at a time when the howls of the anti’s threatened to being the whole project into disrepute, he did manage to restore some stability. ‘Doing less better’ was a sensible aim in the shorter term, but despite laudable initiatives such as tackling sectarianism, the smoking ban and raising Scotland’s overseas profile, somehow the overall package never seemed to catch the public imagination.

In his more reflective moments, he did seem to have a genuine passion for education, and took up the cause of the people of Malawi with some aplomb. His impending appointment as British High Commissioner to Malawi is a job which will probably suit him quite well. As Alex Salmond has said, McConnell leaves Scotland in a better state than he found it. For that at least, he deserves our thanks.

1 comment:

The Wilted Rose said...

The truth is that Scottish Labour has been reduced to opposition and whoever its leader matters not a jot. The SNP are in for the long haul. In my article on my blog on Friday, in fact, I note that Ms Alexander has used a clip from a YouTuber - - who thinks Linwood, a working-class town in her constituency that has become popular with Glasgow commuters, ‘sucks’. Is she really fit to lead the Labour Party in Scotland, or even be re-elected to her constituency in 2011?