you're reading...
politics, Scotland Labour Iain Gray ginger rodent

Gray man v ginger rodent

 Just Iain Gray’s luck.  He makes his best conference speech since becoming leader, and is upstaged by a ginger rodent.  Harriet Harman’s extraordinary attack on the Liberal Democrat finance minister, Danny Alexander, as a redheaded rat inevitably stole the headlines at the Scottish Labour Conference in Oban.  There was no way that the Iain Gray was going to be able to top that.  But he did at least try.  

  Look, the Scottish Labour leader is never going win any prizes for public speaking – Gray by name, grey by nature.  But this was a solid speech which went some way towards filling the aching void that is Labour policy in Scotland.  A National Care Service, single police force, fewer health boards.  No, it’s not going to set the heather on fire in the marginals, but it will light a bonfire under Scotland’s complacent local bureaucracies that have grown fat during the devolution years. But does he realise what he is taking on?  A legion of Labour worthies, sitting in smart offices across Scotland, will be losing their jobs if Gray is serious about his streamlining the state.  The polis will be after him too. 
   Gray’s attempt to start a negative bidding war with Alex Salmond, by saying he would take a 5% pay cut if he was elected First Minister, could be counterproductive, however. It rather invites people to ask whether the Labour leader really is worth £134,000 – five times the average wage. Outside Labour circles, where he is genuinely respected, Iain Gray is almost completely obscure and this speech won’t change that.  He leads the most anonymous Labour front bench in living memory. Ask yourself: just who is the finance spokesperson, education, health? Ten years ago, when Donald Dewar was leader, you had Wendy Alexander, Susan Deacon, Malcolm Chisholm, Jack McConnell – people who were recognisable, wave makers. 

   Now, Labour insiders say they aren’t worried about this. In fact, there is a virtue in anonymity, which is that people don’t blame you for things. Voters are turned off by Salmond’s bumptiousness, and arrogance, especially women voters. All Iain has to do is keep a low profile, avoid making mistakes and Labour will cruise back into power in May 2011 thanks to the ConDem coalition’s cuts , Salmond’s broken promises and the eternal swing of the political pendulum. Well, it’s a strategy that’s worked pretty well so far.

   But when it comes to election time, I think Labour will have to do a bit more than just being there. Public recognition can be as important as policy. The SNP front bench has Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney, Mike Russell, Kenny MacAskill and of course Alex Salmond. Like them or loathe them, they are national figures. In the polling booths, who would you want fighting Scotland’s corner?  

   But credit where it is due: this weekend, Gray and the new leader, Ed Miliband, have gone some way towards raising Labour’s game in Scotland.  At least they’re not just banging on about how wee Scotland could never survive on her own . 

     However, there aren’t a lot of votes in  increasing council tax, cutting the NHS, restoring prescription charges or reintroducing university tuition fees ( or something similar) . And these are the policies that the SNP will hang around Gray’s neck.  Putting a 2% cap in any increase in council tax just draws attention to the policy.  Whatever happened to Labour’s promise to make the council tax fairer by extending the tax bands to take account of the rise in house prices?

    Apprenticeships, yes, everyone wants those. But the pay freeze in the public sector is not going to win many votes and takes the heat of John Swinney who will have to do the same. The seven pound minimum wage for council workers is humane, but one wonders if this really is the right moment to introduce it.  Many low paid workers outside the public sector may feel excluded. Labour must avoid the charge that it is just the party of public sector workers. 

   Ending ring fencing of the NHS may have made sense from a public spending point of view,  but it is bad politics, surely, when opposing the ConDem cuts, to be talking about cutting the one area the Tories are avoiding.  Labour’s general approach to the cuts is to deny that they’ll ever happen – except, strangely, in the National Health Services.  Maybe, Gray will come up with something better before May, but time is running short. Yes , Iain Grey is the favourite to win – but I still don’t find a lot of people actually putting their money on it. The ginger rodent is 100/1 bar.

About @iainmacwhirter

I'm a columnist for the Herald. Author of "Road to Referendum" and "Disunited Kingdom". Was a BBC TV and radio presenter for 25 years - "Westminster Live" and "Holyrood Live" mainly. Spent time as columnist for The Observer, Guardian, New Statesman. Former Rector of Edinburgh University. Live in Edinburgh and spend a lot of time in the French Pyrenees. Will that do?


12 thoughts on “Gray man v ginger rodent

  1. IainIf that was his best speech I count myself lucky that I have not heard any other speech's by Gray.Re the ginger rodent, this from someone who not that long ago was supposed to represent the UK on a national stage. If she is representative of the best of NuLabour god help them.P.S. Funny how a politician from a rival party can totally dominate another parties conference. This was the Alex Salmond show in Oban.

    Posted by Dubbieside | October 31, 2010, 11:52 am
  2. Better a Grey speech which will deliver as opposed to a (slippery)Salmond speech high on Hyperbole with low or nonexistence in implementation.Its time for a changeIts Time for Iain Gray

    Posted by Mr. Mxyzptlk | October 31, 2010, 5:19 pm
  3. Harriet Harman is the Heather Mills of politics

    Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2010, 5:49 pm
  4. How would Mrs Harman have felt if someone had called Nazel Blears a ginger rodentess?Or one of the many gay Labour MPs as a queer rodent?I can only imagine her wrath and indignation.Well, I didn't watch Iain Gray's speech but it's hard to imagine him being anything other than tedious.His ideas seem quite preposterous.Make people pay for prescriptions, or put up council tax when for most of us times are getting harder and harder: Give council workers a pay rise to £7 an hour while you're paying them off left right and centre and you've just put up the council tax on a bloke who's had his pay frozen: take 5% reduction in a massive salery… why not 10% or 20%? Some would say 50% until the crisis is over.He's pinched the police policy from the SNP. Not one bobby goes while there are 8 chief constables.He's been banging on about apprenticeships since he got the job… but what did Labour ever do about apprenticeships?We need someone who can fight our corner with Cameron. OK Cameron isn't that bright, but he has the authority of his position, and the calm ease that goes with his upbringing. Michael Moore doesn't set heather on fire. We need someone who can sand up for Scotland.Iain Gray v David Cameron… LOL. No contest.

    Posted by tris | November 1, 2010, 1:07 am
  5. I see Mr McWhirter is joining the coterie of Scottish jounos abandoning objectivity at the door and is mow openly supporting Labour

    Posted by Anonymous | November 1, 2010, 1:37 am
  6. Even if Iain Gray were to take a 50% pay cut he still wouldn't be worth the money…With London calling all the shots in the "Scottish" Labour party; Iain Gray is just a puppet politician with strings being tugged and twisted from London.The thing that bothers me is that Iain Gray would rather have a Tory government at Westminster running Scotland into the ground than an Independent Scotland run by a truly Scottish-focused Labour party…These so-called socialists pretend they are the champions of the working people, yet they all have their sights set on a Lordship by any means necessary; even if that means selling their country short! Scottish Unionist politicians are more often than not, bought and sold for English titles, salaries and pensions!The SNP refuse to appoint Lords to that unelected and discredited old-boys-club. The SNP are the only party that has Scotland's interest foremost in mind. The SNP has a leader who has more experience and understanding of economic matters than the whole Con-Dem cabinet put together, let alone a Labour party who are unable to put together coherent arguments without resorting to childish and vicious personal attacks on their opponents. Don't vote Labour for your father – vote SNP for your children…

    Posted by Jack Bull | November 1, 2010, 10:34 am
  7. No Anon. That is simply not true. Read back some of his other posts and you will see a fair amount of objectivity.Jack: Great post and absolutely true.

    Posted by tris | November 1, 2010, 1:30 pm
  8. If the SNP had Scotland's interests at heart they would not repeatedly be insisting the original Megrahi verdict was sound. Anyone with the brain of a cardboard box who reads the trial transcripts – and errrrr isn't MacAskill a lawyer? – could not possibly call that verdict sound! The new evidence proving Gauci was PAID TWO MILLION DOLLARS FOR TESTIMONY, testimony in which he didn't even positively identify Megrahi, would, in any other country be called bribery and lead to an immediate investigation which would ultimately conclude the verdict could not be remotely called safe. Evidence, withheld from judges, about a certain break in at Heathrow Airport on the morning that plane went down also screams to be publicly acknowledged. And those who withheld it, Thatcher was in government at the time, know who they are! The SCCRC published its findings in 2007 and this appeal was allowed to be delayed repeatedly on the SNP's watch. That is a disgrace. MacAskill, and Salmond, could have made all of Scotland proud by ensuring we got to the truth about the worst atrocity we have seen in these islands since Word War 2. Instead they ignored not just one elephant in the room but SIX: these would represent the six grounds identified by the SCCRC to suggest a miscarriage of justice may have occurred at that man's trial. That MacAskill especially chose to claim in his vomit-inducing speech, on the day he safely shoo-ed Megrahi home with our corrupt, filthy "justice system" intact, that the verdict was sound is disgusting because he KNEW he was lying. Bottom line, all of Scotland deserves to know the truth about Lockerbie. Politicians who lack the guts to go after that truth have something to hide. Until the release last year, and the mysterious circumstances behind that dropped appeal, I had believed the Unionist Parties were the ones desperate to bury Lockerbie and the truth. It has become evident that the SNP are just as keen to follow the same path. I am ashamed of them. If "preserving the reputation of Scots Law" involves ignoring not just Megrahi's right to justice but the rights of the rest of us to know the truth about Lockerbie then the SNP have gone down a terrible route indeed. The alternative, to demand and go after, the truth, to ensure that appeal was heard would have brought them acclaim the world over for having had the guts to take apart a system which – if we take the Megrahi case as one example – needs dismantling because it is corrupt and thoroughly untrustworthy.

    Posted by Jo G | November 6, 2010, 8:54 pm
  9. Mr McWhirter,Have you been sent to the naughty step for having the temerity to criticise Labour for thie obstructionist stand on the Alcohol Bill? I ask because I noticed that your article in Last week's Sunday Herals was not given any prominence on the web site and this week you do not have an article in the Opinion section.When will you put that article on your blog?

    Posted by Anonymous | November 21, 2010, 3:38 pm
  10. I really liked your article.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2012, 5:50 pm

Twitter Updates

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 56,996 other followers

Follow Iain Macwhirter on WordPress.com



%d bloggers like this: