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politics. Wendy Alexander. Iain Gray. Holyrood. Scottish Parliament elections. resignation

And so farewell Wendy Alexander, resignation queen of Holyrood.

Wendy Alexander has walked out again, resigning her Paisley seat and citing the oldest and lamest excuse in politics,  “to spend time with her family”.  She leaves the Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, and fellow career women in the lurch.   Though somehow, I don’t think this is the last we have heard of Wendy.   Labour’s former Scottish leader has made something of a career out of resignation.  She first walked out in 2002 as enterprise minister after a frantic 7.00 am encounter with the then First Minister Jack McConnell on his Wishaw doorstep. 

   Not having any family then, she spent more time with her academic contacts, and went on to marry the economist Professor Brian Ashcroft. She found her way back into government through her expertise on financial affairs (no pun intended) and became Scottish leader after Jack McConnell resigned following the 2007 election defeat. She was the only politician of substance left from the Dewar generation. 

    But not for long. Wendy resigned for the second time in 2008 after it emerged that she’d accepted an illegal campaign donation from a Jersey businessman.  She had also infuriated Gordon Brown by calling for an SNP referendum on independence.  That looked like Wendy’s goose finally cooked.  But she worked her way on the back benches, and was even tipped to get Andy Kerr’s job as finance secretary after the May election –  assuming Labour returns to power.   But it was not to be – again.  
    Well, she certainly chooses her moments.  Resignation 3.0 broke on the eve of the election campaign and in the week in which her leader, Iain Gray, had suffered not one, but two custard pies in the polls.  The first was the Ipsos Mori poll which indicated that the SNP had wiped out Labour’s ten point lead and were now narrowly in the lead in the Holyrood race.  Then a straw poll in the Scotsman showed that only 20% of voters in Scotland’s leading cities knew who he was.  Mr Gray is living up to his reputation as the nowhere man of Scottish politics. Since Wendy Alexander was one of the very few publicly recognisable figures on the Scottish Labour benches, it is hard to think of a more damaging time to announce her departure. 

   Was she pushed?  I doubt it. Did family call?  Well , all politicians with young children face difficult choices and lashings of parental guilt.  However, she managed to cope during the first five years of her twins’ lives, when mothers normally feel the pull of home the hardest.  She will be spending more time with her children just as they are leaving for school.  Which will leave a bit of a gap in the life of a figure who lives and breathes  public life.  Most believe Wendy went because: a, she thinks Gray is a loser; b, she wasn’t getting the finance job;  and c, she’s got some post in mind in a university, the Lords, or maybe in some high flying financial outfit.  

    Or was it sexism?  Wendy’s latest departure has been accompanied by the usual chorus of complaints about how difficult it is for women in politics, dominated as it is by nasty middle aged men and an intrusive and a cruel sexist media.  Of course it is hard.  Wendy was given a rough time by cartoonists, cybernat trolls and You Tube, who made fun of her  mobile features and her relentless delivery.   But that’s what public life is like, and if politicians like her are saying that they can’t handle it, what future is there for women in politics?  No – this won’t do any more.  Politics is a dog’s life for every politician – male and female.  Ed Miliband has a young family and a mobile face and has suffered just as much ridicule in the media.  Many women will be dismayed at this feminist role model saying that, after all, her place is in the home when the Scottish parliament is the most family friendly in Europe. MSPs only have to be there three days a week and they go home at 5.45.  

     Of course, it is regrettable that a politician of Wendy Alexander’s competence decides to throw in the towel.  But it has less to do with sexism than the dire state of Labour politics in Scotland.  The unidentifiable Iain Gray has been hoping to get into Bute House  by stealth – by saying nothing, doing nothing, hearing nothing.  Labour believes it has a divine right to rule in Scotland whenever there is a Tory government in Westminster.  It is the default position of Scottish politics and, truth to tell,  I suspect that, even with last week’s polls, Labour is still in line to take over from the SNP after the May election.  But you have to ask: why?

    What do they want to be in government to do?   Defend jobs and services is the short answer – look after their mates in public bodies is the longer one.   Raise council tax to pay for it.   Make daft speeches against the “Tory Nats” for being in league with David Cameron.   Iain Gray wants his turn atop the crumbling structure that is Labour Scotland.  And once he’s there, he’ll probably do very little in case it jeopardises his chances of a seat in the Lords.  The seat that his predecessor, Jack McConnell practically had to beg for because he had been too independent-minded.    I suspect that this realisation is what finally forced Wendy to wander.   

   And if that is unfair, crypto-nationalist bile, then I say:  prove me wrong.    We’re told that there is going to be a policy blitz from Labour in the coming week. It’s about time.  As far as I can tell, Labour stands – in this election –  for 1: increasing council tax; 2, cutting health spending in real terms; 3, restoring university tuition fees in the form of a graduate contribution; 4 stuffing yet more people in jail who shouldn’t be there; 5 protecting supermarkets from proper taxation.  Oh: and jobs, of course – theirs.  No wonder they were so determined to keep the price of booze down. We’ll need it. 

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?


14 thoughts on “And so farewell Wendy Alexander, resignation queen of Holyrood.

  1. I suspect that, even with last week’s polls, Labour is still in line to take over from the SNP after the May election. But you have to ask: why?Problem is, other than in the very occasional commentary piece, the Scottish media seem reluctant to ask any probing questions of Labour in Scotland. Perhaps this will change when their manifesto is rolled out and the media have something to shoot at. Perhaps not.I'd love to hear your thoughts Iain. It's a pity you don't respond to (read?) comments on your blog (I know, life's too short).

    Posted by voiceofourown | February 21, 2011, 10:13 am
  2. it's the bairns I feel sorry for. Imagine having a homework monitor like Wendy. pair wee souls.

    Posted by Anonymous | February 21, 2011, 11:32 am
  3. IainIf you have ask 'WHY' best take your head out of your arse(with all respect).you wanna"wake up and smell the roses"

    Posted by Mr. Mxyzptlk | February 21, 2011, 12:18 pm
  4. "I suspect that, even with last week’s polls, Labour is still in line to take over from the SNP after the May election.  But you have to ask: why?"Lets hope your wrong.  Unfortunately though Labour voters are a fickle bunch. Despite having the worst leader ever in Iain Gray, a talentlessly weak team in Holyrood, no real policies (as yet) and who put party politics before the national interest, there are still people out there who will vote for them. The regretable reality is that the majority of these individuals do not know the first thing about the party they are voting for. They don't watch FMQ's, read any paper of any worth or know the first thing about what goes on in Labour party la-la-land. And, as a recent straw poll suggests, there are voters who don't even know the name of their own leader. A bit like employing a thief and complaining because he's sold the family gold (ref: one Mr G. Brown of Kirkcaldy)Some Labour voters I've spoke to tell me they vote Labour because that's "who they've always voted for" or because "their father voted for them", in which case, they might as well rip up their ballot papers and do us all a favour. Their parties ethos has changed unrecogniseably over the last few decades. Somewhat like meeting an old school chum who you've not seen for years, going for a drink, and realising that you actually can't stand them. You discover you are both worlds apart and agreed to meet them only for old times sake. I'm sure we've all been there?Ok so what am I trying to say here? Just this. "Be your own person". "Think outside the box". "Don't be a sheep".  "Wake up and smell the coffee". I could go on forever but I think the SNP sum it up rather nicely:"Dont vote Labour because of your father, Vote SNP because of your children". You are not your father. You are you. So vote for your future and, more importantly, your childrens future, not your father's past. That, sadly, is a backwards step – a retro item of political cloth that should firmly stay hidden in the wardrobe.After all, you have already remembered him – in your child's name, their looks, their actions and, most of all, in your memories.

    Posted by AndrewS | February 21, 2011, 12:50 pm
  5. … and this years award goes to …well not Wendy Alexander anyway. She ditched her kids with the babysitters during the important bonding years to pursue a wet dream of a career with the discredited Labour party. Now they are shite-er she drops them (again) citing 'motherly feelings' as her reason for leaving. The lying cow.More accurately Scottish Labour is in dissarray. There are many MSP's unhappy with the current front bench but can't do a thing about it so near the election for fear of turning a revolt into more SNP votes. That, and the fact that Andy Kerr went crying to the big womans blouse that is Iain Gray because Wendy wanted his job. The Gray Man decided to blank her in favour of Kerr probably because he is less of a threat to him post election and I think he's still miffed at her for fudging the interrogation of two eminent professors at the Scotland Bill Committee. They turned up to answer questions about oranges and ended up being force fed bananas – sideyways. So I for one am glad she's gone. There'll be no sentimental wishy washy boot licking tears from me. She's a useless illegal-donation-accepting scally that was always trying to get into her wee brother trousers. Get her on the scrap heap like the rest of the dirty lying scoundrels.

    Posted by Mother of the Year Awards | February 21, 2011, 1:22 pm
  6. Well, that's most of the working Monday about gone and no policy blitzkrieg from the website of the Labour Scottish division yet. Mibbes the morn?

    Posted by Robert | February 21, 2011, 3:32 pm
  7. Perhaps, Robert, they've not had their orders, yet? Nobody left to make a decision?

    Posted by Matt | February 21, 2011, 4:26 pm
  8. The snp mad dogs turn up to denigrateboth an honorable ex-labour leader and the present incumbent.No matter after may and the Nationalists are swept aside they can return to their caves and stare at the medieval shadows flickering on the wallsThe rest of us can breath a sigh of relief and get on with our lifes

    Posted by Mr. Mxyzptlk | February 21, 2011, 6:54 pm
  9. The rest of us can breath a sigh of relief and get on with our lifesLike fraudulently altering a donors name or John Park and Claire Baker deny any wrongdoing over ME2 Communications printing work friends of yours Niko!

    Posted by cynicalHighlander | February 21, 2011, 9:15 pm
  10. A little bit of history. Look at the voting patterns during the 18 yr spell of Conservative govt 1979-97. During that period there were a total of 17 elections; Euro, Westminster and council. Which opposition party got the biggest increase in the share of the vote at each of these elections? The answer is SNP 7 LAB 6 Lib/SDP 4.The claim that turning to Labour is the default position of Scottish politics when the Conservatives are in power at Westminster appears to be propaganda rather than fact.

    Posted by ECameron | February 21, 2011, 10:11 pm
  11. Iain – if it is good enough for the Libyans, Egyptians and Tunisians then surely independence from an abusive relationship called the 'Union' is 'OK' for us Scots?Labour in Scotland is a massive pustule based in Glasgow City Council that is left intact by journalists who will not ask the real questions such as:Why is the Glasgow Labour Council blocking all attempts by Strathclyde Police to investigate Purcell and his dealings through City Buildings?Just how bad is the Crime Lords of Glasgow control of the City Council?Just why did Jim Murphy's agent say 'that everyone knows Louie (Rodden)' when he was found to be on the next table to Murphy and Reid at a fund raisers?To what extent has the Strathclyde Police investigation into organised crime in Glasgow been hampered by a: infiltration of the Strathclyde by placemen, b: Infiltration of the Fiscal's Office by the same gangs – if they gone for the police they will have folk inside the Fiscal's office for sure c: the known relationship between a number of Glasgow Councillors and the Glasgow gangs?Wendy Alexander is irrelevant to the real problem in Scottish Politics, the elephant in the room, Scottish Labour.

    Posted by Peter Thomson | February 21, 2011, 10:47 pm
  12. Mr Mxyzptik. What planet are you on? Honourable ex leader?She was a lying bitch who LIED about illegal party donations and is LYING about her reasons for leaving. These are facts which I know Labour scum find hard to accept. FACTS like. Over 90% of manifesto pledges completed. The only ones which weren't were the ones the opposition parties voted against.In fact theres so many to mention so its easier to you go here:http://mikemackenzie.org/2010/04/23/snp-government-achievements/There are many more but I ain't got the time to explain to dumb faggors like you. What I do know about your party is here:http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/2010/05/13-years-of-labour-failure.htmlAgain only a fraction of the fuck ups your party has committed.THESE ARE HARD FACTS BUDDY. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!!!Your party was complicit in arguing and back dealing for Megrahi's release then your muppet leader slags the SNP off for releasing him legally.You take Tory turncoats like Davina Rankin In the blink if an eye. Tory = to the right. Labour = to the left. Sorry I don't follow what the fuck you twats are up to. It's the only positive thing thats happened to your party all week. Yoy are desperados of the highest order. SNP wouldn't touch a Tory with a barge pole.FACE IT. Your fucked in the polls. Fucked in this election and quite possibly fucked in Scotland forever. Your front bench are talentless twats led by the unheard of Iain Gray. YOU ARE FINISHED. You don't even have the decency to DIE and go away. You'll try to hold on as long as you can. There is not one honourable bone in your body. The union is dead. Get over it. What must gall you is you can't even win by underhand tactics. SNP are getting stronger all the time despite your referendum fixing, anti SNP unionist media bias, killing of Willie McRae, psychologically running the Scots down, lies, lies and more lies. But the Scottish people are not stupid. They are the Scottish National Party and they are coming to expose unionist lies. The only party for the people of Scotland. Not slaves serving London masters like the north British Scottish Labour joke.

    Posted by Labour finished in Scotland | February 21, 2011, 10:50 pm
  13. To Labour finished in Scotland said…Whilst the content of of comment is good; the way in which you deliver it degrades it into a rant that makes your point pointless. If you calm down and explain your points in a 'nice way', those who do not agree with you now may actually come round to your thinking. Anyway, just a thought….

    Posted by Anonymous | February 22, 2011, 10:16 am
  14. Sorry Iain but I find Wendy Alexander to be a horrible politician with only her own interests at heart.Scottish politics will be a far better place without her bile and hopefully soon the West Coast will stop propping up a Labour Party that has done little for them in the last 50 years.

    Posted by Anonymous | February 23, 2011, 9:01 am

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