Ferrets in a sack

No sooner has Wendy Alexander left her role as leader of Scottish Labour MSPs than a succession of candidates are being tipped to replace her.

Andy Kerr, Iain Gray, Cathy Jamieson, Margaret Curran, Charlie Gordon, Tom McCabe and Malcolm Chisholm have all been mentioned.

Under Labour election rules each candidate needs the backing of 12.5% of Labour MSPs to run. That’s 6 MSPs out of the 46 Labour MSPs.

Given that the seven pretenders wouldn’t back each other; each candidate would need 6 MSPs from the remaining 39 MSPs.

But 7 candidates with 6 nominations is 42 MSPs.

One candidate mentioned has to drop out.

So we could be facing six candidates vying for the leadership.

It just goes to show that there is no obvious successor to Wendy Alexander. She was seen as the most capable in the Scottish Labour MSPs in a limited talent pool.

Whats more, these seven leadership contenders mentioned do not show a strength in depth of Scottish Labour.

Any one of these, like Wendy Alexander, would be outclassed at FMQs by the First Minister, Alex Salmond. Indeed, they would struggle against any of the SNP cabinet.

But that is not the issue now. The new leader has to have a clear vision of where Scottish Labour is going:- is it to be London-led or will it have a more Scottish face and stand up to Westminster? Will Wendy’s policy of backing a referendum be maintained? Will Scottish Labour develop clear policies instead of nat-bashing?

In short, they need to become an effective opposition.

Many analysts consider that whoever the new leader is, they should be aiming for the 2015 election. I think that is pessimistic, though I do think the SNP will win the 2011 election.

A week is a long time in politics, and there is always a chance that events, dear boy, events! will derail the SNP bandwagon. If the new leader leads an effective Labour opposition perhaps events will conspire to give Scottish Labour a fighting hope in 2011.


What is more likely to happen though, is that the new leader will be sanctioned from Westminster’s shortlist and Scottish Labour MSPs will still be in feu to Westminster.

And the leadership contest is more likely to amplify the divisions in the Labour Party. Divisions that are already apparent.

No wonder the SNP Finance Minister, John Swinney, said today: ‘We’re not really too worried about who the Labour leader is in Scotland. Labour have no idea where they are going.

‘They’re already fighting like ferrets in a sack, as they always do – which is at the root of the Wendy Alexander problem by the way – about the issue of the independence referendum, it’s all over the newspapers, they’re taking different views, they’re all bad-mouthing each other in the process.

‘That’s all part of the furniture of the Labour Party’s contribution to Scottish politics.’

They may be ferrets but they all want to lead the Scottish Labour MSPs? I wouldn’t be in their trousers!


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