Saturday, 28 June 2008

And it's goodbye from her

Wendy Alexander's resignation as Scottish Labour party leader comes as no surprise. I blogged a couple of weeks ago when news leaked out that she was likely to face an adverse judgement from the Standards Commissioner over the donations row that it could prove to be the last straw for her.

And so it has proved. But let's be clear about this: it wasn't the donations row that did for her, it was her own lacklustre performance as Scottish Labour leader. Had she been an effective leader, she would easily have weathered the storm over the donations row. But Wendy was anything but effective, and managed to make even her predecessor but one, Henry McLeish, look like a political giant in comparison.

Part of Wendy's problem was that she was elected unopposed to the leadership, just like Gordon Brown at Westminster. She therefore didn't have to outline her vision for what Scottish Labour is about, nor did she face the pressure that an election campaign brings. I'm therefore not entirely clear what it was that the money she raised for her leadership election campaign - which eventually proved her undoing - was actually spent on.

The fact that Wendy had a coronation rather than an election meant she lacked real legitimacy when things started to go wrong, leaving her exposed. And go wrong things did. In the debate over the Scottish budget earlier this year, Labour ended up voting against an amendment it had proposed for fear of accidentally defeating Alex Salmond's SNP government and triggering an unwanted new election which would probably only have strengthened the Gnats' position.

Wendy also utterly failed to lay a glove on Salmond at Holyrood, particularly at First Minister's Questions, unlike Scottish Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen who has won widespread praise for his performances at FMQs.

But worst of all for Wendy was her bizarre bravado over the question of a referendum on Scottish independence and the rift this opened up with Gordon Brown. Given that the main reason Wendy got the Scottish leadership was her closeness to Brown, this fatally undermined her authority.

But Wendy's decision to quit is ultimately good news for Scottish politics, although perhaps not for the Gnats who were desperate for her to stay in office. Scotland needs an effective opposition and under Wendy, that just wasn't happening. Electing either Andy Kerr or Cathy Jamieson to succeed Wendy will probably help that to happen.

So, it's farewell to Wendy Alexander, but she won't be missed.

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