15 December 2007

Labour appointments

Following Charlie Gordon's resignation as Transport Spokesman, Wendy Alexander has finally got around to a replacement: Des McNulty will fill the void, and the arising vacancy for Environment Spokesman is filled by David Stewart, MSP for the Highlands and Islands and former MP for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber. Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife) - wife of Higher Education Spokesman Richard Baker - enters the Whips' Office.

David Stewart is one of three members of the Labour Group at Holyrood to have Westminster experience - External Affairs Spokesman Malcolm Chisholm and George Foulkes are the other two - though of the three, Stewart's is perhaps the weakest. Foulkes was elected in 1979, appointed to the Department for International Development in 1997, then moved to the Scotland Office in 2001, where he remained for a year. He then went to the backbenches, and stood down in 2005, received a Life Peerage and was then elected to Holyrood at the top of Labour's Lothian List this May. Chisholm was elected in 1992, appointed to the Scotland Office in 1997, resigned six months later in protest at Government policy, won a seat in the Scottish Parliament then stood down from Westminster in 2001. He also went on to be a Scottish Executive Minister. Stewart was elected to Parliament in 1997, was not appointed to any Government post and is the only one of the three to be defeated as a sitting MP in a General Election, losing his 2005 bid to secure Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey to LibDem Danny Alexander. His election to Holyrood was as #3 on Labour's Highlands & Islands List, behind not only incumbent Regional MSP Peter Peacock, but also behind retread Rhoda Grant.

However, Stewart's history, however inauspicious, does make him one of the more experienced politicians on the Labour benches, and indeed, in the Holyrood Chamber. Aside from Foulkes and Chisholm, the Parliament boasts Alex Salmond - MP for Banff & Buchan from 1987 onwards - John Swinney - MP for North Tayside 1997-2001 - Andrew Welsh - MP for Angus South October 1974-1979, Angus East 1987-1997 and Angus 1997-2001 - Roseanna Cunningham - MP for Perth & Kinross 1995-1997, then MP for Perth 1997-2001 - and Alasdair Morgan - MP for Galloway & Upper Nithsdale 1997-2001. LibDem Leader Nicol Stephen won the Kincardine & Deeside By-Election in 1991 - though lost the seat in 1992. Even Margo MacDonald was an MP for Glasgow Govan, following the 1973 By-Election, though she failed to hold on to the seat in 1974. So with only ten MSPs ever experiencing life in 'another place' - i.e. the House of Commons - and only one of those ten experiencing the Lords - no one currently at Holyrood has ever been an MEP (though Winnie Ewing, Highlands & Islands MSP 1999-2003, was the MEP for the same region 1979-1999) - Stewart's background is notable.

And at least Wendy Alexander has not yet had to resort to re-appointing people she once fired, as Jack McConnell did.

No comments: