18 September 2008

The Gray Team

Iain Gray's Shadow Ministerial team is now official - even if it had been overshadowed by the appointment of Ann McKechin as the new Minister of State at the Scotland Office. Of course, it remains to be seen how long the Scotland Office remains in place and what will happen to her then, but those are questions for another day. For now, good luck to her - she will need it.

Anyway. The Shadow Cabinet.

Finance & Sustainable Growth

Andy Kerr is the Shadow Cabinet Secretary here, and this is a promotion for him and a relatively wise move on Gray's part. Kerr was the Finance Minister from 2001 to 2004, so will know the brief, and was a safe enough pair of hands that he was moved to Health to clean up the mess that Malcolm Chisholm was getting into. He got dragged in further, but that's by the by. This is a far more meaningful portfolio than the one he had and he will probably be a far abler holder of the post than his predecessor, one Mr. I. Gray. David Whitton will be his Deputy, though as the rest of the Finance brief (Enterprise, Energy, Tourism, Transport and so forth) appears to have been hived off into other shadow departments, I'm not sure how he'll be deputising. This is a big step up for Whitton: he was Wendy Alexander's PPS, but it's the wrong move by Gray, as Whitton's last finance-related role was as Wendy Alexander's campaign treasurer.

Education & Lifelong Learning

Rhona Brankin stays here. Ken McIntosh remains as Shadow Schools Minister. Claire Baker's portfolio is re-named Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister. Karen Whitefield, currently Convener of the Education Committee, is appointed Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, so a step up for her (Or is it? She may have wielded more influence as a Convener...) and broadly the status quo for everyone else.

Health & Wellbeing

Cathy Jamieson takes this one on, replacing Margaret Curran - it's a more prominent role than the Deputy Leader without Portolio role she had before and, let's face it, the state of the NHS and the nation's health in general is always in the news. And given that she advocated a leftward tack in the Leadership campaign, could this herald a shift in policy for Labour on health? Or, given that she was the Justice Minister who privatised the transport of prisoners, perhaps Labour will still be defending PFI. Nevertheless, she is very much in a position that matters. Richard Simpson retains his title of Shadow Public Health Minister. Mary Mulligan moves to Housing & Communities (as a former Deputy Communities Minister, that's a sound move) replacing the vacancy created by Johann Lamont's elevation to the Deputy Leadership, while Frank McAveety remains Shadow Minister for Sport.


Richard Baker?! A big promotion for him from Chief Whip to Shadow Justice Secretary though I get the feeling that Kenny MacAskill (and indeed, Bill Aitken) could handle him with a very minimum of effort. Short of his NUS experience (and anyone who had to deal with me at University will understand why my contempt for him is automatic) and the donation to Iain Gray's campaign, I'm not sure what qualifies him for the brief. He may surprise me, but I doubt it. He'll be laughing his socks off, while Gray may rue this decision. Paul Martin stays at Community Safety.

Rural Affairs & Environment

Sarah Boyack remains in place; Elaine Murray moves to Shadow Environment Minister: given that her constituency contains Chapelcross Nuclear Power Station, and she has (understandably) spoken out in favour of nuclear power in the past, this appointment reaches new heights of absurdity. Appointing a pro-nuclear MSP to the Environment brief is a little like appointing Nick Griffin to the Equality & Human Rights Commission. Besides that, Karen Gillon stays put at Rural Development.

Europe, External Affairs & Culture

This is given Shadow Cabinet level by Iain Gray despite being only a Ministerial post within the Department of the First Minister in the Government, and it goes to Pauline McNeill. This is an utter humiliation for McNeill, who has gone in the space of a few days from speaking on what will be a key theme in this Parliamentary year (judging by the Legislative Programme anyway) to shadowing Linda Fabiani, whose portfolio generates very little publicity. Oh dear.

Economy & Skills

This is that extra, random portfolio that Opposition politicians seem to love and I can't totally fathom. Particularly as in this case, the brief is covered by other portfolios that would belong in the Finance section or look like they'd be covered by Claire Baker. It resembles the old Enterprise and Lifelong Learning post, though the Enterprise part is overed by Junior Spokespeople and most of the Skills bit seems to be staying in Education (and when does the acquisition of skills at any level stop being education, anyway?), so I'm not quite sure what this is all about. My confusion is compunded by the fact that the title is described as "Shadow Minister" despite being having sub-portfolios and being at the Shadow Cabinet level, suggesting that "Shadow Cabinet Secretary" would be more appropriate. I don't really see what Iain Gray is trying to achieve, short of trying to make the two words appear as key priorities for him and his Party, something which should be done through policies and not job titles. Anyway, this odd mish-mash of a post goes to John Park, confirming a meteoric rise for him and, perhaps, big things ahead. Des McNulty will be Shadow Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (a wider portfolio there, but one that maps perfectly onto Stewart Stevenson's ministerial position, so some wisdom shown by Gray), while Lewis Macdonald takes the Shadow Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Minister position, again mapping perfectly onto Jim Mather's post, and a wider portfolio for him.

Policy Development

Margaret Curran has been made Shadow Cabinet Secretary without Portfolio with special responsibility for Policy Development. The conventional wisdom appears to be that Curran will be responsible for the 2011 manifesto, and will therefore wield massive influence within the Party. I believe that she's basically being locked in a back room for two years, and that Iain Gray (or, indeed, Labour figures at the UK level) will feel entirely free to overrule her. This post is not what it seems, especially given the reason for the appointment: Curran learning the hard way the lessons from Glasgow East. How does losing a By-Election help you to write a manifesto? To hear Gray, Curran was suitably chastened by the Glasgow East result and having listened to the people, will be capable fo drafting policies to address their concerns. But seeing as she should have been doing that anyway as MSP for Glaasgow Baillieston and a former Cabinet Minister, I don't see how that can be the case. Therefore, she was, in my view, a part - though by no means the whole - of Labour's problem in the seat, and I am not convinced that she can offer the solution. Hell, I can answer Labour's policy problem right now: have some policies. Other than the policy of not liking Alex Salmond. I could be totally wrong: Curran could be the powerhouse of Scottish Labour, and this could be Gray's most inspired move ever. But I have massive doubts about that and believe that this is more to do with neutralising her in the same way that David Cameron managed to lock Oliver Letwin in a cupboard somewhere. We'll find out who was right two years from now.

The Best of the Rest

New Deputy Leader Johann Lamont takes Jackie Baillie's Chief of Staff role (what does that mean, anyway?), and will also speak up on Equality matters. Michael McMahon remains Shadow Parliamentary Business Minister while David Stewart is promoted to Chief Whip - Labour's third in a year. Rhoda Grant will enter the Whips' Office, joining James Kelly, who is already there. Meanwhile, Tom McCabe will remain on the Corporate Body.

Barmiest Appointment

Definitely Elaine Murray's move to Environment.

Canniest Appointment

Bringing Andy Kerr back to the Finance portfolio.

One to Watch

John Park. Labour's Leader in 2012?

The Winners

Andy Kerr, certainly. Cathy Jamieson to a degree. Richard Baker has just been over-promoted if you ask me. John Park is a clear winner, as is David Whitton. Other than that, there is little in the way of new blood.

The Losers

In terms of those staying in a job, Pauline McNeill is the biggest loser, though I suspect that Margaret Curran is second, but time will tell. And the most obvious losers of all are Jackie Baillie and Malcolm Chisholm, who leave with nothing.


Jeff said...

Cracking analysis there Will, thanks for that. I certainly didn't realise the bizarre situation with Elaine Murray.

Any chance of any more chat after the teasing you gave us about your "contempt" for Richard Baker?

Perhaps opening up old wounds for the satisfaction of random blog readers is not advisory, but I'll ask anyway...


Will said...

Well, the Elaine Murray situation struck me as the daftest, and as she's only a Junior Spokesperson, I didn't expect it to get much publicity. Though expect me to refer to her as "pro-nuclear Shadow Environment Minister Elaine Murray" until the next reshuffle.

All I'll say is that Richard Baker is ex-NUS. And when I was at Uni, the NUS was The Enemy. Especially during the very bitter affiliation campaign back in '04...

Ted Harvey said...

I would just wonder how well Mary Mulligan will do in the Housing & Communities post - I'm beginning to pick up that housing (after Firm Foundations) may just be a nasty big bugger of a policy morass for the SNP Administration... alongside their seemingly huge naivety on giving so much power and discretion to urban local authorities in so many fields where the authorities utterly failed to deliver in the first place... and their really quite squalid abandonment of their
early seeming promises on Community Empowerment.

I see where you're coming from on Andy Kerr's appointment, but the strategy of having him 'in the tent' had better work - and not in the way that he might (will?) use it as a power base in the inner sanctum for his own medium-term career prospects when (and I repeat when) the Gray project fails.

and Will, on your: "I could be totally wrong: Curran could be the powerhouse of Scottish Labour". Don't worry you are not wrong at all :-)

Scott @ loveandgarbage said...


A very insightful analysis and your posts remain as readable as eever. I should say that for my part I don't see anything contradictory about being shadow environment minister and being pro-nuclear. There is an argument that the one way of meeting international obligations on carbon emissions relevant to climate change is to use nuclear power as part of a multi-pronged approach to the problem. When Monbiot, Lovelock, and other environmentalists start advocating nuclear power perhaps we should take the possibility seriously?

I think that the climate change minister listing as one of his interests on a publicly accessible web profile "Flying" is something that warrants a comment from the media - particularly given the apparent aviation exemption likely to appear in the climate change bill.