28 May 2010

Those Peerages

We now have the Dissolution Honours. I note that John Prescott and Ian Paisley are being ennobled, as are Floella Benjamin and Mike German, the former leader of the Welsh LibDems.

But the Scottish list makes for interesting reading. I can't help but feel that the Tories have missed an opportunity of sorts to augment their Scottish contingent at Westminster on the Red Benches, their attempts to do so on the Green Benches having failed so miserably three weeks ago. But the list of Scottish political figures making their way to the House of Lords is, in its way, compelling, particularly as it includes three former Secretaries of State for Scotland:

Of course, Tommy McAvoy, the former Whip, and John McFall, the former Treasury Select Committee Chairman, never held the post, but were big hitters in the Parliamentary Labour Party. But then there's Des Browne, the part-time Secretary of State, Helen Liddell, who was sent to Australia because Tony Blair couldn't think of anything else to do with her, and the man she made way for in Airdrie and Shotts when his own constituency was dismantled, John Reid. I wonder what the Celtic fans will make of their Chairman entering the Lords!

But the most notable for me is Jack McConnell. McConnell is the first sitting MSP to be ennobled, and, of course, is the first former First Minister to enter the Lords. He is, however, not the first former Minister to do so. Technically, that goes to former Solicitor General Neil Davidson, but the first former member of the Scottish Cabinet to gain a peerage was, of course, the current Advocate General (and Baron Davidson's successor in that role), Jim Wallace.

Incidentally, this means that there are more former First Ministers in the Lords than former Prime Ministers: Lords McConnell and Paisley join Lord Trimble, while the only Peer to have occupied 10 Downing Street was Baroness Thatcher.

Now, this peerage has been dangled in front of McConnell on and off for the last three years, and he's finally got it. But we can't yet judge from this whether or not he'll stand down from Holyrood next year.

After all, Holyrood-HoL dual mandates (if you can call a Peerage a mandate) aren't new. Even Lord Foulkes of Cumnock MSP isn't a trailblazer. The first Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament was Lord Steel of Aikwood, though in referring to himself as 'Sir David Steel' obviously decided that being a Knight of the Realm as opposed to a Peer afforded him more of the common touch. Until 2007, the Tory benches were supplemented with Lord Selkirk of Douglas, or James Douglas-Hamilton, as we remember him. And there was even a Peer in Jack McConnell's Cabinet, former Tourism Minister Mike Watson. When he was convicted for wilful fireraising, the Daily Record remembered that his full title was Lord Watson of Invergowrie.

So today's announcement that McConnell will be donning the ermine isn't necessarily the end of his Scottish Parliamentary career. But nevertheless, despite my caution, it's hard not to imagine that the end of it is but a year away.

Finally, congratulations to Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson, who can celebrate his long overdue accession to the Privy Council. A shame it comes so late into his term of office!


Andrea said...

When I saw him on the list, I thought if it was the first step towards standing down next year

Poker Blinds said...

Speak to the point