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« Keep warm with Motown | Main | Sir Iain Noble: The man who gave banking a good name »

December 26, 2010


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"we could do a lot worse"

Aye you've got a point, but the alternative candidate for First Minister would have to come from the Labour benches to be a lot worse than Iain Gray. Names that come to mind Jackie Ballie, Duncan Macneil, Wendy Alexander, Richard Baker Andy Kerr.

All the best

First up, take note I am a Labour Party member and activist.

I have met Iain Gray on several occasions and always find him to be immensely likeable.

His time in Africa sets him apart from other Scottish politicians and he has a genuine passion for social reform.

Losing his seat in 2003 was, for him, a very chastening experience and I admire the manner in which he "hung on in there" and not just bounced back to Holyrood but took on the leadership challenge.

And you might well discover that this well read and widely travelled individual probably knows as much about economics as most. Include John Swinney in that group.

By the way Joan, if Alex Salmond was such a great economist and blessed with the intellectual powers you have bestowed upon him - why is it that the only mention of "banks" that appeared in the 2007 manifesto was to riverbanks?

Iain Gray is a kind and decent man. We could do a lot worse.

"risen without trace"

Ouch! Good one Joan, sadly your portrait of Iain Gray is all too real. Even worse, the entire Labour opposition since 2007 has been one, long, petulant huff.

Incidently, Gray is not leader of Scottish Labour, there is no such post, although the BBC and the rest of the Scottish media lie daily about that - and without contrition, as I found out when I complained to the BBC about that earlier this year. (I am a reformed complainer now, I don't bother anymore).

It is not in my nature - nor should I think it normally would be an issue with many contributors - but the stature and performance of Ian Gray is a major concern to anybody who is concerned with the political scene here.

I count the cost of the bricks and mortar that built Holyrood at more than 10 times its estimate and think - what is this building for - developing Scotland's people, caring for Scotland's society, making Scotland a good place to live and prosper - yes, all of these, but what we get from Ian Gray at FMQ is a barrage of insults, innuendo, blatant mis-truths, wild accusations and worse against other countries and their own state of affairs - and not one measured move to improve any of the issues that would develop this country!

I am convinced that Scotland's future lies outwith this union and that naturally colours my opinion of the unionist line held to by Ian Gray - but, by any standard of representation of the people - what is he about and what can be said of the table slappers behind him? How many times have they been called to order by the Presiding Officer - what standard of behavior do they think they need to keep?

It is alarming to think that we spent 480 million pounds for a building to be besmirched and populated by elected officials behaving like errant fifth formers. We deserve much, much better.

Ho,Ho,Ho, best read of the holiday season!

It would be an embarrassment to have Iain Gray as First Minister, that's all there is to it. I'd rather have Annabel Goldie, Patrick Harvie or even Tavish Scott as First Minister, because at least they can make some sensible contributions to debates.

The latest FMQs was a perfect example of their regular performances: Goldie and Scott asked questions about the current snow conditions, which makes sense considering the amount of snow lying about; Iain Gray's questions, meanwhile, focussed on something he had read on the SNP's website about small independent countries, and proceeded to make fun of these countries and the SNP's aim (oh sorry, "obsession") of independence. It was totally irrelevant and just an excuse for some Nat-bashing, and it says more about him than it does about the Scottish Government, except perhaps that the SG must be doing a pretty good job if it's all he could come up with.

I seriously hope that anyone thinking of voting Labour in May sees the performances of their front bench and reconsiders - Iain Gray, Andy Kerr, Jackie Baillie, Des McNulty and Richard Baker leading our country? It's a very scary thought, especially when you consider how strong the SNP ministers they would be replacing are - Salmond, Swinney, Sturgeon, Russell and MacAskill. I wouldn't put Richard Baker in charge of a butter knife, never mind in charge of knife crime. It genuinely worries me that this could happen.

A year or so ago I didn't know who Iain Grey was. His virtue, from a Labour point of view, is his almost complete invisibility.

It is up to the SNP to make him into someone who is known. Senior SNP politicians should at least talk about Iain Grey, for he, the invisible man, could become the next first minister. He see's himself, perhaps justifiably, as a prince over the water. With a nation to be inherited, just because. But he is genuinely not very good. he would take the Scottish Parliament back to the parish pump.

We really need to attack this nonentity big style. Which is no easy gig. But it has to be done.

It is not enough that he is attacked here and on Caledonian Mercury, Bella Caledonia, Newsnet Scotland and other blogs.

For blogs are not going to win this war. It is necessary to attack where it hurts, perhaps through leafleting or meetings or whatever.

I would basically despair if that man became the First Minister.

Perhaps Mr Gray should be reminded that Mr Salmond, in his funny hat, on the trip to India came back with 200 jobs for Scotland.

Mr Gray thinks Mr Salmond is not doing enough for the Construction sector does he. What about all those council houses that the Scottish Government, in partnership with Local Councils, have built across Scotland (and another 1000 just announced). This has helped to maintain jobs in the construction industry at a time when they were badly needed AND brought council houses to areas of Scotland which have not had any council houses built in them for 20 years.

Iain Gray doesn't lead the, "Scottish Party", because there is no such beast as the, "Scottish Labour Party". You won't find it on the Electoral Commissions's register of parties no matter how hard you look because Labour in Scotland is just a region of the British Labour Party. Even if you were to be generous and say that the, "Scottish Party", simply referred to that part of the Labour party based in Scotland Iain Gray doesn't lead that either as he has authority only over the MSP's in the Scottish Parliament not over anyone else in Labour. If Goldie and Scott can be thought of as Regional Managers because their parties are structured to have Scottish regional leaders then Iain Gray is simply an Office Manager because his authority runs out as soon as he leaves Holyrood.

Wendy Alexander was the first Holyrood Labour MSP leader who was not in post as First Minister. What that exposed was how little power the MSP Group Leader in Labour had inside their own party and how much they relied on the authority of the post of FM to give them personal authority. If we get a Labour Government in Holyrood what we will get is a second string member of the Labour Hierarchy running Scotland. Then again that's how Labour meant it to be. A regional politician running a regional parliament.

That is Iain Gray's problem and why he has to resort to personal attacks rather than policy because it is very difficult for him to create and promote distinctive policies as he simply doesn't have the authority to create new policies within his own party. Any Labour policy in Scotland can't diverge too far from the policies designed for England and no new Labour policy in Scotland can be created without thinking of the impact that would have for policy creation in England. All he's got left is personal attack.

The Labour party are not just keen on the Tory Scotland Bill. They are keen on the Tory Government. What the Labour Party will be campaigning for in the next Scottish election is for continued rule from Westminster and that rule is Conservative. For the Labour Party Conservative rule and Conservative cuts are preferrable to independence and if they manage to oust the SNP it will send a message to David Cameron that he can do what he likes to Scotland. It doesn't matter how much the Labour party in Scotland squeal about the, "Conservative Cuts", that they have in fact campaigned to keep, Cameron can safely ignore them because what are they going to do to stop him? As fervent unionists what is their, "Or else", if the Conservatives continue to slash and burn Scottish finances?

Gray thinks he can win by getting personal. What a joke! This move proves the man has no policies or ideas but, unfortunately for him, he has no personality or personal appeal either.

In any rational country the press and public would have completely trashed Labour for their performance, so why are they in with a realistic chance of winning in May? It maun gar ye greet.

While Scotland currently depends on Westminster for so many vital decisions, accusing a junior such as Iain Gray of being a puppet of London can't really resonate with those voters it needs to - Labour supporters.

If focus groups of known Labour voters were to focus on what messages most undermined their support for Labour at a Scottish Parliament election - now that might be interesting.

Repeating arguments that sustain SNP support alone isn't going to be enough come May.

Joan, I read your piece and thought it pretty peevish. Then I read the Scotland On Sunday interview and realised why you were peeved.

Nonetheless, I can't help feeling that your self-righteousness about personal attacks is pretty self-defeating when you open your piece with a childish insult of your own.

The valid points you make in the subsequent paragraphs are a lot more compelling than the comparison with Harry Enfield's comedy creation.

Rise above it. Someone has to.

Spot on analysis, Joan. The problem is that many voters just don't see both men in action, especially together in debate. Alex Salmond is popular with the Scottish electorate, based on his media presence on general news programmes, but that kind of popularity doesn't necessarily translate itself into votes at Holyrood elections.

The risk for political anoraks like me is often to delude themselves into believing that the electorate reads what they read, hears what they hear and sees what they see.

For example, FMQs has probably a tiny viewing audience. I have conducted the experiment of giving recordings of FMQs to people who were hostile to, or dismissive of Alex Salmond, and the result was a positive sea change in their attitude towards him, and astonishment at how bad Iain Gray really was.

There is of course the direct contact with voters that the SNP has pioneered, but again, that is not a mass audience. Let's hope a television debate, properly structured, takes place before the May 2011 elections that permits the people to see what they would lose by not re-electing Alex Salmond and what they would do to themselves if they made Iain Gray First Minister.

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