Friday, 23 November 2007

Labour's new leader

Iain Gray - Labour leader in waiting?
Scottish Labour is in real trouble - labouring, one might say (sorry about that) - Wendy Alexander has been a revelation, raising ineptitude to new levels; George Foulkes warbling away and sounding ridiculous; Duncan MacNeil is wondering whether it's too late to go back to his opera career; Michael McMahon has been storming out of meetings in high dudgeon; and Helen Eadie keeps leaving in a huff and a taxi.
The body language in Labour's group tells just how bad it's got. At First Minister's Question Time you can see Labour backbenchers disengaged, not backing up their leader, and the Gray man is sitting there watching and waiting. He'll want to wait until after the UK election to avoid being the Scottish Labour leader in that sandpapering, but he might not have the luxury of deciding when to challenge. The way that Labour is melting he could be having to put up by Easter.
So I thought I'd take a look at this dynamo and see how he measures up. These bits are taken from his speech in Parliament on Wednesday:
The promised small business bonus scheme is part of the strategy and we support it in principle, although in our view it is a missed opportunity. The scheme could have been used to incentivise training or energy efficiency.
That'll be the Small Business Bonus that's about cutting the burden of non-domestic rates that cripples small businesses and is part of the reason that so many small Scottish businesses fail to survive. Getting rid of that burden is about giving Scottish businesses a chance to thrive, not about forcing them to do the Government's job for them. That's the difference between the SNP Government and the failed Labour Executive.
It could have guaranteed that no 16-year-old would be allowed to drift without education, training or a job
Fantastic idea Labour has there -schools as prisons, keeping 16 and 17 year olds in there where they don't want to be, disrupting the education of the rest of the pupils. What level of idiocy have they descended to with this policy - introduced simply because Blair wanted to do it in England?
a council tax concordat that jeopardises progress, even on early years policies such as class sizes.
Let's see, that's the concordat between the SNP Government and Scotland's councils that's designed to freeze Council Tax and give us all a break from the annual rises, drive down class sizes in partnership with councils, free up council spending so they no longer have ring-fenced funds but are free to decide how best to spend their money according to local circumstances, improve care services, address the Care for the Elderly programme, encourage fitness and activity in school pupils, improve public transport, address waste and refuse issues, and so on. How exactly is that jeopardising progress?
Back to school, Mr Gray - that performance is simply not good enough for an opposition leader, not even a Labour one.

Iain Gray - still waiting
While we're talking about that debate on the SNP Government's economic strategy, let's take a look at what Labour MSP David Whitton said:
We are now looking at the result of the labours of Mr Mather, the minister for mind maps, who is the main disciple of the purpose. To the tune of "Wi a hundred flip charts an a' an a", he has eaten his way across Scotland, bamboozling all in his wake with management gobbledygook and an explosion of colour from his PowerPoint presentations. I know; I have seen it. Clearly, he is the David Brent of Scottish politics. However, I did not become a convert.
An incredible display of ignorance from Donald Dewar's former spin doctor. Because he cannot understand the language of enterprise and business he reasons that it doesn't make sense. What a spectacular snobbery and dumbing-down of debate - Jim Mather was a very successful businessman before he engaged in politics, which is a bit different from Whitton's record as journalist and publicist. Interestingly, Whitton's biography on the Scottish Parliament's website has him listed as Special Advisor to the First Minister from 1998 - so that's a year before there was a First Minister then - eejit.
It's not just me who thinks Whitton is a buffoon, though, the Scotsman diary wrote:

ALBA has enjoyed listing the jargon-filled explosions of Jim Mather, the Nationalists' minister For Almost As Many Things As Swinney (actually Enterprise, Energy and Tourism if you care). Yesterday, his love of gobbledygook led to him being branded Scotland's answer to David Brent in a Holyrood debate on economic strategy.

Our favourite Matherisms so far are (when discussing a tourism strategy): "We are not throwing any babies out with the bathwater - we are energising the babies" and (also on tourism) "We got 60 stakeholders together and brainstormed and got some real traction."

Labour's David Whitton alluded to such wonderful phrases during a debate on the government's economic strategy. He claimed Mr Mather had gone across Scotland "bamboozling all in his wake, with management gobbledegook and an explosion of colour from his PowerPoint presentation."

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP added: "He clearly is the David Brent of Scottish politics."There is a flaw in the Whitton logic - despite his propensity to lapse into jargon and to talk in his highly individual way, people tend to be impressed by Mather and his command of his brief. While he sometimes cannot talk the talk, he has clearly walked the walk and developed a level of business experience not always common among ministers - of any political hue. Most people would say he is fit for purpose.

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