Wendy departs: who next to lead Labour in Scotland?
Wendy Alexander resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party on 28 June 2008 after the Scottish Parliament Standards Committee recommended by a 4-3 majority that she be suspended as an MSP for one day for failure to register timeously donations made to her leadership campaign in autumn 2007.
The donations in question were those whose existence was revealed after the Electoral Commission had investigated another one from non-UK citizen Paul Green and declared it illegal but not one which it wished to pursue further. Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Dr Jim Dyer however investigated these further donations and declared them also illegal; it was not enough that Alexander and her team had, perhaps somewhat belatedly, sought advice from parliamentary officials who had advised that the donations did not need to be registered (see No 736). The Crown Office decided against a prosecution (see No 762). But this still left the matter in the hands of the Scottish Parliament committee, and it made its recommendation on 26 June.
The fact that the committee majority consisted of three SNP and one LibDem MSP led Ms Alexander to complain in her resignation statement about a political witch-hunt against her; but one has to wonder why there was such shyness about registering all these donations in the first place, when the whole issue has haunted, not only the Scottish, but also the UK Labour Party at the very highest levels for a number of years. Scots Law News also suspects that it would not only be a Labour Party issue were the full truth about party finances ever to be revealed.
Meantime, we can start to speculate about who next in the Scottish Labour hot seat. Cathy Jamieson, Wendy Alexander's deputy, steps up again to lead during the interregnum, and maybe this time she will get the ultimate prize. But no doubt Andy Kerr, Margaret Curran and perhaps Iain Gray will want to have a shot as well. But the emergence of a dark horse from amongst the Labour ranks might well be more welcome to an ever more doubtful electorate.