Wendy Alexander steps down from politics

Wendy AlexanderFormer Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander announced today she was quitting frontline politics.

One of the undoubted political heavyweights on Labour’s Holyrood benches, Ms Alexander’s departure will leave a gap her party will find hard to fill.

Ms Alexander said she wanted to spend more time with her young family.

The MSP for Paisley North has found it difficult to find a role since she quit the Scottish Labour leadership in 2008 after a long-running controversy over funding for her leadership election.

Ms Alexander was a protégé of the then Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar in 1997 and became an MSP in the first parliamentary intake in 1999.

She considered standing for the leadership after Henry McLeish’s resignation in 2001 but decided not do so, allowing Jack McConnell to assume the party leadership and the First Minister’s job.

Ms Alexander quit Mr McConnell’s Cabinet after being loaded with a massive portfolio by the First Minister.

She returned to the backbenches but challenged for the leadership, and won, after Mr McConnell stood down in 2007.
But her leadership was short-lived. She courted controversy first by urging the SNP to “bring it on” over the independence referendum and then after it emerged that she had accepted donations to her leadership campaign funds from someone who was not entitled to give political donations in this country.

The pressure intensified until she quit at the summer in 2008.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said today:
“Labour will now start the process to select a new candidate for the Paisley seat. We all wish Wendy the very best for the future.”

1. Letter from Wendy Alexander to Iain Gray
Iain Gray MSP
Scottish Labour Leader
Scottish Parliament
17 February 2011

Dear Iain
As you know, I have been considering my position. My children turned five this week. The demands of politics mean I could miss out on them growing up. Many politicians have claimed they wish to “spend more time with their family”. In my own case it is quite simply true.

And so it is with regret that I have to inform you that I will not be standing again at the forthcoming elections.
I have been hugely privileged, enjoying fourteen years at the heart of Scottish politics. It began working with Donald on the first Scotland Bill. And last year I was delighted, at your request, to convene the Scottish Parliament committee examining the second Scotland Bill.

I have served in the Cabinets of all Labour First Ministers and I hope and believe, you too will attain this high office in the near future. If so honoured, I know you will bring dignity, integrity, ability and authenticity to the role. But it is time for me to seek a new life, outside active politics.

Since 1999 I have had the honour of representing the people of Paisley, Renfrew and Linwood. I’d like to thank them for their support. My work for the constituency wouldn’t have been possible without the help of local Labour members, and my dedicated staff. I’d like to express my gratitude to them.

Throughout my time as an MSP my parliamentary duties have come first. Hence I have made no future plans. I look forward to discovering new and exciting challenges outside politics.

It is of course a wrench to leave. At its best, politics is still a noble undertaking borne of high ideals. I know you, and all our colleagues, are dedicated to advancing Labour’s values in the forthcoming Parliament and beyond. But twelve years after Donald set us all on that exciting journey it is time for me to move on.

I may be leaving the front line, but you can be assured of my continuing support.
Yours sincerely,
Wendy Alexander MSP

2. Letter from Iain Gray to Wendy Alexander
Dear Wendy

It is with considerable regret that I accept your decision to stand down from the Scottish Parliament at the forthcoming election. There is no greater responsibility, or pleasure, than that of raising a family. Too often the pressures of being a parent, and far too often the duties of being a mother, come into conflict with the demands placed on a modern politician. Your decision is one that I greatly respect and I know that respect is shared by all of your colleagues in the Labour Party.
Over the last twelve years you have represented the people of Paisley, Renfrew and Linwood with passion, integrity and with their best interests as your first political priority. Working with Donald Dewar, as one of the authors of the Scotland Act that brought our Parliament into being, you made an indelible political mark in our country’s history. As a minister you pursued your goal of a Smart, Successful Scotland with imagination and vigour. In your time as leader of our party you began the process of listening to the people of Scotland that has led so many thousands of people to place their trust and hopes with Labour again. Over the last few months you have taken forward the work of the Calman Commission to deliver more powers for our Parliament.

Your political career has been marked by an intellectual excitement and a strength of belief in the values of social justice and equality that are the best of the Labour tradition. On behalf of our party I thank you for your contribution to Labour and to Scotland. I know we will continue to work together to the betterment of both.

Iain Gray