Thursday, 4 October 2007

Too poor to be the opposition

Hot on the heels of Pauline McNeill's pleas for some speech writing assistance, Wendy Alexander's Head of Research is the next Labour person to bleat publicly about the hardship of being in opposition. Tartan Hero also comments on this latest grumble from the Labour benches. The ongoing review of allowances has been interesting thus far, as it shows up how unprepared Labour are to cope with opposition.

According to the BBC article,

In a submission to the review Sarah Metcalfe, Labour's research and strategy director, said the party was required to hold to account an SNP government which had the entire civil service at its disposal.

For the past eight years, the SNP (and indeed the Conservatives, Greens, SSP and latterly Solidarity) have coped on this allowance and fought the might of the Civil Service. I don't think it's been easy, but it has been done. With an effective team a party can mount a challenge and win, as the SNP has proven. You can even be an effective opposition, picking your issues and playing to your strengths, as the Tories have done.

If Labour can't raise their game, employ better and more effective staffers, then they will flounder for years. It would be all too easy to sit back and watch their discomfort with glee, but I do believe you need to have an effective opposition to be a credible government.

It's also important to note that Labour were instrumental in setting up this system; I wonder if their arrogance allowed them to believe that they'd never have to use it themselves...

On staff wages, Ms Metcalfe also stated that

"The Scottish leader's allowance of £22,466 is insufficient to meet even the full costs to an employer of a private secretary - never mind the public expectations of a leader's office in terms of interest in the party's approach to parliamentary business and associated policy stances"

Wages are an important thing - but that's not why someone should get involved in politics. Getting paid is important, but it shouldn't be the incentive that tempts you in. That £22,466 is still seven thousand pounds more than a Councillor takes home. It's also much much more than I took home in my previous job as a MSP's Researcher.

I do my job because I'm committed to serving the people of my ward, and to winning Independence for Scotland. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to do this, and reflect upon those who have stood for the SNP many times in the past to no avail. Every time I walk up the stairs to the Councillor's Corridor in the City Chambers, I stroke the nose of the lion (which is supposed to bring good luck) but smile to myself and think how lucky I've been already to get here. I hope not to lose sight of that, whatever lies ahead.


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dandydowser said...

Leaving aside the nutter above.. :)

Alison you're absolutely spot on about there being a right reason and a wrong reason for being involved in public life.

Think the main thing that the comments from Sarah Metcalfe show is that is no driving reason, no noble cause for working for the Labour Party these days - money has to be the attraction.

Perhaps if they had a great thing to aim for like independence then money wouldn't matter so much!