According to the brief accounts of Gray’s choices which have seeped into the papers’ coverage, the party seem to be making certain claims to deliberation and agency. For myself, the maddest prospect is pushing Des McNulty into the looming, ruffled shadow of the Angry Pigeon, Fiona Hyslop. Why? Assume that we accept, for argument’s sake, the contention that educational issues are proving problematic for the SNP government. Personally, I’m in no position to evaluate that contention. Equally undeniably, however, Hyslop does look rook-haunted and the beady-eyed scallcrows of media and opposition politicians are winnowing a narrative that ends with them pecking out her bonny blue e’en and her slumped behind a dyke. Try to launch yourself into the corvine consciousness of Gray, asking his croaking cronies “where shall we gang and dine the day?” How best to make something politically of this potentially wounded beast?
What does Gray cark? For which of his cawing comrades does he call to mercilessly peck Hyslop to death in parliament and in the media? Er … Des McNulty? Of course, the obvious choice! If you feel as if you have your foe on the ropes, it is traditional to finish them off with a man as compelling as an unbuttered spud. While McNulty is accompanied by a boil in the bag bunch of underspokespersons including Ken McIntosh, wee Claire Baker and Karen Whitefield – the new face and soporific voice of Labour’s opposition and articulator of Labour’s critique of governmental orthodoxies in education must be its new High Heidyin. Various phrases about the failure to achieve spontaneous combustion among the heather and the edifying distractions of watching paint harden occur to me.
Equally, to harp on a worn string, I notice that this refit and adjustment in Labour’s vital statistics finds room for John Park with an “elections and campaign’s portfolio” – but old Margie Curran’s role as party policy tsarina remains unfilled. I suppose it is old fashioned to assume that in order to campaign in an election, one ought to have policies. Of course, this may also be a sort of Jacobite conceit in Labour ranks, keeping her chair empty for the policy over the water, memorialised in that ancient and moving Scottish Labour lament “Will ye no’ come back again?”