23 December 2009

# If I only had a brain! #

The Scotsman revealed yesterday that an (improbably) cerebral parliamentary delegation is forming and that five MSPs are to donate their grey matter to science once they’ve snuffed it. The gags write themselves. Second-hand brain: only one careful owner, who only operated it at weekends. Or perhaps, if we’re feeling more spiteful, the ad should read Bargain: brand new brain. Never been used. Still in original packaging.

Wendy Alexander’s wrinkly stoater will be joined by the more or less entirely smooth upper storeys of Kenny Gibson, Helen Eadie and James Kelly, to be filed beneath the spent cognitive walnut of Marlyn Glen, once they’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. The tribunes’ brains, spinal cord and cerebrospinal fluid will be invested in the Parkinson’s Brain Bank, based at Imperial College London. The laudable goal of the research is better to understand Parkinson’s disease, to whit affected and unaffected brains are of scientific interest. That respectful caveat aside, I defy any soul with a pinch of humour to meditate on Gibson or Eadie or Kelly donating their brains to science without experiencing a wry smile. It’d be like the Maximum Eck foregoing his self-deprecation for Lent. Or Iain Gray hoping to make the most of his mellifluous tones and embarking on a lucrative voice-over career.

In seamless (or should that be lobeless) segue, fareweel Cathy! Jamieson has flung in her particular tartan towel to spend more time with her would-be Westminster constituency. What I find a bit difficult to understand is why Jamieson and old Margie Curran want to go to Westminster. Presumably both anticipate a Labour defeat and arriving in the Commons to the drifting, bruised irrelevance of a recently relegated party in opposition. Moreover, if they wish to improve the lot of their constituents, why try for a job that renders them basically powerless in addressing most of the basic cares of the populus? Why choose to be a domestic irrelevance, doubly irrelevant if your lot are out of office?

From the Holyrood perspective, I’m struggling to mint the right metaphor. Its not quite rats fleeing a sinking ship. Scottish Labour’s craft floundering in 2007 - that ship is well sunk, and is collecting coral and limpets and seaweed. Alternatively, we might regard it as a shadow cabinet haemorrhaging, their stoppered lifeblood seeking and leaking towards better prospects elsewhere. If so, that's crackers. If being a backbencher in a defeated Labour party is that better prospect, things must really be grim in John Smith House. Hardly an indicator of much health in the good ship Gray, however spicy his shanties. However, there is also a more positive account of Labour tribune wastage. A while back, I argued that one of Labour’s main problems is the perception that their MSPs are a slumping, gormless, glottally-stopped cadre of intellectual pygmies. There are exceptions, certainly, and diddies of every political stripe. However, Scottish Labour also faces the problem of entrenchment – changes of personnel are difficult to realise, due to Labour’s reliance on constituency parliamentarians. A couple of members of the group slinking out of Holyrood represents an interesting possibility for change, a beneficial ‘position vacant’ sign.

That said, in terms of a cull, I’m not sure if I’d hope to begin with my inner circle…


  1. Proof that politicians are brain donors!

  2. "once they've snuffed it"? - pity they didn't contribute much proof of having any before their inevitable encounter with the great bucket in the sky.

  3. 5 brains, one owner each, several never taken out of the garage for a spin.