I WAS bitterly disappointed when Iain Gray lost his Edinburgh Pentlands seat at the 2003 Holyrood elections. As one of the most talented of Labour’s newly-elected MSPs four years earlier, and one of the Scottish Executive’s most effective ministers, his loss was acutely felt. So when I heard the news he had been selected for the East Lothian seat recently vacated by John Home Robertson, paving the way for a return in 2007, I was delighted.
Today our party has never needed him more, and I have no hesitation in declaring my support for him. But whoever wins the leadership contest now underway, no-one but a fool would suggest he (or she) is going to find the task an easy one. But Iain is up for it. His commitment to Scotland, to devolution and to the Labour Party is second to none.
I’ll be casting my deputy leadership vote for Johann Lamont, who I have known for almost as long as I’ve been in the party. She has been an under-used resource since her election for Pollok in 1999. She also made the best speech at Scottish Labour’s conference in Aviemore earlier this year, delivering a powerful and effective critique of modern nationalism that is so far unrivalled.
So, altogether now: “Things…can only get better… can only get better…”