One of the strengths of the Scottish Parliament from the outset has always been that it displayed something like gender balance—from matronly competence in Annabel Goldie to ‘lips-made-to-kiss-megaphones’ stridency in Carolyn Leckie. That was already under some threat with five of 23 sitting Labour female MSPs stepping down this May. But the end of this week’s shock announcement from Wendy Alexander is the weightiest yet and the cumulative effect of losing one in four females must sit hard with Labour supporters.
My first instinct was to welcome this as more good news for the SNP. But then a longer perspective reminded me of Wendy’s contributions to Parliament since before it was even elected—more than most MSPs of either gender. Her sharp mind belongs on a front bench team, whether in or out of power. How do we persuade her to reconsider?
Perhaps she should get radical—take a leaf out of Nicola Sturgeon’s book and titillate Scotland’s resilient chauvinist tendencies by being painted by Laëtitia Guilbaud. That could shape a softer, more appealing image for her ‘Bendy Wendy’ nickname and connect with that male swathe of voters that female ability alone still has such trouble reaching.