Gerald Warner - Farewell to a daft wee lassie promoted beyond her abilities

SO FAREWELL then, Wendy Alexander. The uncanny silence, the laryngitis-imposed whisper, at First Minister's Questions last Thursday were a presage of her demise. The batteries in the drumming bunny had finally run out.

It seems as if we have been deaved by that hectoring voice for all our lifetimes; in reality it was only since 1999 when the Chamber of Horrors opened on The Mound, later to migrate to Holyrood. La Alexander's career has been a chronicle of the triumph of ego over capability; in that respect it is a parable of our politics since devolution.

While Wendy Alexander licks her wounds this weekend, Gordon Brown, another offspring of the manse born with the conviction of his divine right to reorder the lives of others, after one year in office is addressing the tricky problem of how to overtake the BNP. Gordon and the Alexander siblings are confronting the realities that assailed King Lear ("They told me I was everything; 'tis a lie; I am not ague-proof!").

Are deluded politicians more at fault than the infatuated electorates that believe their hype? When Wendy first sprang, fully armed, from the head of Donald Three Millions, the Scottish media acclaimed a wunderkind. Mesmerised by her history degree, her MA in Industrial Relations (pity it did not equip her to relate to subordinates like a human being) and her MBA from INSEAD, the scribes prostrated themselves before this radiant intellect. "Galactically bright", the verdict of one drivelling hackette, was about as grudging as it got.

The first product of her genius was the Scotland Act, to which Scottish Labour owes its current banishment from power. Alexander became the first, and almost certainly the last, politician in history to gerrymander a parliament against the interests of her own party. Then, just when the new Parliament needed to win the confidence of the public, she launched her "personal crusade" to repeal Section 28/2a, which prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

There was a cause calculated to enthuse traditional Labour supporters. When an independent referendum resulted in 1,094,440 Scots taking the trouble to vote against the proposal, was she deterred? Not in the least; she pressed ahead while her supporters devised a novel way of massaging public opinion by denouncing more than a million voters as "bigots".

There followed the Punch and Judy show that was her ill-starred career in Jack McConnell's cabinet, within whose ranks she enjoyed the popularity of a wasp in a nudist colony. That ended with Smart Successful Wendy stomping out and things went peaceful for a while. Then, last year, in the best Labour tradition, she became leader, unopposed, though polls showed only 7% of voters wanted her. It is ironic, considering she never had to fight a leadership election, that the war chest she built up against such an eventuality was the cause of her downfall.

"Permissible?" was the query on Wendy Alexander's computer against the name of Jersey-based tax exile Paul Green, betraying her awareness of a legal problem. He had donated 950 – just below the figure at which public disclosure would have been mandatory – to support the campaign of a famous champion of "transparency". Green's Jersey address was at the top of the thank you letter Alexander wrote to him. Happily, a kindly Electoral Commission coated the whole nastiness in whitewash.

That did not prevent the lady from wallowing in self-pity, claiming she was "poorer now than I have been in 20 years", despite her salary of nearly 60,000 being supplemented by a party leader's allowance. Commiserations if you did not make it to the sick-bag before the climactic line: "Mummy wasn't always there at bedtime…" By last March, her approval rating had reached minus 22%.

The political behaviour of the galactically bright one was inept beyond parody. She suddenly supported an increase in Scottish tax-raising powers to 7p. She promoted the Calman commission, doing Alex Salmond's work for him. Then she performed another U-turn, demanding an early referendum on independence, compounding the damage by telling the embarrassing porkie that she had Brown's backing. When Holyrood's standards committee last Thursday ended her career by making her the first party leader to be suspended from a parliament on British soil, this was an act of political euthanasia.

Behind the hype, this was just a daft wee lassie. She never had what it takes; she was promoted by cronyism and the party machine far beyond her ability. Gordon Brown represents the same phenomenon. They have been found out. Rampant egocentricity and a lust to control others are no substitutes for competence and talent.

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