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Friday, 11 February 2011

How effective are our leaders?

A couple of weeks ago Caron selected her ten favourite MSPs. It seemed like an interesting way to stimulate a discussion, but oddly her typically excellent post received no replies. Perhaps, like me, other readers found it difficult to argue with Caron's choices (the only difference I would make is to replace Patrick Harvie with my own MSP Trish Godman). Or maybe they just couldn't name ten MSPs...

John Swinney's Budget has quite rightly stimulated a fair amount of conversation (at least here in Scotland) about the merits of the various party leaders. Understandably, the focus in generally on Iain Gray and Alex Salmond but if the budget has proved anything it's that Tavish Scott can not be underestimated. He played his cards particularly effectively - which brings me to my question: which of the Scottish Party leaders is the most effective?

Obviously those of us affiliated to a particular party will inevitably lean towards our own leader. Of course I would rather have Tavish Scott as first Minister than any of the available alternatives. But if you were to ask me who I honestly felt was the most effective leader, rather than merely my favourite, I would find it a bit more difficult to give a definitive answer.

I'm asking the question because I'm genuinely interested in what fellow Scots think. Irrespective of party allegiances and loyalties, how do we view the efficacy of the respective leaders? I've started an online poll (which has attracted a few votes, thank you!), so please vote for your choice. Also, please feel free to comment - it would be good to get a discussion going on this one.

(Very) brief descriptions of the leaders:
Alex Salmond, SNP. - has had a difficult 12 months but Salmond is an immensely clever politician and, like Tony Blair, at his most impressive when speaking off the cuff. Has a gift for emerging strongly from difficult situations. has undoubted gravitas and experience. Capable strategist, but has seen his party fall behind Iain Gray's Labour Party in the polls.
Iain Gray, Labour. Re-elected to Holyrood in 2007 after a four-year absence, Gray has led Scottish Labour for the last two years. Has gradually evolved into a stronger performer at FMQs and has overseen a revival in Labour's fortunes, although this may not be directly attributable to his leadership. Lacks the colour and charisma of Salmond, but knows how to tap into the public mood for politial benefit (e.g. Megrahi) and is becoming more adept at disarming SNP attacks.
Tavish Scott, Lib Dems. Often overlooked as the "big two" battle it out at FMQs, Scott provides much is the way of sober-minded pragmatism. Sensible and thorough in his approach to Holyrood politics, he has so far done well at ensuring the Scottish party retains a distinct policy direction from the federal Lib Dems. Deserves real credit for creating opportunities from Swinney's seemingly unambitious Budget.
Annabel Goldie, Conservative. She is far more popular in the country than is her own party, which just about says everything. Competent performer, but like David McLetchie before her has not yet managed to oversee a significant upturn in the Tories' fortunes.
Patrick Harvie, Green. Outspoken and enigmatic, Harvie is one of those MSPs with undoubted conviction and is one of Holyrood's "characters". His force of personality and terrific debating ability provide a presence completely disproportionate to the Greens' numbers in parliament.
Colin Fox, SSP - sorry, felt obliged to include him just for the sake of balance.

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