Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Top Ten MSPs - a meme for all Scottish political bloggers

Before we all descend into our tribal bunkers for the duration of the Election campaign, let's have a bit of dispassionate appraisal of our current crop of MSPs.

This idea came out of a chat on Twitter with James from Better Nation during the debate on the emergency legislation on allowing suspects access to a solicitor while under police questioning which took place a couple of months ago. The rules are that you simply choose your favourite 10 MSPs - but if you have a party political affiliation, you are only allowed to include one of your own. You also need to give a brief reason why each person is included. This is a good thing for two reasons: firstly, politics is jam packed full of good people on all sides and we shouldn't forget it and secondly, if you only have one space for your own side, the potential for people to be annoyed at not being included is much less than if you're choosing 10.

So, without further ado, here's my 10:

Robert Brown - Liberal Democrat - for being Scotland's civil liberties champion. If you live in Glasgow, vote Liberal  Democrat on the list to ensure that this most persistent and passionate advocate of justice and liberty is returned to Holyrood. He has argued against Labour misusing CCTV in Glasgow, against the SNP quadrupling pre-charge detention and has been a consistent voice for all our rights. 

Angela Constance - SNP - my local MSP, whom I've known for 11 years. I consider the quality of a response from an elected representative to be way more important than the time it takes to arrive. While she's not the fastest to get back to me, she is always sincere and empathetic, even when we don't agree. She has often done more than I've asked of her, particularly in relation to my long standing concern over my GP having an 0844 number. Her speech on Margo MacDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill, deeply personal and thoughtful, shows why she deserves her place on this list.

Elaine Smith - Labour - will always have my respect for being the instigator of the Breastfeeding Bill, which gives mothers the right to feed their babies wherever they like without fear of being made an example of and asked to leave. I remember how insignificant I felt when I was shouted at across a wee tea room when I was feeding Anna when she was 4 months old, told that it would be embarrassing if a man came in. She had to be tenacious and persistent to ensure that this Bill made it to the Statute Book.

Anne McLaughlin - SNP - for her work to support asylum seekers. Anne puts her heart and soul into her work to help people like Florence and Precious Mhango. Enough said.

Robin Harper - Green - Well, hardly surprising, given my affinity for men in multi-coloured scarves, I guess.  I think it would have been great to have had him as a teacher as he has a manner that really engages and interests you. I like the fact that he was interested in environmental issues almost before I was born, certainly before it was remotely fashionable and has spent his life advancing them. The Parliament is going to be a lot poorer without his kindly wisdom. I also like the fact that he's the only male politician I've ever seen making a point of attending the various natural parenting/real nappies sorts of events that I used to go to. I remember his genuine interest in the breastfeeding stall I was running at one of them. 

Malcolm Chisholm - Labour - principled enough to resign over Trident and to speak out against his party line on Megrahi, he's one of the most admirable members on the opposition benches.

Patrick Harvie - Green. He can be way too abrasive, and sometimes he can go a bit too far. His voting against the budget in 2009 ultimately ended up with him getting less out of it than he could have done.  He's not the best listener in the whole world, but he is one of the best speakers in the Parliament. His contribution to a debate on violence against men last year made much more sense than the majority of the Liberal Democrat efforts that day and drew attention to same sex relationships which had hitherto been ignored. Sometimes I love him, sometimes, maybe even mostly, he annoys the hell out of me, but he was an obvious choice for this list.

Nicola Sturgeon - SNP.  I have a lot of time for Nicola. Issues relating to health are very emotive and I feel that she has struck the right balance in her job. I certainly felt more reassured by her presence in a crisis, eg Swine Flu, than I ever would have done by Andy Kerr, that's for sure. From someone who in opposition often went for sensationalism rather than sense, she's learned well and I hope she will keep some of that maturity if she ends up back in opposition and has to build alliances across the Parliament. I think she outclasses Salmond a lot of the time. First Minister's Questions is a great deal more meaningful when she does it. She still has her pugnacious moments, but she has a likeable combination of competence and character.

Margo MacDonald - Independent. She's been one of the characters of the Parliament and has made it discuss things that traditionally we are uncomfortable about broaching. Her assisted dying bill is the start of a process, I think, and its rejection by MSPs will not be the end of the matter.  We need to be more comfortable about discussing all the issues around death and dying and her bill has helped with that.

Derek Brownlee - Conservative. Probably the most able performer on the Tory benches, despite his recent foray into silliness with his suggestion that lefties should assuage their consciences by paying more tax which Jeff at Better Nation tore to shreds the other day.  Having said that, surely he's more personable than Murdo Fraser and probably a better bet to take over from Annabel if she stands down after the election in May. Up until relatively recently, the Tory who would have been on this list would have been Annabel, but I went off her partly because of her arrogant comments at the start of 2010 that the Tories didn't need Scottish seats to govern (didn't that blow up in her face?) and partly because of her nasty comments about Nick Clegg during the election. I'd always thought she was better than that. 

So, there you have it, my Holyrood Top 10. 1 Lib Dem, 1 Tory, 1 Independent, 2 Greens, 2 Labour and 3 SNP.  Perfectly gender balanced, too, 5 men, 5 women. Who are your's?

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