Understanding the value of peace efforts

Commenting on reports that Jack McConnell's elevation to High Commissioner for Malawi is now in doubt and that Gordon Brown has appointed him as a special envoy, meaning that he can remain as an MSP, SNP Westminster leader and International Affairs spokesperson Angus Robertson MP questioned the appointment and said he would be writing to the Prime Minister asking how such a role could be fulfilled on a part-time basis.

Mr Robertson said:

"This appointment raises fundamental questions about how seriously the Prime Minister is taking peace and reconciliation by making it a part time post!

"Such a role would clearly require much travel to these countries. So how can it function on a part time basis whilst also guaranteeing that the people of Motherwell and Wishaw are being properly represented?

"The SNP understands the value of peace efforts, having brought the only reconciliation talks in recent years to Scotland. But if Labour is serious about peace and reconciliation it should not be on the basis of what is looking like a deal to avoid a difficult by-election.

"Labour now has a £8 million Scottish Secretary without a job but with a campaigning role - and now they have the ridiculous situation of an envoy who can somehow globe trot for one day a week whilst remaining as an MSP. How those two roles are compatible does not make any serious sense."

Central Scotland SNP MSP Christina McKelvie also said Labour were running scared of losing a by-election in the Motherwell & Wishaw constituency.

The seat has Labour's largest majority in the Scottish Parliament - 5,938 votes - and is their third safest seat in Scotland requiring a 11.35% for the SNP to capture the seat.

Commenting Ms McKelvie said:

"Jack McConnell was offered the post of High Commissioner to Malawi specifically because of his track record in the country, not because he was a professional diplomat.

"This is a staggering admission from the Labour party that it can't hold on to any of its seats in Scotland.

"We were told Jack McConnell's post as Malawi's High Commissioner was necessary because of his experience in the country, but now another post has been created to avoid electoral embarrassment. It is an abuse of the political process, and treats folk as fools.

"Labour is harnessing the diplomatic process to avoid losing another by-election.
 
"This is Labour's third safest Scottish Parliamentary seat and it has the largest majority of all their seats. That Gordon Brown has to resort to this blatant political manipulation in order to avoid defeat in a by-election shows how badly Labour has fallen in the public's eyes.

"It is a sign of how out of touch Labour are that they think they can manipulate the process in this way, but sooner or later people are going to say to Labour 'enough is enough'."

Notes:

From the Sunday Herald, 28th September 2008

* Report of how Labour had been considering holding a by-election in Motherwell and Wishaw on the same day as Glenrothes.

"Speculation is rife that his resignation from Holyrood is imminent. A Labour source revealed the leadership is considering holding a snap poll in Motherwell and Wishaw on the same day as the Glenrothes by-election on November 6.

"The insider said: "They're weighing up whether or not the SNP are likely to win Jack's seat. If they think defeat is on the cards, they will try to wrap up all the bad news on one day while the US elections are still hogging the headlines."…"

* Report of comments made by a spokesperson for Jack McConnell saying how he wanted to help in Malawi as High Commissioner and comment from the FCO on his qualifications for the role:

"A spokesman for the politician said: "Jack McConnell is not going there to tell the people or their politicians what to do. He is going with the aim of helping to improve the education that young people receive."…"

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Mr McConnell's appointment ensures that someone who has had extensive experience both of development work and of the challenges facing Malawi will be in place."

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