They say that the brightest stars burn for the shortest time. Certainly there are few political commentators or opponents who would question the intellectual capacity of the former Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament and erstwhile Enterprise Minister, Wendy Alexander. But after only 12 years in the spotlight she is now stepping off the Scottish political stage – for now.
Alexander, who was a one-time special adviser to Donald Dewar and one of the brains behind the Scotland Bill that heralded devolution, is a powerhouse of an intellect and her forensic analytical skills added greatly to her times in the Scottish Parliament. Her recent input to the Calman Commission also means that Wendy Alexander’s fingerprints remain all over the ongoing devolution settlement.
In a parliament that is too often mocked for the lack of serious big hitters, Alexander certainly added a gravitas and depth of understanding of policy making and government. Unlike many of her colleagues she had an understanding of economic theory and practice that was rarely matched. Her ability to communicate with “ordinary voters” may not always have been too obvious – she may well have appeared aloof and overly clever for some – but there is little doubting her passion and belief in her cause.
So Wendy Alexander may be standing back from front line politics but, aside from her lacklustre and disastrous stint as Labour leader that ended ominously, she can be justifiably pleased with her contribution to Scottish politics and public life: from shaping the Scottish Parliament to serving under three Labour First Ministers in the Scottish Cabinet and actually leaving a positive political legacy.
Overall Alexander’s political career can be regarded as something of a success and she certainly escapes the charge that “all political lives … end in failure” and not simply because it is “cut off in midstream at a happy juncture”.