Double blow to Brown in Scotland after Wendy Alexander resigns

Gordon Brown faces a troubled summer struggling to retain authority in his own heartland after he failed in a last-ditch attempt to prevent his leader in Scotland resigning.

Wendy Alexander's departure sparked a desperate search for a new Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament. She stood down after breaking rules on donations, even though officials had advised that the 10 donations that had already been published did not need to be declared to the parliament. It emerged last night that Mr Brown tried in vain to persuade Ms Alexander to stay.

The Prime Minister's difficulties deepened following the news that Glasgow East Labour MP David Marshall is to resign, sparking a difficult by-election against a buoyant Scottish National Party (SNP).

The fresh uncertainty in Scotland, where Labour lost its hold on power a year ago, will intensify the pressure on Mr Brown as he attempts to claw back a widening poll gap between his party and the Conservatives.

Ms Alexander, a close Brown ally and the sister of Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander, had faced a one-day ban from the Holyrood parliament after failing to register donations to her leadership campaign last year. But she opted to resign her post as Labour leader, rather than endure what she described as a "vexatious" SNP campaign against her.

In an emotional resignation statement at Labour's Scottish HQ in Glasgow, Ms Alexander said she had been the victim of a "partisan" decision by the parliament's Standards Committee and claimed there had been a "breach of natural justice". She added: "I judge this issue has become too much of a distraction from the real issues that should dominate our public life."

Mr Brown said Ms Alexander had helped to "rebuild" the Scottish Labour Party after its election defeat last year, and praised "her commitment to devolution and her part in establishing the Scottish Parliament".

Opponents claimed the departure was a body blow to Mr Brown's authority, while Tory insiders said it would raise questions over the future of other Labour figures, including the deputy leader, Harriet Harman, who is also under investigation over campaign finances.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP deputy leader and Scotland's deputy First Minister, said: "While Wendy Alexander has been the author of her own misfortune, there can be no doubt that the information on her illegal campaign donation could only have come from within the inner circles of the Labour Party. Decay from within is characteristic of the decline of the New Labour project, and Ms Alexander's resignation is a symptom."

The Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said: "This resignation is a further body blow for Gordon Brown and Labour, as they lurch from one crisis to another. Only the Scottish Conservatives offer a credible opposition to the SNP in Scotland."

Ms Alexander became the second Scottish Labour chief to fall on the issue of finances, following the 2001 demise of Henry McLeish.

Her departure arose over donations to her campaign to replace Jack McConnell as leader last August. Although she was ultimately elected unopposed, she raised donations to fund her campaign. After she was initially told wrongly by clerks to the Standards Committee that it was unnecessary to declare the donations, Ms Alexander updated her register with details of 10 donors, who each gave about £1,000 to her campaign.

Last Thursday, the Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee decided, on a split judgement, to recommend that she be suspended from parliament for one day. Although Ms Alexander was talked out of resigning on Friday, following conversations with the Prime Minister and other close colleagues, she finally decided to go yesterday.

A close ally said that the decision reflected her unhappiness with the strains of the job rather than an admission that she had done anything wrong.

Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said Ms Alexander's leadership was "not much of a success". He told BBC Scotland her performances against Alex Salmond in First Minister's Questions had been criticised as weak, and she had contradicted Gordon Brown on the need for a referendum on Scottish independence.

Ms Alexander will remain an MSP but her deputy, Cathy Jamieson, has taken over as temporary leader of the Labour group in Parliament.

Labour chiefs were last night preparing for a by-election in Glasgow East after Mr Marshall's decision to stand down. Mr Marshall was not available for comment.

A career in politics: Astute politician who fell over campaign finances

Wendy Alexander is part of a dynasty in the Scottish Labour Party – a woman who made it to the top, despite the macho traditions of politics in her country. Yet, for the second time in a brief career, Wendy Alexander has consigned herself to the political wilderness.

It is less than a year since, at the age of 44, she finally became head of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, a position many had expected her to reach years before. Along with her younger brother, Douglas, now a Cabinet minister, Ms Alexander had been a rising star in Scottish Labour politics for almost three decades.

She had made many astute political choices – from becoming a protégée of Scotland's original First Minister, Donald Dewar, to allying herself with the influential cadre surrounding Gordon Brown. A period as a researcher to the then-Labour MP George Galloway gave her contacts across the Labour spectrum. But the elder Alexander was widely regarded as an influential heavyweight in her own right. By the time she finally got the top job, Labour was in opposition.

Ms Alexander may have embarrassed Mr Brown over her demand for a referendum on independence, but it was persistent problems with her campaign finances that ultimately dragged her down and, it appears, have ensured she will not make another return.

Brian Brady

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor