McLeish: The successors

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Jack McConnel, the Education Minister who challenged Henry McLeish for the Labour leadership a year ago, is now the favourite to succeed him.

The former maths teacher inherited a difficult brief as Education Minister after he was defeated in the race to succeed Donald Dewar and is credited with rescuing Scotland's failing exams system. He has achieved recognition for his attempts to increase teacher recruitment and improve pay and conditions.

Although the MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw has little experience of top-level politics, he is a confident performer in Parliament.

But his career has not been untainted by allegations of sleaze. For a short time, he was public affairs consultant with the lobbying firm Beattie Media, which was involved in a high-profile scandal over allegations that it offered to secure clients preferential access to Scottish ministers.

Mr McConnell is expected to be challenged by Wendy Alexander, the Scottish Enterprise Minister, an enthusiastic New Labourite and close ally of Gordon Brown.