I read (*) in today's Telegraph that Mary Scanlon MSP is seeking formal selection to stand as the Conservative Party candidate in the up-coming by-election for the Scottish Parliament in Moray. The vacancy arises because of the recent death of Mrs Margaret Ewing MSP, who was the 'first past the post' member for the seat for the Scottish National Party.
Mary Scanlon MSP is currently one of the two Conservative 'list' MSPs for the Highlands and Islands Region, the area in which I live; she was number two in the Conservative Party 'list' of seven candidates for the area.
Whilst Mary Scanlon MSP has many 'sterling' qualities, she is a lady who fell greatly in my estimation because of the support she gave for the odious campaign of Mr Brian Souter (one of the co-owners of the Stagecoach transportation company) in his efforts to prevent the repeal in Scotland of 'Clause 2a' (the equivalent in Scotland of the odious 'Clause 28'), the regulation which until its repeal discriminated against gay people in the UK, whilst posing as a mechanism to 'protect' children, but which in fact (amongst other things) classified even long-term relationships between homosexuals/lesbians as 'pretend family relationships'. So, of course, I lost the admiration I had earlier had for Mary Scanlon when I saw at close quarters (as a former Vice President and member of the Executive Committee of what is now the Conservative Party's Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency association) because of the opportunism of her support for Souter's campaign, despite what I believed (and still believe) to be her own more moderate personal opinions, the opportunism arising because of the support she calculated she could garner within the ranks of many of the mainly elderly Conservative voters in the area. So about 18 months later, after the election of Iain Duncan Smith as Leader of the Conservative Party, I resigned.
Spool forward a further 18 months, about a year ago, when I happened to run into the former Chairman (a lady, as it so happens) of the constituency association at the gym we both use; she is a delightful lady and we had a very enjoyable - and lengthy! - discussion about matters political (we are both 'political junkies') and it was not long before she mentioned her own much more recent and total disillusionment with Mary Scanlon, a disillusionment which was apparently increasingly shared by a number of other senior people within the local constituency association as well as by a certain number of ordinary members because of their belated recognition of her blatant 'opportunism'.
The relevance of all this? Well, if Mary Scanlon wins the Conservative's formal selection, which will be decided this evening, to stand as their candidate in the Moray by-election she will, under Scottish Parliament rules, be required to stand down immediately from her current role as a 'list' MSP for the Highlands and Islands region. Whilst not wishing to minimise the 'courage' Mary Scanlon may be displaying, I suspect it may have been her own recognition of the fact that she might not achieve even second place in any future Conservative 'list' for the Highlands and Islands Region elections for the Scottish Parliament, the next due to be held in 2007, so almost guaranteeing the loss of her place at Holyrood - so she chose to 'jump ship' in September last year when she was adopted as Conservative PPC for Holyrood for the Moray constituency.
If she is formally adopted by Moray Conservatives in Elgin this evening, and succeeds in winning election as the 'first past the post' MSP there (which would be a remarkable achievement) I will be left wondering just how long it will be before the Conservative Association in Moray comes to form a similar view to me of her as an 'opportunist', a view it seems rather too many others within the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency association now share with me for somewhat different reasons?
(*) - there does not appear to be a link for this in the Telegraph website, as the article perhaps appears only in the Scottish print edition, which is where I saw it.
UPDATE: (Sunday 16APR06 15.50 BST) See later story here about alleged unethical activities by Mary Scanlon (or her supporters) during the course of the by-election campaign.