Monday, 25 July 2011

The View from the political bubble pt 45,239

She's certainly improved the View in the Holyrood chamber*, and even if John Park's View that "the maiden speech from Jenny Marra was, in my view, probably one of the best speeches since the start of session four, never mind being one of the best first speeches" should be taken with a large pinch of partisan salt, even the non-partisan Burd'z View of Mr Park's new Labour MSP colleague is that she is: "Intelligent, talented, bright, vivacious. Yep, the girl has it all. Oh, and a USP as the niece of folk legend and Dundonian, Michael Marra. This is one wee star who will soar. Media friendly, with an intellect and the education to back it up."

The Burd strikes a note of caution, however, describing Ms Marra as "a bit wet behind the ears", having "spent much of her life in the political bubble".

Indeed, the 'career politician' criticism is hardly a new one, and neither is objection to the disconnect between list MSPs in particular and the electorate, which of course helps exacerbate the distance between politicians and voters generally. And the often politically 'unknown quantities' standing for the regional seats presumably helps rationalise the SNP's 'Alex Salmond for First Minister' ruse on May's ballot paper.

As regards the 'career politician' shortcoming, Jenny is right up there with the, er, best of them. Thus she seems to have studied at three different universities, is "qualified in both Scots and English legal practice" (presumably the first stage on the route(s) to becoming a lawyer after her law degree) and worked as some kind of assistant to an MEP. Thus so far so career politician, but she's also had a proper job as well, as Head of Press at Dundee University. Gosh. But if it's not wholly the political bubble then it's certainly the public sector/academic one.

However, my real interest in Ms Marra (apart from the obvious*) is her now status as a Dundee-based regional MSP.

Thus as someone who pays more attention to Dundee politics than most - for example, I could probably recognise all the city's councillors by name, if not fizzog - I can't ever recall hearing or reading of Jenny Marra until a few weeks before the Holyrood poll, when I noticed her name in the Courier's political diary. Therefore not much evidence of political activity outwith (presumably) the Labour party bubble, and certainly nothing particularly high profile as regards the electorate generally.

Yet less than three months ago Ms Marra was catapulted from political obscurity to the position of one our representatives in Holyrood, with the proportion of the public she's now representing knowing her name - never mind anything else about her - presumably minuscule.

Of course, that's not to say she won't make a good MSP, and indeed in some ways - academic record, breadth of experience (within the political/academic/public sector bubble) - she's eminently well qualified.

Moreover, as a contemporary politician she seems to posses the other requisite talents in spades. Thus photojennic (sic!), good presentational skills and presumably with the ready soundbite to hand, no doubt honed during her rise up the Labour party hierarchy, ably assisted by her PR experience and time spent in the rarefied EU bubble.

But probably not much experience as regards many of the things that happen in the real world. For example, and apropos my interest in taxi licensing, I thought about attending the Courier's Dundee-wide elections hustings during the Holyrood campaign and asking an awkward question about the subject, which is of course a matter devolved to Holyrood and a historically well publicised function of Dundee City Council. Well I couldn't make it anyway, I doubt if the Courier would have entertained an arcane question of that type, and I don't think the regional candidates would have been there in any case, but I'm quite sure Joe FitzPatrick, Richard McCready, Allan Petrie and Shona Robison wouldn't have had a clue, in the latter case at least if her hubby MP Stewart Hosie is anything to go by. And all of the foregoing have long experience as Dundee councillors and/or MSPs, and to my knowledge have publicly uttered the t-word at one point or another. As for Councillor Mohammed Asif, forget it.

And let's not even mention the other constituency candidates, never mind 'oor Jens' on the list.

Of course, there's nothing to suggest that Jenny Marra won't make an excellent politician as forecast, but whether that's a compliment or a criticism is a moot point.

(The silly repetition and capitalisation of the word 'View' in the above alludes to a speech made by Ms Marra in parliament which mentioned Dundee punk/indie band The View, who had a hit with the song 'Same Jeans'. This includes the line "I've had the same jeans on for four days now", thus she felt the need to reassure the chamber that her dress was clean on that morning. Which according to Courier political editor David Clegg went down like a lead balloon with MSPs.

Which perhaps demonstrates that Jenny is both slightly out of touch with the real world and the Holyrood bubble!)

* As a single, heterosexual, greying, balding male a couple of years away from 50-years-old I'm eminently qualified to make such mildly sexist remarks, and presumably in these non-judgemental days of moral relativism excused from doing so as well.

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