In the news

May 28, 1999

Jack McConnell, finance minister in the Scottish Parliament, is a former National Union of Students Scotland activist and a familiar, jocular figure on Scottish television.

However, an error of judgement last autumn almost led to him failing even to be selected as a candidate in the Scottish parliamentary elections.

As former general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, McConnell sold his story to a Sunday newspaper. His memoirs included an account of the infighting surrounding the death of Gordon McMaster, the former MP for Paisley South.

McConnell suddenly scrapped the serialisation amid allegations of gagging by Labour, a charge he strenuously denied.

The selection contest was Labour's most bitterly fought, with six out of the 30 eligible branches having their nominations ruled out of order after voting irregularities. McConnell was seen as being very much under the influence of Westminster.

McConnell has been compared to Peter Mandelson, with whom he worked closely during the last general election. He says that he was very impressed with the way that Mandelson gave up all his spare time in the year before the election.

As general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, McConnell made boosting membership a priority and increased the party membership in Scotland from below 20,000 to 30,000. He managed the general election campaign and the "yes, yes" referendum.

Hailing from the Isle of Arran, where he spent his childhood on an isolated farm, he joined the Scottish National Party, switching to Labour when he came to the University of Stirling.

After graduating, McConnell became a maths teacher before entering politics. He lists his political interests as the economy and education, and is a member of Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth. He is 38 years old and married with two children.

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