Alexander hanging on as ‘human shield’

Wendy Alexander met with Labour MSPs today to defend her position amid growing claims she is under pressure to remain in office to protect the Labour leadership in Westminster.

Ms Alexander has resisted pressure to resign as leader of the Scottish Labour party after it emerged she accepted a £950 unlawful donation.

The Scottish Labour leader accepted mistakes had occurred but said she wanted to see the row through to clear her name.

Following the meeting, Duncan McNeil, chair of the Labour group in Scotland, said Labour MSPs shared Ms Alexander’s determination and she had their full unanimous support.

In Westminster, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman has faced similar pressures after admitting she accepted more than £5,000 anonymously from property developer David Abrahams to fund her leadership campaign.

The SNP claim Ms Alexander, who is the sister of Gordon Brown’s close ally and electoral chief Douglas Alexander, is under pressure to remain in office to reduce scrutiny of Ms Harman’s own position,

SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon said: “The only reason Ms Alexander is staying in the post is to act as a human shield for Gordon Brown whose sole priority is not her interests or Scottish Labour; it’s to prevent the house of cards collapsing down south.”

The Times newspaper claims today that Ms Alexander was explicitly told by her brother on Sunday afternoon not to resign in order to protect the Westminster leadership.

A source in Ms Alexander’s camp told the newspaper she had been prepared to resign until her meeting with the international development secretary.

The scandal engulfing Ms Alexander is not the same as the proxy donor row raging in Westminster but potentially more damaging.

The Scottish Labour leader accepted a cheque for £950 from the Channel Island-based businessman Paul Green to fund her leadership campaign, even though he is not on the electoral register.

Ms Alexander’s reputation suffered when it emerged she had personally written to Mr Green to thank him, even though her own team questioned the cheque’s legality.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, Mr Green said the donation was clearly a personal cheque, accusing Labour of “gross mismanagement”.

Ms Alexander insisted she did not understand that a donation from someone not on the electoral register broke electoral law.

Ms Harman – who accepted a cheque from an intermediary used by Mr Abrahams to fund her deputy leadership campaign – insisted she acted in good faith and did not break the spirit or the letter of the law.

Mr Brown nevertheless faced instant pressure to replace her as party chairman.

Speaking to Labour MPs last night, the prime minister said he was “furious” at the latest funding scandal and promised a “surgical” investigation.