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Dewar's new spin doctor quits.

Labour leaders were stunned and embarrassed last night when the party's new Scottish communications director quit.

Paul McKinney, announced his resignation for "personal reasons".

Opposition parties seized it as proof that Labour in Scotland were massively split and in deep trouble.

McKinney was just two months into the job after being headhunted from STV by Scots Secretary Donald Dewar and Chancellor Gordon Brown.

He was to be a key player in the fight to halt the SNP advance before next years triple header - elections to the Scottish Parliament, local councils and the European Parliament.

Party insiders claim he believed he would be Labour's spin chief in Scotland and in the first few days he regularly appeared at Dewar's side.

But within weeks he was playing second fiddle to Dewar's new pounds 74,000-a-year spin doctor David Whitton.

McKinney was already annoyed because his own salary of around pounds 40,000 was lower than had been originally agreed.

He was under increasing work pressure and was without the resources he had been promised.

He was deeply disillusioned that he had been effectively side-lined to Keir Hardie House.

The final straw was when it was revealed that Labour had poached a top civil servant, John Mclaren, to be their economics guru - on an even bigger salary than McKinney.

He felt left out and under pressure from a six-day-week.

McKinney went out to celebrate his 33 birthday a week ago and appears to have made up his mind then to quit.

Party secretary Alex Rowley and McKinney's old boss Gordon Brown spent days trying to persuade him to stay. But he quit last night.

In a statement, he said he was disappointed that he could not continue, but felt it was important to leave before next year's Scottish general election .

Alex Rowley said McKinney had made a "significant" contribution to the party in Scotland.

He added: "We are sorry to see him go, and on behalf of the Scottish Labour party leadership I would like to thank him for his service and wish him well for the future."

McKinney's departure was seized upon by the SNP last night as proof that "the wheels were coming off New Labour in Scotland".

SNP chief executive Mike Russell claimed: "Mr McKinney was brought in to try and address the SNP challenge.

"His departure shows that Labour's much-vaunted `Natbusters' campaign has fallen flat on its face.

"Labour's problem in Scotland is that they are all in a spin - with the substance of their policies decided for them by London- based ministers, and often hostile to the Scottish interest.

"The new raft of spin doctors to be led by Paul McKinney was imposed on Labour by London and financed by London money, but it has clearly run into insurmountable problems in Scotland."

"This is a serious blow to Labour which suggests that there is something far wrong with the way they are operating in Scotland."

Scottish Lib-Dem leader Jim Wallace said: "Oh Dear. It seems that Labour's much- vaunted spin doctors are all spinning out of control.

"This really does give every appearance of a shambles.

"The Labour party must be hoping that they don't lose any more spin doctors, because without their spin there won't be very much left."

Scots Tory chairman Raymond Robertson said: "The record quick departure of Paul McKinney bears testimony to just how nerve- racking it must be trying to sell Labour's let downs to the people of Scotland."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 29, 1998
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