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Donald Dewar Friday, 13 October, 2000, 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK
Susan Deacon?
Susan Deacon
The politician has been in the spotlight this year

Name: Susan Deacon

Born: Musselburgh

Age: 36

Education: MA (Hons) in social policy and politics, MBA from Edinburgh University

MSP for: Edinburgh East and Musselburgh

Position: Minister for Health and Community Care


Of the four politicians being linked to the position, it is Susan Deacon who has had the most testing time in the new parliament.

Her health portfolio might boast a huge budget, but with that comes a public and political scrutiny of the highest order.

Nationally, issues surrounding the NHS have proved hot potatoes for Labour.

In Scotland, where the health budget is a devolved matter, Ms Deacon has generally coped well.

Hospital ward
Health is one of the toughest briefs to have
Her performances in the chamber have been judged to be effective and steady.

But the known left-winger has been central to a number of embarrassing controversies.

The late Donald Dewar's chief of staff, John Rafferty, was sacked after he made an unsubstantiated claim that death threats had been made against Ms Deacon by militant anti-abortion campaigners whom she told to "back off" from protesting outside family planning clinics.

And the politician was forced to weather a fierce storm over health spending.

Behind the scenes, she clashed with Labour colleague and Finance Minister Jack McConnell about how a budget overspend - including millions earmarked for health - should be used.

That spat became public, and supporters of both camps began secret media briefings blaming each others.

Reading riot act

The well-documented episode prompted Mr Dewar, who was taking a three-month break to recover from major heart surgery, to read the riot act to the warring ministers.

On a number of issues, Ms Deacon has stood firm and won support of the backbenchers.

Against strong public feelings, she rejected the wholesale adoption of Lord Sutherland's recommendations for the care of the elderly.

Instead, Ms Deacon came up with her own watered-down, but more cost-effective, plan.

The mother-of-one is well versed on the ins and outs of political bureaucracy.

That stems from the skills she picked up as a local government administer, which she did before becoming a full-time politician.

Ms Deacon's entry into parliamentary politics nearly did not happen.

She was initially rejected from the shortlist of prospective MSP candidates by party managers, but won her right to stand on appeal.

Given her faltering start, many Labour insiders expressed surprise at her selection for a Cabinet post.

See also:

08 Aug 00 | Scotland
06 Jul 00 | Scotland
29 Jun 00 | Scotland
01 May 00 | Scotland
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