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Last Updated: Monday, 24 September 2007, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Alexander sorry for polls defeat
Wendy Alexander
Ms Alexander said her party would seize back power

Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander has apologised to the rest of the party for losing the Holyrood election.

She told delegates at the annual Labour conference in Bournemouth that defeat to the SNP in May "hurt".

Ms Alexander blamed the outcome of the polls to losing touch with the people, while drawing comparisons between the Nationalists and the Conservatives.

The two parties hit back, saying that she had continued to take a negative approach to politics.

In a short speech to the conference, Ms Alexander promised that Labour would win power again at Holyrood.

Ms Alexander paid tribute to her predecessor and former first minister Jack McConnell, adding: "Can I also, on behalf of the whole Scottish Party, offer an apology.

This speech wasn't even policy-lite, it was policy-free
Scottish Tory spokesman

"An apology for our defeat in last May's elections. For despite our many achievements in government in Scotland too many people felt we had lost touch."

Ms Alexander claimed the people of Scotland had not lost faith in Labour's values, but wondered whether the party had lost sight of how to put them into practice.

"The Scottish National Party were the beneficiaries of that disillusionment," she said.

"They won, not because of the strength of their argument, but because they persuaded people, quite disingenuously, they too could deliver on Labour's agenda of hope and aspiration."

"I am here to tell you that we are going to seize that agenda back, not simply by waiting for our opponents to fail, but by renewing our party again to become, once again, the true national party of the people of Scotland."

In their desperate attempts to play to English nationalism, the Tories will attack our prime minister simply for being a Scot
Wendy Alexander
Scottish Labour leader

She added: "And through that renewal, I am determined that Labour wins back power in the Scottish Parliament."

Ms Alexander told delegates that what hurt more than losing in May was not being able to make decisions in government, as her party had done on the public smoking ban, free bus travel for pensioners and opening a new school every week.

She also talked of a conflict of interest between the SNP and the people of Scotland, adding: "For the SNP, their burning issues are not poverty or housing or life chances, but instead which flags we fly, the rebranding of the Scottish Government, the need for more Scottish embassies and a staggering half-a-million pounds on a Scottish Broadcasting Commission."

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, the Scottish Labour leader claimed, had an ally in the south in the form of Tory Leader David Cameron.

"In their desperate attempts to play to English nationalism, the Tories will attack our prime minister simply for being a Scot," said Ms Alexander.

"They both have a great deal in common.

"The politics of both the Tories and the Nationalists are the politics of division, the politics of envy and the politics of 'I'm all right and who cares about you'."

Party 'vitriol'

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Ms Alexander had effectively tried to blame Mr McConnell for Labour's Scottish election defeat.

"A Strathclyde University study last week showed that the SNP won the election because of our positive campaign, and Labour lost because of their narrow negativity," she said.

"Wendy Alexander was at the very centre of that unremittingly negative campaign. Wendy did the bidding of Labour's London bosses and helped deliver the disastrous campaign in Scotland that they wanted - not the one Mr McConnell wanted."

A Scottish Tory spokesman added: "This speech wasn't even policy-lite, it was policy-free.

"Until she stops fighting the election Labour lost in May there is no way back for her, or for them."

The spokesman said: "A real leader would stand up and present her vision, her ideas and her aspirations for Scotland.

"Instead, Wendy Alexander focused all her vitriol on the other parties and when she did mention Labour, it was all about internal party politics."

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