MY political teeth were cut in sunny Leith. As an 11-year-old I became

deeply smitten by the excitement of the election, the rosettes, the

posting of bills, the public meetings, the vans with loudspeakers on

their roofs, the trading of insults; my family will tell you that

absolutely nothing has changed.

Thus I was a supporter of and leaflet deliverer for the Tory candidate

-- although he may well have been labelled a National Liberal and

Unionist in these days -- one Eoin C. Meekie who was attempting to end

the parliamentary career of the Labour incumbent, James Hoy.

There was a ditty we used to sing as we worked, proving pretty

conclusively to the rest of the population that we were a couple of

slices short of a pan loaf, which went something like this:

Vote, vote, vote for Mr Meekie,

He'll be knocking at your door,

He's the one to give us all the fun,

So we won't have Jimmy any more

-- Shut the door!

Well, sad to relate we never did beat the shrewd, old campaigner Mr,

later, Lord Hoy whose slogan was always ''A-Hoy for Leith'', although we

did run him to 72 votes on one occasion. This week I received a

Christmas card from his son Ian, once a Labour councillor now a Tory on

Edinbugh district, a personal friend of many years standing.

The young Hoy and I have had many a good crack about the old Leith

days and we have kept paternal eyes on the constituency. Ronald

King-Murray, who became a Judge, kept the seat in the moderate Labour

tradition; he was then followed by Ron Brown.

On the night that Ron was adopted, by one vote over his nearest rival

it was said, I was in Munich with the Labour convener of Lothian region,

John Crichton, a Leither in all things first. When the news of the Brown

selection came through it would be fair to say that his jaw dropped like

a Bruno opponent. It is also true that John worked hard for Ron at

several elections.

I was as astonished as he was at the choice. Ron Brown was an

Edinburgh councillor but the impression he had made there was of a

political light-weight who could not be, nor was he, entrusted with any

major responsibility. While the Robin Cooks and George Foulkes flew

high, Ron was confined to the back benches.

He was not without a pawky sense of humour which I note he has

retained. His reaction last week to the letter from campaigns

co-ordinator John Cunningham inviting him to a #500-a-head gala dinner

at which Neil Kinnock will speak was typical.

''I am going to send this letter to the police,'' declared Ron. ''The

Labour Party, particularly in the run-up to a General Election, can't be

involved in this kind of event -- if it is it would be absolutely

unbelievable. It is probably some kind of trick to discredit us.''

No, Ron, it is just a bunch of salon socialists being invited to

unload some of their guilt for making so much lolly under the Tories.

They deserve a speech from Neil.

While enjoying some of Mr Brown's jokes, however, I have to say that

the people of Leith have been ill-served by his stewardship. Members of

Parliament should be best remembered for matters other than underwear


The Conservative Party, nevertheless, must accept some of the blame

for Mr Brown's survival. They have fielded some candidates in this

consituency whose ability and suitability to represent Leith have been

exposed as pitifully thin.

This time it is going to be different.

Let me present Councillor Mohammad bin Ashiq Rizvi, MA, Ll.B, JP,

currently representing the New Town/Stockbridge division on Lothian

Regional Council and just adopted as the Tory prospective parliamentary

candidate; and a pal of mine to boot.

I recall when Mo fought his first successful election in 1986 there

were two very New Town Edinburgh ladies discussing their candidate.

'Rizvi -- what sort of name is that?'' demanded one.

''Italian,'' replied her friend.

He was, in fact, born in India but moved to Pakistan after

independence before coming to the UK in l962. Today, he is a freelance

insurance consultant.

Mo Rizvi held the regional seat, when many Tories were losing theirs,

by just 68 votes. In l990, not exactly a vintage year for the true-blues

either, he put the margin of victory up to 180.

He was the first Asian Conservative councillor in Scotland, he is the

first of his ethnic group to be adopted as a Tory prospective

parliamentary candidate and, as far as either of us are aware, he is the

only Asian chosen by any party in Scotland for this particular General

Election. And he intends to fight it all the way.

''They may not have seen too many Tory faces in Leith over the last

few years,'' he told me, ''but they had better get used to mine.''

Now why should we be all that excited about the forthcoming contest in

Leith where the Labour majority is 11,327? Because everyone and his

brother expects Ron Brown, de-selected by the comrades, to stand again

under whatever tag he chooses.

I don't think he has been a particularly bright MP. But there is

sympathy for the Browns in Leith, particularly May Brown for whom the

song Stand By Your Man might have been written, and his vote may not be


Add to that the fact that the official Labour candidate, Malcolm

Chisholm, exudes all the excitement of watching grass growing, an SNP

vote which is surely going to rise -- only 4045 last time -- plus our

new lad and you could have a rather an explosive cocktail.

The boy Hoy and I have dusted down our songsheets and re-written the


''A-Mo for Leith!''