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Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger… Craig Miller? Script is written for Labour man to take starring role

Craig Miller.

Craig Miller would not be the first trained actor to swap the stage for the political theatre, with Arnold Schwarzenegger prime examples.

But it remains a highly unusual route into parliament on this side of the Atlantic.

A key aide to Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, Mr Miller, in fact, made the move into politics several years ago.

Having grown up in Sauchie, he attended Lornshill Academy in Alloa before studying drama at Aberystwyth in Wales.

After returning to Scotland, he took a post in the education department of Scottish Opera, going on tour and performing in schools across the country.

Gordon Brown with Craig Miller.

Although he had joined Labour while a student in 2005, it was the 2010 UK general election and the end of Labour’s reign at Westminster that motivated him to work in politics and join the cause.

“It was going to be either a Labour government or a Tory government and I was very keen on Gordon Brown, so I did everything I could to try to get a Labour government,” he said.

“Now, we did very well in Scotland but we didn’t do so well across the United Kingdom.

“So I started working as head of staff in 2011 for (former MSP) Dr Richard Simpson, and I’ve been working for someone in the party, now Richard Leonard, for the last 10 years.”

‘Gordon Brown my political hero’

A decade on, Mr Brown remains an inspiration to Mr Miller.

“Gordon Brown is my political hero, yes. I’m not sure how popular that would be with everyone but, yes,” he said.

Gordon Brown is my political hero, yes. I’m not sure how popular that would be with everyone but, yes.”

“I think he is someone who is very principled, someone who clearly cares a lot about social justice and about tackling the evils of poverty.

“And this is a chancellor, when he was chancellor, who really did transform so many lives, reduce child poverty, improved people’s outcomes, got more people to university, because of choices that he made as chancellor.”

Dr Richard Simpson with Craig Miller.

Mr Miller worked for Dr Simpson, while he was MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, between 2011 and 2016, having previously been a local activist in the area.

“Craig was a fantastic staff member – extremely hard-working and dedicated, and he is an extremely good speaker, as you can imagine with someone with his drama qualifications,” said Dr Simpson, who was a former MSP for Ochil in the first Scottish Parliament.

“He is very innovative, he is a good thinker, and I think he has a very bright future in the party. I very much hope he will become an MSP in the near future.

“He is also very rooted in his community. He lives in Sauchie, in Alloa, and he is very, very involved in the community group there, and has been for many years.”

Plan to run for Holyrood seat

Over the years, Mr Miller has also impressed party figures with his work on two high-profile Holyrood by-election victories in Fife – the 2013 contest in Dunfermline to replace disgraced former SNP MSP Bill Walker, and another the following year in Cowdenbeath.

He now hopes to mastermind his own route to Holyrood, having previously stood for Labour in Clackmannanshire and Dunblane in 2016, finishing second to the SNP’s Keith Brown.

Mr Miller intends to fight the seat again next year, and potentially secure a place on the party’s regional list for Mid Scotland and Fife.

Craig Miller and Dr Richard Simpson.

If he makes it to Holyrood, he said he would fight to tackle health inequalities that continue to blight Scotland.

“I think the priorities have probably changed a lot because of Covid-19; however, health still remains an important issue, particularly in Scotland, with Scotland having the worst cancer rates,” he said.

“It’s time we did something to improve the outcomes for people living with cancer, and the same with drug and alcohol abuse.

“Scotland still has the highest number of drug deaths and alcohol-related deaths, so actually trying to support people out of alcohol dependency and drugs is important.”

Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour leader.

Working closely with under-pressure party leader Mr Leonard, organising the diary, campaigns and communications in his office, Mr Miller will be aware that few commentators are predicting a dramatic Labour revival at the upcoming election.

But the 34-year-old insisted there are reasons for the party to be optimistic.

“The country does need to try to work together, the political system, in order to get through the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.

“However, the Scottish Labour Party I think is in a very strong position, with the policies we’re setting out at the moment.

“We’ve had 13 years of an SNP government, they have never been a very good government, but they are a tired government now.

“So I do think there is an opportunity there for the Scottish Labour Party to come in with new, bold ideas, and actually start doing some of the things that the SNP should have been doing for the last 13 years.”