JOHN Reid, who announced yesterday that he is to stand down as MP for Airdrie and Shotts, will be remembered, if he is remembered at all, as Tony Blair's “man for all seasons” who held nine ministerial appointments in as many years, six of them in major departments of state. It is doubtful if any minister of any party has ever proved so adaptable and flexible: starting in the Scottish Office, he moved to Northern Ireland, became Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, then took charge of Health, Defence and the Home Office at yearly intervals. There was also a time when he was dubbed “Minister for the Today programme” as he found himself in frequent debate with John Humphrys at the height of the Iraq controversies in 2003.

Perhaps the most surprising period of Mr Reid's career was when he was pushed forward earlier this year as the favoured man to defeat Gordon Brown for the Labour Party leadership. The contest between two of Scotland's toughest politicians never took place and Reid retired to the back benches on the day that Tony Blair left Downing Street.

Two of Mr Reid's comments stay in the memory. After being in the Home Office for a few weeks he declared that it was “not fit for purpose”. As Defence Minister he unwisely said that British troops “could be in Afghanistan for three years without a shot being fired.” It was typical of his tendency to make instant judgements knowing perhaps that he would not be around long enough to have to defend them.