The Scottish Labour Party has been thrown into turmoil by the sudden resignation of its leader, Johann Lamont. Her decision effectively sets Labour’s Holyrood and Westminster camps in open warfare against each other.
Lamont threw in the towel after discovering that Scottish Labour’s General Secretary Ian Price had been removed from office without her even being consulted. I have to say that I am beyond furious about the way Ian has been treated. He is a friend of mine and an opponent who is worthy of respect. The problems faced by the Labour Party are primarily to do with their sense of entitlement to power and their predilection towards factionalism, personality cults and in-fighting, not a pragmatic, sensible general secretary who could actually have been part of the solution if he’d been allowed. I do not like seeing my friends being treated badly.
Labour’s failure to understand devolution in its own ranks is mirrored by its failure to get why the Scottish Parliament needs more powers. Instinctively as centralising as the SNP, they live for the collective and not the individual. Their former First Ministers, Jack McConnell and Henry McLeish have been critical about how the Westminster Labour establishment has treated the Scottish Party. After the defeat in 2011 for which they have yet to forgive the electorate, Labour changed its rules so that the leader in the Scottish Parliament was actually the leader of the Scottish Party, but once Johann was in place, the old ways took over.
I wish I could be optimistic that Lamont’s resignation would bring forward a better politics in Scotland. There is a place for a Labour Party who knows what it stands for and having seen nationalism at its worst during the referendum, I do think we need Labour to be able to take on the SNP in those swathes of Central and west Scotland where the Liberal Democrats have been traditionally weak. Politics of any kind is at its healthiest when there is a plurality of views represented. Labour’s untrammelled power over the areas poisoned it as much as it harmed the people neglected under its single party rule when there was no credible opposition.
We’ll see whether they’ve learned anything from the leader they choose in the next few months. Douglas Alexander doesn’t deserve to run as much as a bath after the way he ran Better Together behind the scenes. That patronising BT lady advert? Had his fingerprints all over it. I need say no more. Jim Murphy is way too aggressive. I can’t stand the way he talks so divisively about patriots and nationalists. He’s the wrong person entirely to pull people together. The only person in Scottish Labour to emerge from the referendum with any credit, if you discount Gordon Brown who’s fine in small doses, is Kezia Dugdale, the Lothians MSP. She really gets what moves people and would be a formidable leader. The Daily Record thinks that, at 33, she’s too young. Oddly, they don’t think Drew Smith, a male MSP who’s a year younger has the same problem. In fact, being a “bright young thing” is an advantage for him.
While I know that Johann Lamont didn’t always hit the right spot, I am very conscious that she was being undermined behind the scenes and in some cases openly from the moment she was elected. Ian Price has been caught in the crossfire. Both of these are decent people. There will be ordinary members sorry to see them go and angry at the manner of their departure because Ian and Johann kept in touch with them. One friend of mine told how both had sent messages when she had major surgery recently.
The Scottish Labour Party has not shown us its good side for some while. Now it has the chance to rediscover it. Will it take it?