“It’ll aw come oot in the washin’.” my grannie always used to say to me, and I’m minded to remember that saying this weekend after news of Johann Lamont’s resignation. Lamont’s resignation has, indeed, put Labour’s dirty washing out on the line for everyone to see. Lamont jumped before she was pushed.
Lamont took over as Leader of the Scottish Labour at arguably, their worst time in history. The SNP had just won a historic landslide victory in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections and the party had been left feeling like someone had died, and this was the wake. Johann Lamont got a raw deal as leader at such a time. The party needed vital reform but London Labour constantly tried to put a stop to this. Ed Miliband told Johann Lamont not to talk about or criticise the Bedroom Tax for a year until he decided what to do about it. This was met with frustration with Lamont, as there was a huge anti-bedroom tax movement establishing itself within Scotland, and when people looked to the Labour Party to take a stance against the bedroom tax, they were silent.
Westminster MPs bullied Lamont and tried to remove her in a coup- if she hadn’t resigned, MPs would have organised a coup against her anyway. When Lamont criticised the leadership of Ed Miliband, MPs blackmailed her and threatened to go to the press with leaked letters. Senior colleagues had been lobbying members of the SEC in order to have her removed.
What this shows, is that Johann Lamont has been the highest profile victim of the Labour Party spin machine. There is doubt that Johann was the best leader, or the most capable. She frequently appeared out of her depth in interviews and rang the death knell for the Scottish Labour party when she said “Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world.” Where she was criticised from all parties and her own. Who gave her that line in that speech to say? It was most likely put in there by a Westminster spin doctor, trying to derail Lamont’s leadership.
Although she lacked the intellectual rigour her main rival, Ken Macintosh, had, she had the benefit of being a down to earth, former school teacher who, crucially, had experience of having a real job before becoming an MSP. The Labour Party needed that. It was in danger of being taken over by people who’s political ambitions were drawn up on a beer mat at a Labour Student’s conference.
Lamont has always been strikingly honest, throughout her leadership. She provoked the need for an honest conversation about funding for the SNP free tuition and prescriptions, albeit, completely in the wrong way.
Lamont’s resignation has been symptomatic of the problem facing the Labour Party for a great number of years in that they operate only to serve their own interests and put the party, rather than the people they were supposed to serve, first. Johann gave the impression that she was not in it for herself and that she truly wanted to return Labour to the people, it just seemed that any attempt she made to do so, was thwarted by Ed Miliband. Labour are severely disconnected from their core voters, and have been for a long time. They lack the self awareness of this problem and have no desire to actually face up to these problems because, for those who hold the power and the influence in the party, the system now, works. Why would they be willing to change the party structures when they benefit for them so much?
It disgusts me to see that nothing in the Labour Party has changed in the years since their respective general election and Scottish election losses. What does it take for the Labour Party to change? What kind of kick up the arse would it need? Obliteration at the next round of elections? A hemorrhage of members?
The party needs a radical new leader to challenge the SNP. When the SNP are more radical than the Labour Party, then that is a problem. Intellectual rigour needs to take precedence above popularity and being media friendly. They then need a serious review of their structures and should put forward plans for complete autonomy from London Labour. Scottish Labour should be able to directly employ Labour Party staff, they should have their own rules and should oversee the complete day to day running of the party, free from London’s interference. It’s time for Labour to come to terms with devolution, it was not a gift to be given to the Scottish people- it was a right to be recognised.