It was all the way back in February that this site started questioning the true nature of Johann Lamont’s unprecendented “leadership” of Scottish Labour. For the first time in the party’s history, the Scottish branch was supposedly (and somewhat ironically) completely independent of UK Labour, with Lamont allegedly in charge not just of the MSP group in Holyrood – the limited remit of her predecessors – but also all of Labour’s Scottish MPs at Westminster and the whole Scottish party organisation.
Ever since, in the interests of journalistic accuracy, we’ve put the word “leader” in inverted commas whenever we’ve referred to Ms Lamont’s position, because the evidence just kept stacking up that her authority simply wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. An impartial observer arriving from Pluto and watching the Scottish press and media for a few months would have come away with the impression that she was – at best – fourth in command, behind Anas Sarwar, Margaret Curran and Jim Murphy.
True to form, the Scottish newspapers are running approximately six months behind Wings Over Scotland when it comes to political observation and analysis, so last weekend they were right on schedule when they finally noticed that Scottish Labour’s power structures perhaps weren’t what they seemed.
The Herald ran a story on Sunday revealing the suspension of the party’s “top spin doctor” Rami Okasha – a nasty piece of work from the right-wing Tom Harris faction of the Scottish branch – as a result of an internal power struggle, claiming:
“Lamont was to be at the top of a chain of command, leading the MSPs, MPs and the party apparatus at John Smith House in Glasgow. However, several Labour sources speaking on condition of anonymity, have told this newspaper that a seamless transition to the new structure has not taken place.”
The piece went on to add that what it called a “turf war” over Labour’s operations in Scotland was being fought between Lamont’s group in Edinburgh, and a group in John Smith House in Glasgow – controlled by Okasha and general secretary Colin Smyth – employed by and answering to the London party. (Which we can only assume had a higher opinion of their merits than those in the Scottish organisation did.)
The Herald’s damning assessment was backed up by Kevin McKenna in the Observer the same day, who wrote that:
“Exacerbating the problem at Labour HQ is the current director of communications, Rami Okasha… Amid some very distressing and unsavoury reports about aggressive personnel management at the HQ of a party which champions equality has been the spectre of ruinous factionalism.”
And completing the triple whammy was a lacerating opinion column from Euan McColm in Scotland on Sunday, which noted:
“SNP taunts of ‘London Labour’ started to ring uncomfortably true. The review of the party last year was not supposed just to be a cosmetic exercise. In creating, for the first time, the role of Scottish Labour leader, the party was to find a new independence from London, and from that freedom would flow creativity and confidence. It’s not happening.”
(The same piece also highlighted something else we pointed out as far back as 2011, and again more recently – the huge, gaping chasm where the party’s policies should be, lamenting: “In six months, I’m told, the policy tree will hang heavy with fruit. But for now, not even a bud.” And we’ve heard ‘policy jam tomorrow’ before, of course.)
We have no love for the betrayal of a party that is Labour, on either side of the border. It exists, at the parliamentary level, primarily for the personal financial enrichment of its representatives, and its hatred of independence is founded rather less on the interests of Scotland than on the employment security of the 40 or so MPs currently drawing down fat salaries for cushy opposition jobs at Westminster. But the poor deluded people who still believe in the values it pays lip service to deserve better than this.
Johann Lamont wants to lead Scotland – though only in some respects, and nothing too complicated – but doesn’t even control her own little fiefdom, almost a year after her election. We’re glad the Scottish media has finally caught up with us in noticing.