Lamont under pressure as second official set to depart Scottish HQ


  By a Newsnet reporter
A second senior official has announced he is to leave his post with the beleaguered Scottish Labour party today as inner tensions threaten to engulf Johann Lamont’s leadership.
Nearly one year on from Ms Lamont’s election as replacement for former leader Iain Gray, the party has announced that Colin Smyth is to step down from his post as general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party.

The shock announcement followed weekend revelations that another senior advisor had been suspended for “insubordination”. 

Rami Okasha, a former special advisor to Labour MP Jim Murphy, was suspended last month following claims of a turf war between one London controlled Glasgow based group and another controlled by Scottish Labour’s Holyrood faction.

There were claims that the Glasgow group, based at John Smith House, considered Westminster based Labour MPs and Glasgow Labour councillors to have seniority over Johann Lamont’s group of MSPs.

Mr Smyth, who is also a Dumfries and Galloway councillor, has been in his position for four years.  He will officially leave his post in October, when Labour holds its Autumn Conference.

In a statement Mr Smyth said: “There have been many highs in my time with the party, including helping deliver by-election and general election victories, and the recent local elections has shown that Scottish Labour is beginning the fight-back after the disappointment of the last Scottish Parliamentary elections.

“I fully support Johann in the task of rebuilding the Scottish Labour Party and will serve that cause in any way I am asked to.  I wish her and all my colleagues well.

“This may be the end of my time as general secretary but it is not the end of my commitment to the Scottish Labour Party.”

Whilst refusing to comment on reports of an internal rift, speaking to the BBC Johann Lamont said Mr Smyth would be missed at the party HQ in Glasgow, and added:

“He has served the party well and I am delighted that he will continue to serve the party as a councillor in Dumfries and, I am sure, in any other role the party calls upon him to fulfil in the future.”

The SNP responded to the announcement by ridiculing Ms Lamont’s leadership credentials.

An SNP Spokesperson said: “Mr Smyth’s sudden departure comes following a weekend of reports about Labour factionalism and infighting in Scotland, and the suspension of a senior party official.

“It is ironic that Labour – which is following a Tory-led campaign trying to convince us that we are better with a Tory-led government in London taking decisions for Scotland – cannot even get its Scottish and Westminster groups to work together.”
“But much of the focus is still on Johann Lamont.  After a year in charge, Labour have fallen even further behind the SNP than in their disastrous election showing of 2011.  If Ms Lamont cannot even lead her own party properly, she can never seriously aspire to lead the country.”