by Alex Porter
Weekend reports claim that the Labour party in Scotland face internal divisions that could derail the party’s goal of replacing the SNP as the Scottish government, just weeks before the Holyrood election campaign begins in earnest.
Over the weekend the Times newspaper reported that serious divisions have emerged inside the Labour shadow cabinet over Iain Gray’s decision to vote against the SNP government’s budget despite Finance Secretary John Swinney agreeing to Labour’s demands. The internal criticism is aimed at Gray and his “failing to take control”, reports the Times.
The reports suggest that senior voices inside Mr Gray’s Holyrood group have criticised how the leader “allowed himself to be led by immature voices within the shadow cabinet”.
One Labour MSP is quoted as saying: “What we should have done, given that we got most of what we wanted, was to say that while the budget was still imperfect, we would vote for it and be seen to put the national interest before the party interest …
“… That would have been the mature thing to do. Iain was not driving the ‘No’ vote. Instead he allowed himself to be led by immature voices in the shadow cabinet – he let it run.”
The news will be seized on by the SNP who will now seek to exploit Labour’s divisions. The party’s Campaign Director Angus Robertson said: “The revelations show Iain Gray was led on the Budget vote and that he isn’t even capable of leading his own group of MSPs, never mind Scotland.
“It just proves that they were offered all they wanted – and more – and put puerile political opposition before the national interest.
“It is obvious many of his MSPs are unhappy and have startlingly resorted to making known their unhappiness with Iain Gray’s leadership.”
Labour’s manifesto uncosted
In another dramatic twist over the weekend it emerged that the Labour party’s draft manifesto is uncosted and must undergo a comprehensive re-write a matter of weeks before the Holyrood election.
In an article in the New Statesman journalist Dan Hodges revealed that key Labour election pledges have not been costed:
“Labour’s Scottish election campaign has also suffered an additional setback after the manifesto was produced without costings, and has had to undergo a comprehensive re-write …”
Iain Gray’s leadership
The revelations indicate that there are problems of organisation inside Labour’s Holyrood team which, as the election approaches, are fraying nerves and causing bitter divisions between leading members of the party.
At the root of the matter is Iain Gray’s leadership qualities. Iain Gray has kept a very low profile since it emerged that Labour at UK level did all they could to facilitate the release of the Lockerbie bomber, whilst at the same time the Scottish arm was orchestrating a campaign to shame the SNP for the Libyan’s release on compassionate grounds.
As the election campaign heats up Gray must convince the Scottish electorate that he, not Alex Salmond, is the man to lead Scotland. With his own senior MSPs describing him as being led by an “immature minority” within the party, convincing the electorate of his ability to excel as Scotland’s First Minister will now be a much tougher prospect.