By Bob Duncan
The SNP has said that Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont must answer a series of questions about which she has been completely silent over recent months.
This follows news of a turf war taking place inside Scottish Labour, widespread disloyalty by senior party members, and a disastrous set of opinion polls which placed Labour in a poor second place behind a buoyant SNP.
The Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times and Real Radio Scotland surveyed 1,012 adults in Scotland between 11-17 July 2012. Party support breakdowns for the constituency vote are as follows (with changes from the May 2011 election in brackets):
1. SNP: 47% (+2%)
2. Labour: 32% (n/c)
3. Tory: 12% (-2%)
4. LibDem: 6% (-2%)
These figures show that the gap between Labour and the SNP is now greater than it was at the time of the landslide victory in May 2011, when the SNP won its historic majority in a proportional parliament, which was designed by Labour specifically to make such a result impossible.
According to the SNP, Johann Lamont has failed to give her opinion on over the last few months on a number of current issues, including:
- Whether she supports Trident missiles being based on the River Clyde – she was the only candidate in the Labour leadership election not to state her position.
- Whether she supports lowering the voting age to 16.
- Whether she supports greater powers over railways being devolved to the Scottish Parliament, which would allow greater flexibility with the franchise.
- Whether she will discipline her front-bencher Neil Findlay for publicly mocking Alistair Darling and the Better Together campaign which Ms Lamont has taken the Labour party into.
- Whether she will allow grassroots Labour members to openly debate the party’s position on the constitution at the next Labour conference.
- Whether she agrees with her party colleague Ian Davidson MP that the BBC is guilty of ‘systematic bias’, following his on-air revelation that ‘several complaints’ had been made by the Labour party to the BBC. Was Johann Lamont aware of these complaints and, if so, does she agree? If she was not aware, why not?
Commenting ahead of Johann Lamont’s hastily-arranged press conference today (Tuesday) to discuss the future policy direction of Scottish Labour, an SNP Spokesperson said:
“Johann Lamont’s default position on issue after issue over the summer has been one of silence, and she has a very long list of questions to answer. It’s no wonder that tensions are boiling over in the Labour Party in Scotland – with one former spin doctor saying that Labour is ‘moribund’, another suspended for insubordination, and a turf war between Labour at Holyrood and the party at Westminster.
“What has prompted this hastily-arranged press conference? Was it the recognition that her toxic anti-independence alliance with the Tories is going down dreadfully with the party membership and with the voters? Was it the excellent speech by Allan Grogan on behalf of the ‘Labour for Independence’ group at Saturday’s independence rally in Edinburgh? Was it the realisation that, under her leadership, Labour are even further behind in the polls now than in their 2011 election disaster?
“Or was it the embarrassment of being in an anti-independence campaign with the Con-Dem coalition which has been caught out committing a criminal offence by breaking data protection law?
“Ms Lamont promised that her Devolution Commission which she was chairing would report back within a year – but the only thing she has done since she announced it six months ago is try to convince voters that we are ‘better together’ with the Tories at Westminster.
“It’s only when the press have started to ask questions about this that she has been panicked into claiming over the weekend that this Commission will actually happen.
“But this is not the only issue that Ms Lamont has completely failed to address. She the only candidate in the Labour leadership election not to say whether she supports retaining Trident weapons of mass destruction – and we’re still waiting to hear her view, almost a year later.
“This hasn’t stopped other senior Labour figures giving their own view – with Ian Davidson supporting nuclear disarmament, and Jim McGovern claiming that Scottish Labour was pro-nuclear. Even Labour’s Welsh leader has said more on Trident than Ms Lamont has.
“Labour’s limp response to the draft budget – where they made a lot of noise but offered absolutely no suggestions as to how they would fund some their alternatives – was perhaps the final straw.
“Under Johann Lamont, Labour has not even been acting like a proper opposition – never mind a party aspiring to be in government. Today’s press conference is the hallmark of a leadership in crisis.”
Ms Lamont has faced criticism over a ‘summer of silence’ that has led to claims that Scottish Labour have no vision for Scotland, either as an independent country or as part of the Union. The frustration felt by some members of Scottish Labour was evident at a pro-independence march on Saturday where a group calling itself Scottish Labour for Independence joined thousands of other marchers gathered in support of a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum.