She kept the best to the last, did Johann. It is the only statement she’s made in three years that reads like a leader’s, writes Derek Bateman.
It is direct, blisteringly honest, nails the problem and lumps it into the perpetrators’ lap as she heads off.
Where was all this forthright opinion and robust analysis while in office?
This is the kind of stuff that wins followers, demands loyalty, splits off the renegades and makes the voters nod their approval for your courage.
One of the great tricks of running Labour in Scotland is to feel the freedom to disagree with London and take a different line and when challenged, shrug the shoulders and say it’s what devolution is about – Scottish solutions to Scottish issues.
Standing up to London masters – let’s call it as it is – is what Scots like and is an impulse that lies deep in the heart of the devolution process and no amount of Jackie Baillie panglossian deflection that change that. (On Radio Scotland this morning she gave one of the most two-faced performances of any politician, pretending there was no disagreement with London – in direct and disloyal contradiction of Lamont – that she was both part of the devolution decision process yet wasn’t, and avoided questions by the transparent device of raising irrelevant points about other parties. She was quickly humiliated by both Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell, who caught the mood with insight and honesty and not a little anger, illustrating as they did so the intellectual vacuum at the heart of Holyrood Labour, epitomised by Baillie).
Jackie Baillie on GMS
But while saluting, for the only time ever, Ms Lamont, it is only grimly satisfying to Yes folk yet again to be proved right. It is now virtually a daily occurrence as the Unionist chickens come home to roost. For decades nationalists have been asking why a (formerly) large party with such a history and which is part of the fabric of the country was so craven when it came to its own self-respect and government.
Remember London ministers calling Jack McConnell to account? If he did something they were unhappy with, they didn’t just come north to put him in his place, they came into my studio on Good Morning Scotland to tell the whole country first – to ensure he was stuffed back in his box. Why didn’t he go public in outrage, get the support of the Scots and warn London off? He’s waited seven years out of office to get angry. Indeed, McConnell’s failure to stand up to the bullies was precisely whey he lost the 2007 election.
So here we have the leader saying exactly what Yes people were saying during the campaign – that Labour was a sham party in Scotland that danced to London’s tune and had to sacrifice everything to elect 40 largely “wooden-top” members of the Westminster Parliament. This isn’t just about Labour, it is Scotland in miniature – patronised and dismissed, told we are valued and then sent off with a pat on the head.
I assume Johann thinks this will aid the party but that can only be in the long run. Right now she has ignited a bonfire whose flames are licking around Miliband’s trouser turnups and threatening his chance of a majority next year.
She has declared him a useless leader – so far a sotto voce occupation internally but a Hallelujah Chorus in the outside world – with his MPs deemed dinosaurs, deaf to the calls for reform in Scotland, hot on the heels of the referendum and now, not just a leadership election but an existential crisis.
It would be madness to hold a leadership election at this time. So mad they’ll probably do it. Better surely to appoint an interim and clearly not long-term, leader and go through a period of introspection which should have occurred after Gray stepped down.
As McLeish says…what is Labour for? What do they want to do? Who are the voters and what do they want?
Remember too that Lamont, like Miliband, wasn’t the choice of the members but of the vested interests whose presence contaminates the electoral process. The college system is a Soviet-style throwback that should be ditched and the members made sovereign – those same members treated like donkeys by the careerists…fed a carrot and slapped on the arse and told to do their duty. That attitude is exuded by the limited individuals who have made a comfortable career out of just wearing a Labour badge.
Time for the party to root out the failures and has-beens as Michael Connarty did this morning, identifying Jim Murphy as one briefing against Lamont. Was anybody in Scotland surprised at that news? The mainstream bang on about Murphy as if he is a Labour giant but I suspect his self-regarding nature is transparent to the voters and he would be another exposed under the spotlight.
This is it. This is Labour’s last chance to get it right. If they flunk now, you have to conclude that the heart has stopped and the soul has departed. They will drift on, ghost-like, but will next be found beside the Tories outside the cemetery gates.