The world's most-read Scottish politics website

Wings Over Scotland

The lame duck

Posted on September 18, 2012 by

It was all the way back in February that this site started questioning the true nature of Johann Lamont’s unprecedented “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.

Print Friendly

    36 to “The lame duck”

    1. Swello says:

      I don’t think I need to have the tinfoil hat on to say that similar behind the scenes chaos in the SNP would be reported in the press in a slightly different way…

    2. MajorBloodnok says:

      I’m not surprised that turmoil is starting in ‘Scottish’ Labour.  The smarter ones must by now be seeing which way the wind is blowing and thinking about their careers post-referendum.  I look forward to some mid to high profilers jumping the fence in the next year or so, positioning themselves for an indenpendent Scottish Labour party. 

      The thing is, does Milliband and that lot really care about Scotland, or are they already making the same calculations as the Tories and thinking how they can capture power in the rUK without Scotland?  Lurching further to the right to appese middle England should do it…. an interesting social experiment.

    3. smallwhitebear says:

      Johann Lamont has no more control of the huge lumbering UK Labour party machinery than I have.
      No matter how astute or clever she may be, that task is insurmountable for a Scottish Labour person. She will always be second fiddle and will have to bow down to the likes of Margaret Curran who is the UK representative and thus “more important”.
      All the Labour WM MPs will hold sway over her.

      She hasn’t a hope in hell of her real voice being heard. She is just there as a thorn in the flesh to irritate the SNP. She has no other purpose and is resolute in the task it appears; every utterance is just a jibe at the SNP.

      Until we have Independence, then no Scottish Labour person can do anything without the say-so of their WM masters. That is the real reason Scottish Labour does not speak for the Scottish people, why they have abandoned fundamental Labour policies, and why they fell so short of expectations whilst in power.

    4. James Morton says:

      The truth is the Tories never needed Scotland if they held the majority down south. True of labour as it positioned itself into a tory-lite party to maintain it’s electoral chances with the south of the country. It’s a bit rich to be blamed for denying a tory majority when they never needed Scotland for that, just as it’s a bit rich for Scottish labour to feel any sense of entitlement to a Scottish vote when they try to ape the tories and their policies.

      The coalition came about because of a deep seated disgust and disaffection with politicians. No body knew who to vote for. It had nothing to do with Scotland. Come the Scottish elections the Tories felt they would be kingmakers (christ knows why), the LIbdems were the guarantors of change (pfft!) and Labour – were do you start? How could they be so completely wrongheaded and idiotic to think it was still them versus the Tories?

      The scots tories have slipped into nostalgia and remember the time they weren’t quite so despised. The Libdems have taken a trip to lala land and Scottish labour is starting to resemble Tammany Hall wannabes.

    5. Doug Daniel says:

      Your mouseover captions hit the nail on the head – in those bottom two pictures, Lamont’s positioning in them betrays her true position in the Labour Party in Scotland. It’s quite laughable how she’s almost out of the picture in the middle picture – in fact, for all her faults (and there are many), Maggie Curran looks like more of a leader than both Lamont AND Milibean in that picture.

      Labour don’t seem to get it. If you elect a dud as your leader, people won’t vote for you. Labour are kidding themselves if they think they stand a chance of winning the 2015 UK general election with Milibean at the helm – he’s just not leadership material, and the public knows this. This has been the Labour Party in Scotland’s problem with Gray and now Lamont. Labour are insulting the public by offering up these poor excuses as potential national leaders, and they will continue to suffer the punishment dealt out to them by the electorate as a result.

      To be fair to Lamont, she never stood a chance of being the true leader. We all know Holyrood is treated as a mere training ground for potential Labour MPs or a dumping ground for failed ones or who’ll never make the cut. When an organisation chooses its leader from the B-team, you can guarantee disaster. Did anyone truly expect Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander to take orders from Lamont? Surely not. As for that smug little creep Sawar?

      The minute Milibean created his “Team Scotland” headed by Curran, you just knew  this is what was going to happen.

      (You’re bang on the money with Rami Okasha incidentaly – the guy’s a cretin.) 

    6. Fyfe houser says:

      Having been at uni with the academically-and-ballot-box-challenged rami okasha, i find it ludicrous that he is either held in high esteem or feared as a tucker-esque fella.
      He was a ragged hair muppet then, and several lost deposits later. 

    7. Juteman says:

      I liked this quote from Euan McColm, but it was probably unintentional. 🙂

      ” that Labour’s policy problems arise from a Conservative mindset”
       OK, i added the capital.

    8. Erchie says:

      Re the top pic.
      I passed by Stephen Curran’s campaign offices during the 2011 election, even saw that guy and his wee Labour themed mobility scooter once.
      The offices, even before the election, were empty and with post lying on the floor behind the door. I think this is the attraction of groups like the Orange Order to Labour, they are desperately short of foot soldiers, the unsung folk who do canvassing and stuff leaflet through doors and get noticed by the public.
      During the Council elections, the only Labour poster in our street was in the Candidate’s flat (though that person was standing in a neighbouring ward), and the only Labour contact was a different Candidate, a young thing unprepared for the rage of an angry voter
      Now we have the faction fighting. The most vocal in Social media seem to be of the Tom Harris wing, apart from a gloss of “internationialist rhetoric” the Okashas, Dugdales and Hothersalls of this world seem indistinguishable from Tories.
      If they stay off balance like this, it can only be to the good of the Nats

    9. gman says:

      BBC reporting that Colin smyth has ‘stepped down’.

    10. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “BBC reporting that Colin smyth has ‘stepped down’.”

      That’s the power of Wings Over Scotland, readers – they can ride it out if it’s only in the Herald, Scotsman and Observer, but once WE come for you the game’s a bogey in a matter of hours.


    11. Dunc says:

      If they had ever been sincere about empowering the Scottish party, they wouldn’t have elected such a useless and ineffectual leader. It doesn’t matter in the least what the party structures actually are, as long as the Scottish leader is so obviously completely hopeless.

      Whilst I think it’s true, as smallwhitebear points out, that it’s essentially impossible for anyone in Scottish Labour to change the fundamental dynamics of the party, I do think it’s worth noting that, out of the last crop of leadership candidates, Lamont was obviously the one with the least chance of doing so, or of even seriously making the attempt. They picked the “no change” candidate. Or so it seems to me anyway…

    12. Arbroath 1320 says:

      Despite all the media “love ins” with Labour when Lamont was “elected” leader I don’t think there were a great many people outside of Labour H.Q. that actually believed she was the “new” Labour leader in Scotland. I think, having seen her in action as Deputy Holyrood leader was enough for me to believe, as I still do, that she is NEVER going to become a viable Leader. In fact on the evidence I have seen SINCE her elevation to Leader I can only say that I was right in my original assumption.
      I will accept SWB that she was “elected” to be a thorn in the side of the S.N.P. However, THIS particular thorn is more a bendy Wendy rubber thorn rather than a solid stiff scratchy thorn.

    13. Morag says:

      What planet is McKenna on, when he continually praises Lamont’s performance?  I don’t think you have to be dyed-in-the-wool SNP to realise that she’s an absolute disaster who is in way over her head.  That mean, crabbed little voice with its mean, crabbed carping – it’s the ultimate turn-off.

      When I was campaigning last year, the thing that kept getting me back on the road with yet another bundle of leaflets was the utter horror of the prosepct of Ian Gray becoming FM.  Somehow we survived Dewar, and we survived McLeish and we even survived McConnell, but I couldn’t see us surviving Gray.

      God help us all, Lamont is even worse.

      The Scottish voters are going to have to realise a few fundamental truths, and the most important one is that they can’t keep electing the SNP into a devolved parliament, and reject independence.  The very reason the SNP calibre is so good is that the SNP fields its A team in Holyrood, while the other parties field the B team rejects.  The only way to have a proper, responsible parliament at Holyrood is to force all the parties to field their A teams, and put them to work for Scotland instead of getting their useless noses in the trough down south.

    14. MajorBloodnok says:

      I would add to Morag’s post that the SNP fields its ‘A’ team in Westminster as well.  Which tells you something about the extent of ability in the SNP.

    15. Morag says:

      Fair point.  Though I have concerns about how this might be maintained if the party really did get 45% of a Westminster vote in Scotland!

      Hopefully the dilemma will never arise.  If we get the right result in 2014, then the 2015 election becomes a bit academic.

    16. Marcia says:



    17. Juteman says:

      I think it’s fairly obvious that a strong and popular leader is a vote winner, hence the non-stop attacks by the Uneeys on AS.

    18. Jeannie says:

      Sadly, I think you’re right, smallwhitebear.  It seems to me that since 2007, the Scottish electorate has favoured the SNP precisely because  they think for themselves and do not take instructions from a UK/Westminster leadership. 
      All three unionist parties seem to require the approval of the UK party leadership before deciding on anything and this seems particularly notable when it appears in the guise of the No Campaign, the interference of the Scotland Office and the constant refusal of Johann Lamont of Labour to produce any kind of policy in Scotland.
      As recent polling indicates that around 75% of Scots want control over their own affairs, irrespective of what name you call it and SNP popularity is high you would think that the unionist parties in Scotland might consider that they are perhaps less popular because voting for them looks like voting for Westminster rule by proxy.  They may call themselves MSPs, but if they are simply seen to be doing the bidding of the UK party, then they appear to be  acting as proxies for Westminster and the higher the profile of the Jim Murphys, Margaret Currans, Alastair Darlings and Michael Moores of the UK parties, the more inept their party leaders in Scotland look and the more ingrained becomes the view that it is really  Westminster that is in charge.
      A No vote in 2014 should not be mistaken for a wish for Westminster rule by proxy, so I would think that irrespective of the outcome of the referendum, it is likely that the party which will be elected to office post-referendum, willl still be the one which clearly has its leadership in Scotland. 

    19. Doug Daniel says:

      MajorBloodnok – I agree, in fact if the SNP win the first post-indy election, I would envisage Stewart Hosie and the two Angii being immediately promoted to senior ministerial posts. Angus Robertson in particular would seem the obvious choice as the first Scottish Defence Secretary.

    20. YesYesYes says:

      What must also be worrying Scottish Labour isn’t just the lack of authority and unpopularity of Johann Lamont but the woeful performance of Ed Miliband. True, Labour is ahead of the Tories in the polls – how could it be otherwise in the mid-term of a Tory government at the height of its unpopularity? – but on the most recent personal approval ratings, Miliband is on minus 26 to Cameron’s minus 27.
      Miliband’s recent “responsible capitalism” speech and his promotion of “predistribution” suggest that Labour hasn’t moved on very far from New Labour. The former smacks of political opportunism, the latter reminds us of New Labour’s proclivity for neologism and the search for novelty. Labour today is like a bad poet hunting for sentiments to fit his limited vocabulary. And there’s the rub. Labour, long ago, burned its ideological bridges, it has nowhere to go now, nothing to say to us anymore, leaving Miliband to conclude, in the same speech, that socialism was a “rigid economic doctrine”. In truth, all Labour and Tory leaders of the last 30 years could have said the same thing.
      So it seems then, that if we remain in this disunited Kingdom our future is to rest on a reliance on a combination of the ‘enlightened’ decisions of policy-makers and regulators and an appeal to the better nature of capitalists. Good luck with that one. But isn’t the very notion of “responsible capitalism” an oxymoron? These people are no more interested in being ‘responsible’ than they are in being fair or just or equal. Hasn’t Ed ever watched Reggie Perrin and heard the refrain of CJ – ‘I didn’t get where I am today by being [responsible, fair or just]’? If that is a little dated for him, couldn’t Ed tune in to Dragon’s Den or The Apprentice, just to get a flavour of the absurdity of his position?
      If, in two years time, British Labour does not look like a credible alternative government, then Scottish Labour is in deep doo-doo, and they know it. This is another reason why they have been doing everything in their (limited) power to bring forward the date of the referendum.
      Meanwhile, there’s something else that we need to take on board here. In last week’s issue of The Economist, there was an interesting article (‘The great divide’) on the deep and long-standing divisions in England itself, between the north and south of England. England is not only a deeply divided country it is, as a consequence, a deeply troubled country. The conclusion of the article is something that every single Scottish voter needs to think about before voting in 2014:
      “David Cameron, like his one-nation hero, Macmillan, appears fated to watch England continue its slow separation into two distinct countries”.
      Note that this really is a reference to England itself, not a reference to ‘England’ as a proxy for Britain. We Scots have an alternative to going down with this sinking British ship. We have our own problems, of course, but we have the opportunity in 2014 to vote Yes and to give ourselves the powers to come up with sustainable solutions to them. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.   

    21. Megz says:

      Scotland tonight are doing a section on the turf war tonight

    22. McHaggis says:

      The Herald are running the spat under the headline –

      “Top Labour official quits as Johann Lamont steps up reforms”
       As if Lamont is in control of all this and is proactively creating the situation as something positive and of value.

    23. Arbroath 1320 says:

      I agree with everything that has been said so far concerning the lamentable performance of Labour in Scotland. As others have mentioned the difference in Scotland is that we have the A team of the S.N.P. whilst in opposition we have the B teams of Labour, Tory and Lib/Dems.
      As others have pointed out, here in Scotland we seem to have a split personality when it comes to elections, we vote S.N.P. for Holyrood and any other party for Westminster. I agree that this form of split voting does suggest that the people of Scotland do actually care about how their country is run. Unfortunately the Westminster elections are seen as voting for their country’s future as well. A lot of voters do seem to have a wee bit of a problem identifying the fact that a YES vote in 2014 IS a vote FOR the future of their country!
      One aspect that I don’t think Labour have taken into account, or are incapable of taking into account, is the effect of all the cuts and changes to welfare benefits etc currently being introduced at Westminster. I find it incredulous that we have a party “allegedly”OF the people and FOR the people of Scotland is  fighting FOR a union that continues to attack the poor, the weak, the infirm and even the MILITARY of this country.

    24. peter says:

      with ref; to your online poll asking if oor johann will still be “leader” of scottish labour come the 2016 election: i bloody well hope so!!!!

    25. Morag says:

      I voted no, because I believe we’ll be independent by then, and the Labour A team will have been repatriated.  Not that I fancy Mags Curran or the Skeletor, but I think the inevitable revolution after the yes vote will throw up someone a lot more capable than Johann.

    26. Arbroath 1320 says:

      I voted NO but in my heart I wanted to vote YES. Lamont is THE best advert for the S.N.P. currently going! 
      I’m with you Morag, I don’t fancy Curran or Murphy or ANY of the Westminster mob in Holyrood. NONE of the Labour Westminster mob have the intellect to realise that in Holyrood constantly SHOUTING at the opposition just doesn’t work, all it does is make the “shouter” look even MORE stupid than usual.
      Would/could any of the Labour Westminster mob afford to step down from Westminster only to have Holyrood as their highest office?
      Could this mob handle the ignominy of standing for office to a parliament that they had so vigorously fought AGAINST!

    27. douglas clark says:

      Some very interesting comments here.
      Given the quality of the Scottish Labour Westminster MP’s – Iain Davidson springs to mind – is it really the case that their A Team is at Westminster? If so, well I am not terribly impressed. Was there not some chap wearing red going around a Westminster Bar nutting people? If so, well I am not terribly impressed. Was there not a PM who lived in some sort of fantasy world where he saved the planet? And gave us PFI and preferred the idea of North Britain over Scotland? You know what comes next…..
      They are becoming the nostalgia party, even I admired John Smith. But unfortunately we never got to see what he might have made of this country. But there must come a point – really! – when they are no more entitled to stand on the shoulders of giants than I am.
      I think it is fair to say that their pool of talent has been reduced to a trickle, and that this has not just happened in the immediate past. It has been happening for twenty or thirty years. They are not the force they once were. I do wonder how many activists they can count on to push the ‘Better Together’ circulars through the letterboxes? I suspect it is a lot less than they’d like.
      When the dust of a YES vote in 2014 settles, there will be an awful lot of Labour apparatchiks spending inordinate amounts of time with their families. This seems to worry them. I hope young people do take over the reins and make it a party worth supporting again. As it stands, is is about as radical as a table leg.

    28. Arbroath 1320 says:

      I just hope that the local Glasgow hospitals are able to “clear the decks” before Autumn 2014. There’s going to be an AWFUL lot of blood letting in Autumn 2024. I just hope the streets of Glasgow can handle all the blood that will be flowing.

    29. douglas clark says:

      Arby @ 10:33,
      What’s with the 2024? It’s not another prediction of an ‘end’ day is it? I am so fed up with not being raptured yet…..

      Blood on the streets? We in Glasgow have a strict policy about that. Only on Friday and Saturday nights….
      You need to stick one of these at the end of that sort of post 🙂
      Lest you be seen as an agent provocateur. And not of the lingerie variety.

      Seriously, that sort of stuff does us no favours whatsoever.

    30. Arbroath 1320 says:

      Sorry D.C typo, I meant 2014 of course, HONEST. 😆
      As far as the blood on the streets I was trying, and obviously FAILING, to refer to the current internal bickering within the Labour Party that will result in almost certain OUTRIGHT war within the Labour party. I was not meaning any form of fighting between anyone other than those within Labour. Hope THIS confusion clears up the last confusion. 😆

    31. douglas clark says:

      There are fucking trolls out there willing to take anything we say and twist it. I believe you to be a true supporter of independence, but that shit, that is what we expect from them. Not us, not our side.
      This site has a huge readership and not all of them are on our side. Do you think it helps to persuade anyone to write: “I just hope the streets of Glasgow can handle all the blood that will be flowing”?
      It is truly not the message we want to be sending out. Quite apart from being completely untrue….
      Do you really want to give the enemy ammunition? Cause that is what you are doing.

      If, in retrospect, you agree, then I’d be quite happy if Rev Stu deleted everything from your post @ 10:33 onwards. For this shouldn’t have got as far as it has.

    32. MajorBloodnok says:

      I thought Arbroath was using a metaphor for the implosion of Labour after the referendum so I wouldn’t be so hard on him; but, yes, I suppose some knuckle-draggers might read it literally and gleefully quote it out of context so careful use of the idiom is important.

    33. Sneddon says:

      Major – Agree but to be fair to both Arby and DC the unionists twist anything we say and don’t say to their own ends. However we do need to put our thoughts in as clear and ambiguous manner as possible.  In essence no McGlashen type statements gentlemen and ladies.;0  Let’s persuade the undecided by the logic of our cause.I know from experience that we’ll tie ourselves in knots trying to second guess them.  However , I think most sane people could spot a metaphor easily enough.  The gods know the use of military metaphor in politics(let alone business) is a tired old path well trodden..  But to stretch the military metaphor let’s deny them ammo.

    34. Appleby says:

      As Rev Stu said, write as if an undecided is reading the thread.

    35. MajorBloodnok says:

      “Send three and fourpence, I’m going to a dance”.  See, now I’ve mixed military metaphors and music hall humour.  That’ll fox ’em.

    Comment - please read this page for comment rules. HTML tags like <i> and <b> are permitted. Use paragraph breaks in long comments. DO NOT SIGN YOUR COMMENTS, either with a name or a slogan. If your comment does not appear immediately, DO NOT REPOST IT. Ignore these rules and I WILL KILL YOU WITH HAMMERS.

    ↑ Top