Party chiefs will hope Lamont’s resignation gives them a fresh start in Scotland

The resignation of Scottish Labour party leader, Johann Lamont, has plunged the Scottish party back into one of its periodic bouts of crisis.

Lamont, long an advocate for greater devolution for the Scottish Parliament and more autonomy for the Scottish party, was said to be furious that national chiefs treated Scotland like a “branch office”.

The final straw came earlier this week with the enforced departure of the Scottish party’s general secretary, Ian Price.

Recruited last year to lead its referendum campaign and drive forward efforts to reform the fractious party, he was already sidelined by July, when the party’s respected former North West regional director, Sheila Murphy, was asked by Ed Miliband to step in and manage the campaign instead.

The view from London is that Labour cannot take the chance that a resurgent SNP will burrow into its vote and put seats at next year’s general election in jeopardy.

However it was clear from the result of the referendum, with places like Glasgow voting for independence, that Labour’s support base in working-class Scotland has been shaken.

The party’s indelicate treatment of Lamont and Price reflects the fact it does not want to have to spend time and precious resources campaigning in seats that Labour should easily win.

In her resignation interview with the Daily Record, Lamont warns her colleagues that “the focus of Scottish politics is now Holyrood, not Westminster” and that too many of them, both in Scotland and London “do not understand the politics they are facing”.

That may be so, but the party’s focus is holding on to what it currently has next May and many will be privately relieved at the chance of a fresh start.

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5 Responses to “Party chiefs will hope Lamont’s resignation gives them a fresh start in Scotland”

  1. Tafia says:

    and many will be privately relieved at the chance of a fresh start.

    And in that part-sentence is the actual problem – Labour London cannot accept that Labour Scotland sees itself as a separate entity. So it will interfere (as it always does) and make things worse(as it always does).

    They’ve got exactly the same problem in Wales with several previously safe Labour seats now looking decidedly shakey, such as Ynys Mon which will almost certainly fall to Plaid in a massive swing.

  2. Adam Gray says:

    Yes, the priority is holding Westminster seats but the implication of that last sentence is that there is somehow a completely different approach needed to campaigning for Westminster seats and Holyrood seats. As was seen at the referendum, the messages that are seen as trite and ineffective in England actually provoke anger and ridicule in Scotland because they are (seen as) irrelevant to the values and identity of Scots.

    Torcuil Crichton, who broke the Daily Record story, provided the anecdote of Alastair Darling being asked by an audience member during the referendum debates whether he could even vote in Scotland – the relevance being that even born and bred Scottish MPs are not seen as Scottish Labour but as Westminster Labour.

    And that’s the fundamental problem – more existential to Labour even than that of UKIP in England: while voters see politics now through the prism of Holyrood, Labour’s supposed great and good regard Holyrood with as much respect as an MP might regard a branch of his Labour Party with a dozen members the day after he’s been readopted for another term.

  3. Tafia says:

    This is part of what I posted on another chain but is equally as relevant here:

    Westminster Voting Intention 2015 (2010 % Votes)
    SNP 42.0% (19.9%)
    LAB 26.1% (42.0%)
    CON 16.0% (16.7%)
    LIB 6.0% (18.9%)
    EC Predicted Seats : SNP 46, LAB 11, CON 1, LIB 1

    based on the Scottish subsamples from seven GB-wide polls – four from YouGov, two from Populus and one from Ashcroft.

  4. Ex Labour says:

    I think this blog can be classed as a clear attempt at damage limitation and positive spin. The referendum showed that there was a clear move away from Labour by its traditional core vote which will undoubtedly carry over into the GE as @Tafia’s survey stats show. This resignation shows that Westminster Labour is in a panic over this and wants to impose its will. The paradox is that in doing this they will further alienate Scottish Labour. Finally the internal strife is coming to the surface.

  5. uglyfatbloke says:

    I somehow doubt that the Electoral Calculus proposition above will actually materialise, but I think the principle is pretty sound. I’d expect incumbency to work well in some areas and quite the opposite in others. Kennedy and Carmichael will both keep their seats, but there’s a few of the loud and and aggressive who will be looking to spend more time with their families next summer.
    I’ve been shouted down for pointing this out in the past, but there is a ‘geese and ganders’ thing here. If Reid, Alexander, Murphy etc. think it is democratic for the Labour party to get 80% of the seats for 40% of the vote, presumably they feel that it is just as democratic if another party gets the same sort of result?
    It has already happened that the gnats have become very much bigger than the libs in terms of members and it seems that there is a good chance they could replace the libs as 3rd party in terms of MPs.

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