Sunday, 26 October 2014

Labour Inferno - last reel of the disaster movie

The fallout from Johann Lamont's resignation continues, with allegations that Ms Lamont was barred from speaking out against the bedroom tax for a year while Ed Milliband made up his mind on what he thought about it.  Leaving aside the picture at the top of that article, which is flattering to neither of them,  seriously?  It took Mr Milliband, leader of the party supposed to represent the interests of the working classes, 12 months to make up his mind on a tax that only adversely affects the poor?  There, in a nutshell, is what's gone wrong with the Labour party.

It also illustrates why Ms Lamont was such a poor leader.  It's been said often that she was reluctant to become leader, as it's not one of her natural talents.  That then leads the the question of why she stood for leader in the first place if she didn't want the gig.  However, she won the election, mainly on the basis of endorsements from two of the three electoral colleges rather than the rank and file Labour members.  One rather suspects she was given the job mainly because she was the candidate most likely to shut up and eat her cereal, who would not rock the boat and upset the UK Labour leadership.  A natural leader, told by Mr Milliband to keep quiet on something like the bedroom tax, would have gone ahead and said what they thought anyway, on the basis that's its better to seek forgiveness than permission.

I have seen a few tributes to her that mention that she gave Alex Salmond a run for his money at First Minister's Questions.  I can't say I agree with this.  She always stuck to a pre-written script, generally delivered in tones of faux outrage.  Quite often, any attempt to go off-script would end in gaffes and spluttering incoherence.  It was not inspiring.

The next question is now who is going to succeed Ms Lamont as leader of Scottish Labour?  As of this morning there are 12 candidates on whom odds are being offered - obviously the odds on that link will change.

Current favourite is Jim Murphy, although I can't see that one happening, not when he has a Shadow Cabinet position and a fat expense account to play with.  He is clearly part of the 'One Nation' strand in Labour, and I can't see him going for autonomy for Scottish Labour, even though he was one of the two to originally suggest the idea.  Stranger things have happened though.  Somehow he always makes me think of Norman Tebbit, although I can't quite put my finger on why.

Anas Sarwar is next up.  Best known as an MP for succeeding his dad into the position, his major claims to fame are for abstaining from the vote to repeal the bedroom tax (he had previously criticised the SNP for not mitigating its effects) and for sending his son to private school.  Very New Labour.  There is talk of him standing on a joint ticket with Kezia Dugdale, with Mr Sarwar then leading Scottish Labour at Westminster and Ms Dugdale as deputy leading the MSPs at Holyrood.  Ms Dugdale is something of a rising star in Scottish Labour, although the reasons for this are not readily apparent to an outsider, other than she is a career politician and knows how to play the party game.  She herself has the next best odds of becoming the Scottish Labour leader.

Gordon Brown is next up. While I'm sure Scottish Labour would love him to lead them, I'm not sure it would happen.  His attendance at Westminster is abysmal, perhaps due to his attempts to develop himself a role on the world stage, which must take up a fair amount of time.  I think he would view Holyrood as too small a pond for his statesman-like experience and mighty intellect.

Jackie Baillie is in the frame, the Dolores Umbridge of Scottish Labour, as is Mags Curran, alleged backstabber to her BFF Ms Lamont.  Ms Curran, like Jim Murphy, is currently part of the Shadow Cabinet and has a fat expense account.  She also seems to adore Ed Milliband, judging by the picture that was circulating on Twitter last week, so would be unlikely to rock the boat of One Nation Labour.  There's also the fact that she has been given the job of finding out why their core support overwhelmingly voted Yes in the traditional labour heartlands of Glasgow and Lanarkshire, which suggests she's one of the 'in' crowd.

There are quite a few other names in the frame, including Alastair Darling, Henry McLeish, Jack McConnell, but the odds on them are quite long.

Meantime, Labour continues its slow death in Scotland.  Its current position reminds me of the final reel of a bog-standard disaster movie, full of explosions and the slow collapse of previously solid buidlngs.  The only question is, will there be a hero along to save the day, or are we going to get an interesting twist, where everyone dies?  I shall be watching with interest.


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