The Irn Lady

Johann-Lamont-007By Mike Small

As Jimmy Reid famously said, he didn’t leave the Labour Party – the Labour Party left him. This is a week where that statement echoed down the years.

Last week we poked fun at Ed Miliband’s content-free delivery in Inverness. To be fair Johann Lamont’s speech (‘Putting fairness and honesty back in politics’ ) was much better. In an instant I knew more about Lamont than I do about Salmond.

‘I grew up in Anderston with my heart in Tiree’ is a great line. The truth is that when carefully scripted, Lamont can deliver well, but off the cuff, thinking on her own two feet, in political exchange, she’s pretty hopeless. The truth is that her party remains bitterly untogether over her incoherent plans for income tax to be devolved.

The speech was clever, if hackneyed. But there’s some real fundamental problems with it. Like Ed’s it seems short on any real policy commitment. But there’s also a real problem in Labour’s effort to ‘go for Salmond’. The first is of course that even though they hate him with undisguised zeal he retains approval ratings the other leaders couldn’t dream of.

As IPSOS MORI reported last year: “Despite setbacks, the First Minister commands higher levels of satisfaction than any party leader in Holyrood or Westminster and a look at Ipsos-MORI data from the 1970s onwards shows that even his reduced ratings in recent polls make him the envy of most political leaders.

Our August 2011 poll, conducted with the SNP still basking in the glory of its unprecedented election victory, showed 62% of Scots satisfied with the job the First Minister was doing. Put in context this is only surpassed in any meaningful way by the early days of the New Labour government when Blair enjoyed approval ratings of up to 75% among British voters in late 1997 and in 1998. When you consider that Salmond has been in power since 2007, his approval ratings are still high when compared with those of any Prime Minister after the same length of time in office.

There are two other noteworthy aspects of Salmond’s ratings. First, his personal approval rating far outweighs support for independence. Second, his rating is high among that vital group in the electorate, those who support greater powers for the Scottish Parliament but who oppose independence.”

Scottish Labour seem consumed by their hatred of Salmond and the SNP (there were 22 mentions of the SNP in Lamont’s speech and Salmond was name-checked 13 times), so much that it blinds them to the reality that this hatred isn’t, like so many benefits, universal.

Lamont and Labour seem obsessed with the SNP and all over the place in terms of lining up ‘Labour values’ (the main thrust of Johann’s speech) with the simple reality of them being swiftly abandoned. Here’s Mary Lockhart – a member of the Labour Party for over 30 years – describing the epiphany of shifting from No to Yes as a result of Labour’s ongoing betrayals (‘Socialism will work better in an independent Scotland’):

On 19 March 2013, 40 Labour MPs voted against retrospective legislation to overturn the outcome of a court of appeal judgment and ensure the government would not be forced to pay £130 million in benefit rebates to about a quarter of a million jobseekers. The remaining 218 obeyed the party whip, and abstained. That night, I tossed and turned, and slept fitfully. I remembered the Drumchapel school children hauled off to Dungavel in the grey dawn from the only home they knew, in a devolved Scotland, with a Labour administration at Holyrood, and under a Labour government at Westminster.

I remembered the trades union legislation which Margaret Thatcher introduced, and which Labour failed to repeal, which keeps workers divided. I pondered a Labour Party which had failed to highlight the bedroom tax at earlier stages of the Welfare Reform Bill, a Labour government which had pledged to renew a redundant nuclear deterrent. And I went to sleep wondering if the Labour Party socialism by which part of my identity is defined was beyond redemption.

On the 20 March, I awoke with a sense of hope, and with new resolve. A resolve to vote Yes in the referendum for Scottish independence. It won’t deliver Utopia. But it will deliver the chance for socialists to help shape a Scotland which reflects the identity of its people.

As Robin McAlpine of the Reid Foundation said: “If Scottish Labour was a prisoner it would be on suicide watch. If it was a dog, you’d put one of those cones on its head to stop it worrying its wounds.”



Categories: Alex Salmond, New Labour, New Scotland, Referendum on Independence, Scottish Labour Party

Tags: , ,

8 replies

  1. Agree with everything you say apart from thinking if it was a dog you’d put it down. It’s rabid min.

  2. I think anybody who saw, or heard, the interviews with Sarwar and Lamont preceding the Labour conference in Inverness would not have needed to watch Lamont’s speech at the weekend. SLAB have become a zombie party. They simply do not know what they stand for anymore. Sarwar could not give one single reason for his party supporting the devolving of income tax to the Scottish Parliament. Lamont topped of that train wreck interview by giving an even worse one herself. They have massive problems. Mary Lockhart is just the most recent figure linked to SLAB that have said they will vote Yes. She follows the likes of Dennis Canavan, John McAllion, Tommy Brennan, Ruth Wishart and Kevin McKenna. The Unionist core of Scottish Labour have become completely hollowed out. They are motivated only by hatred of the SNP, and preserving their private interests. There is no vision, no ideas, and no strategy. Although I have never voted for Scottish Labour, it is sad that a party with such great roots, and which has produced so many notable and talented members, has become what it has today. This is a party that was born from the industrial struggles and social, economic injustices of the late nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. It is genuinely tragic it has all come to this.

  3. When will they wake up?

    It’s not Salmond we’re voting for, it’s for the right to govern ourselves – independence. If Labour won’t support that then they are branding themselves as a party representing English interests.

    Simple as that.

  4. Labour are just a section of the Westminster Party,not a separate party at all.(just my view) always obsessed by others never looking to see what they can do themselves,like an old man told some 50 years or so ago,when he heard me say “I’m gonna get him” he told the best way to get anybody was to remember them but remember to build for yourself,that makes them think of you and eats them up.
    So far I have now heard a repeat of the 1979 promises vote no and we’ll give you something better!! better than independence no chance of bettering that, lots of Devo-max,but hey they never wanted Devo-max it was to be a straight YES or no.I’m for YES. So when they lie at the outset you do realise that their whole idea is lies.

  5. I think the Mary Lockhart piece outlines an personal emotional journey that will strike a chord with many other people however it is essentially descriptive not analytical.

    I know she says that “It won’t deliver Utopia. But it will deliver the chance for socialists to help shape a Scotland which reflects the identity of its people” but I’m not convinced it will offer that and so far there’s no convincing analysis or number-crunching to offer any clues to the future of socialism in an independent Scotland. All we have so far is hope and faith.

    I doubt that socialist parties will ever have a majority in an independent Scotland. I’m not saying ‘don’t do it’, I’m just saying don’t vote ‘yes’ expecting that a post-referendum settlement will be socialist in nature.

    Indeed I think that there will be a right-wing revival in an independent Scotland: a new right-wing party would be swelled with ex-members of the SNP, and the Conservatives – freed from the shackles of Westminster – would have the freedom to flourish.

    In addition we may not be voting for Salmond in the referendum but we will be entrusting the post-referendum negotiations to the SNP Government; although the roadmap indicates that the Government will encourage other parties to participate in the negotiations what is not at all clear yet is how the negotiating positions will be arrived at. That’s why SNP policy is crucial in the process; and why we have already seen a new commitment to NATO. I’m curious to see how the anti-Trident position fares over the next 12 months…

    • Spot on, felibrilu. I wanted to describe an emotional journey because in 700 words an attempt at deeper analysis would have been doomed….besides which, it seems to me that the cart is before the horse. Those arguing for Independence have already marshalled arguments which they say prove the case. Those who say they are arguing for the UK are only doing so in the sense that they have marshalled arguments to prove that the status quo would be better than an Independent Scotland yet to be defined, because, “after the referendum, the people of Scotland will decide.” It would be helpful to have a forum and a mechanism whereby people could discuss and consider the kind of society in which they would like to live, and what would be needed to build, nurture and sustain it, before considering how best to achieve it in the governmental structures of our villages, towns, cities, regions and countries. But given that the referendum is only 18 months away, I think all the political parties should be doing that, and engaging with the people as they do so. The Scottish Labour Party should be planning and ready for both possible outcomes of the referendum. If it is No, then it must be ready to take the devolutionary agenda out of the permafrost of settlement plus Calman. If it is Yes, it must have an agenda and a strategy for building a new nation which works in an equal partnership with its neighbours on matters of common interest. And so should the SNP. However there seems to be nowhere people not in the leadership of their parties, and not either Unionist or Nationalist to the core, can find a way to think and exchange views and hear unbiased facts together. I would not presume to advance an economic argument for either the Union, or Independence – I am not an economist. I would not dare take for granted that an independent Scotland would be more likely to be a socialist country, or to have long term Labour Governments – I am not a psephologist. But I have lived through the evidence that the UK has longer and more frequent periods of free market capitalist conservative governments than it does mixed economy, public ownership Labour ones. And I have watched over 3 decades as Labour MPs instigate or vote for policies which are anti-socialist, and sometimes against Party Policy. So I prefer the uncertainty of a leap in the dark with a torch to the certainty of a leap over a precipice with an ipad

  6. Excellent stuff, Labour is the establishment in Scotland and Indy is a major threat to these peoples careers, they believe in nothing else.

    PS, Has Shetland dropped off the map.

  7. Their tribal hatred is a tangible thing which is destroying their credibility as a party of either opposition or government. They appear to have lost the will to do anything other than assault the SNP, who to be honest have taken Labour’s place as both defender and voice for the Scottish electorate. Their now famous Bain principle – “is a long-standing PLP convention that we do not support SNP motions”, has seen the current Labour crop attack policies and initiatives which would have seen full throated approval from their own benches not so many years ago. Just how does this approach square with Johann Lamont’s statement about not wanting power for its own sake? The plain fact is that it does not.

    Opposition for oppositions sake is not holding the government of the day to account. It is merely a tribal ploy to rest power regardless of the harm to the electorate the tactic may cause. Those are not the actions of a government in waiting.

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