Letter to Johann

Dear Johann
Congratulations on your victory. If you’re to dispel the notion that Scottish Labour leaders have steadily diminished since Donald Dewar, each one seeming progressively less capable and less attuned to the country they seek to lead, you’re going to need to take advice from across the board.  For what it’s worth, here’s mine:

1. Get Humble

Labour didn’t just lose the election in May, you got horsed. You are where you are because the Scottish electorate put you there. Your victory speech  suggested you you may understand this. So shut down the old duffers. Whenever Brian Wilson or John McTernan take to the airwaves you can almost feel thousands of voters turning away. The Wilson/McTernan message is one of simple entitlement: Labourdominance is the natural order, the election results of 2007 and 2011 were some kind of abberation, instead of the democratic choice of the Scottish people.

2. Endless Naysaying is a No No

The art of opposition requires that you choose carefully when to be positive about your opponents. A constant stream of negativity will just put people off. So commend and support the SNP government where it does things well. You will look like a bigger politician, and a potential first minister, instead of a slightly nippy loser. Iain Gray didn’t get this, and look what happened to him.

3. Apologise

Your party decided to oppose the Scottish government’s attempts to introduce a “Tesco tax” on the supermarkets, a modest proposal which would have brought in revenue from the very rich. You oppposed this -either because you’re funded by Sainsbury’s or due to basic political lunacy. If you’re committed to being the Supermarket Owners’ Party, don’t expect to be taken seriously on social justice. And without a commitment to social justice, Labour can really pack up and go home. Just apologise. People will respect you for it, and it will mark you out as different from your predeccessor.

4. Develop policies for a difficult age

Your victory speech also intimated a desire to develop real policies that might
work for Scotland. If they could be new, original, practical and costed that would be good. Top of these should be social and economic justice, taming feral banks and corporate excess, tackling drugs and homelessness and developing a climate change strategy. You might think these are intractable problems but if you have nothing new to say about them, don’t stand for high office. And don’t say you can only articulate policy in line with the powers devolved in the Scotland Act, that’s just going to make you look like a pygmy.  Build links with community and campaign groups and talk honestly about poverty in Scotland. No-one else does.

5. Ditch Trident

We relentlessly hear about the age of austerity, the dark days ahead, the lack of cash and the “logic” of cuts. On Saturday you said we were “no longer living in an age of plenty”. But Trident, and its £75 billion price tag is to be left untouched. This has been shut down as a subject of serious debate in mainstream British politics. Except that last May the Scottish people elected two Greens and 69 SNP MSPs. Both parties’ manifestoes explicitly reject nuclear warheads on the Clyde. You have previously suggested you may be against Trident, but have now gone quiet on the issue. If you really want to look people in the eye and say we must carry on closing schools and nurseries but keep blindly paying through the nosefor a Cold War relic, you’re going to project both dishonesty and contempt for  mainstream Scottish opinion.

Scotland needs an articulate, imaginative opposition to function as a healthy democracy. If Labour can’t provide this, something else will fill the vacuum quicker than you think.

First published in PRODUCT magazine.

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  1. Ross says:

    I thought a little congratulations were in order here – however much i dislike Johann Lamont. But this sterner approach has resonated. As you said, Labour were humped! It’s time for this #rebuildourmovement pish to equal results! Rhetoric is not enough from a serious opposition. Are Labour quickly becoming an irrelevance?

  2. ianbeag says:

    Nicely put, but a fulsome apology in respect of Blair, Mandleson and Brown’s record would be welcome

  3. James Morton says:

    These are all good points, and should be taken on board by politicians regardless of affiliation. My fear is that Labour still has that sense of entitlement, and the party will retreat into the mentality that has shaped and informed the scottish conservatives since 1997: The Scottish Electorate just didn’t get the message – so we will bang the drum more loudly next time round.
    The very notion that the majority of the electorate who voted, did get the message and didn’t like what they heard, won’t even cross their minds.

  4. Scottish republic says:

    The best apology would be to completely reject Labour and fight for an independent cotland which reflects the people’s socialist principles – England will see a decent society and will follow suit in the long term, rejecting the right-wing philosophy of Thatcher-Major-Blair-Brown-Cameron/Clegg.

    Labour has no place in a new Scotland.

  5. Jim Jepps says:

    I think the Tesco tax moment was an over looked but crucial turning point in the elections this year. Up until that point Labour had led in the polls and from then on there was a continuous slide with Labour doing little to dispel any images that they just believed in power.

    Leading on knife crime was particularly dispiriting and, frankly, bizarre. As the results showed.

    There are some brilliant traditions in Scottish Labor, as well as some God awful ones. Any change in leader is a chance to change corse and I hope they’ll take this opportunity.

  6. gavin says:

    As the Guardian states of Labours election system ” It looks unfair and it is unfair ” . However BBC Scotland think all is well. I have no advice for Jo Lamont other than the obvious ” watch your back”. She appears to think, that with a new 7th cavalry made up of Company bosses and women voters, she will sweep away those pesky SNP Injuns.
    I think that, as with the Tories, we should start to assess the “runners” in the next race. I would give them both a very short honeymoon period. Rennie already looks desperate.

  7. thom cross says:

    The election of Johann Lamont and Anas Sarwar means that the Glasgow Labour party rules again. Selecting both leaders from its dour Glasgow stronghold hardly speaks to bringing the fresh breeze of new politics to the rest of Scotland.
    Scottish Labour hunkering down in its Glasgow bunker says more about Labour’s fear of losing Glasgow in May’s council elections than anything else.
    Glasgow is Scottish Labour’s last stand but cannot be the ideological heartland of a new movement; rather it represents Labour’s glorious past. I am afraid that Johann Lamont personifies the reactionary, neo-feudal culture of Glasgow labourism; the antithesis of what Labour needs tomorrow.
    The 99% movement should teach labour something… but are they aware that there is something
    happening out there?

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