Scottish Labour Descending to Chaos?

In a recent interview with the Sunday Post, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, Anas Sarwar, refused to back Johann Lamont for the party’s leadership. This comes amidst claims that he has been sidelined by the rest of the Labour party. Meanwhile Brown complicates things in London.

Johann Looking Composed as Ever. Image Credit – Wings Over Scotland

When we think of Scottish Labour, a few ideas spring to mind; however, organised, united, strong, committed, etc, aren’t generally among these thoughts. Since Johann Lamont took the reigns in 2011, this has been more than evident. No wonder, just watch First Minister’s Questions and you’ll see just what kind of person we’re dealing with. Now, I won’t delve into the matter greatly, an earlier post of mine, called “What to do about Johann”, does that quite nicely.

It probably suffices to say that she’s there because she does what she’s told to do by her Westminster bosses.

However, the Scottish Labour Party’s deputy leader, Anas Sarwar, has refused to back Johann Lamont’s leadership of the party. Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Central, was recently interviewed by the Sunday Post. When asked if he backed Ms. Lamont’s leadership he managed not to say yes, or indeed actually answer the question, simply pointing out that “Johann Lamont is leader of the Scottish Labour Party.” He’s an observant one, isn’t he?

There is no doubt that the relatively young MP is ambitious; he’s made sure that he’s been at the very front of Labour’s campaign for the Union. I’m sure that he envisages himself as being the Scottish Labour Party leader and, perhaps, First Minister of Scotland. But it appears that the Labour Party aren’t quite with him on that one.

Granted, Johann is useless and has to go if Labour ever want any more seats in Holyrood. But Sarwar? The Westminster robot? You only have to look back on his performance in the head to head STV debate he had with Nicola Sturgeon. He was quite hopeless. How, then, is he going to cope going up against Big Eck in the debates chamber in the Scottish Parliament? My bet is ‘not well’.

Granted that debate was a wee while ago, and he’s getting better at it, but the members of the Labour Party don’t quite see it that way. There are accusations, both from within and outwith the party, that Sarwar is being sidelined.

Sarwar has been conducting Scottish Labour’s campaign to keep Scotland in the Union by driving up and down the country in the “IndyRef Express” telling Labour voters to vote “No” this September. This is a role that Sarwar feels is very important and puts him in a good stead with Labour.

He said “I’ve spoken to more than 2,000 people in the space of five days. I’ve been campaigning the length and breadth of Scotland, from Annan to Aberdeen, owning social media space, appearing in newspapers and on TV and leading the rebuttal unit that has been highlighting the facts behind the top 20 nationalist assertions.”

However, some other members of the Labour Party didn’t think so. One senior Labour MP told the Sunday Post that “Looking after a big red bus is clearly the most important role in the referendum campaign just now… Choosing what sort of pizza to have each day is a big decision.”

Let’s not worry too much about what this says about Labour’s opinion on the importance of the Independence Referendum; Johann Lamont covered that one quite nicely when she said that the referendum on independence was not the biggest decision in recent history.

So, Sarwar seems to have been deliberately sidelined, kept out of the way of the important running of the party (finding the crayons to write Johann’s scripts with, etc.), by giving him a big shiny red bus and sending him to far flung bits of the country.

Sarwar has dismissed all of these rumours as mere “tittle-tattle.”

However, this is not the only story to come from Labour this week. Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister and “Iron Chancellor”, called on David Cameron to accept the challenge from Alex Salmond for a head to head debate on the matter. This is in direct contradiction to the Better Together campaign’s official line – and hence that of the Labour Party – that the Prime Minister should, on no accounts, be allowed to have a public debate with Salmond.

Better Together chief and former Labour Chancellor, Alistair Darling, said that if anyone was to face down the First Minister it should be him. Margaret Curran, Shadow Scottish Secretary, also toed the line magnificently, saying that Brown had done great work and that she was a “huge fan” but she didn’t think that Cameron should debate with Salmond either.

She added; “The SNP want to say this is a debate between England and Scotland, a debate between David Cameron and Scotland – and it just isn’t. It’s a decision by Scottish people. To have Salmond debate Cameron completely misrepresents that.”

This of course fits in quite nicely with the fact that English MPs, including the Prime Minister, are allowed to sit south of the border and tell us we can’t be independent whilst we are not allowed to say anything back – because that would be making it a Scotland vs. England affair and we don’t want that.

On a side note, Dave, either get your arse up here and face Salmond, or shut up and let us get on with it.

Meanwhile, Labour in Scotland is facing a larger and larger portion of it’s membership moving to the Yes side, upset with the direction Labour in Westminster is taking and terrified of the prospect of five more years of virtually unopposed Tory rule from London.

The continued battering from all other sides that they are “out of touch with the Scottish people”, “in bed with the Conservatives”, or “blindly following their London masters”, has also not done them too well.

At some points in time, I can see why the left in Britain is so royally buggered and fragmented. I can see why people have little to no faith in the Labour party. And I can see that if they don’t pick up their act some time soon, they are not going to last long at all.

So far, I’ve managed not to make this article about independence too heavily, but I’m afraid that I have to now:

For the sake of the Labour Movement in this country, on the 18th of September, please vote “Yes”. A Scottish Labour party free of Westminster instruction would be one truly in touch with the people of Scotland, one that could address the issues of poverty and inequality plaguing our country and that would be directly accountable to you – the Scottish People.

Yes in 2014, Labour in 2016.

 

Source,  “Labour chaos as leaders past and present fall out.” Sunday Post, 15th June, James Millar, http://www.sundaypost.com/news-views/politics/holyrood/labour-chaos-as-leaders-past-and-present-fall-out-1.423481

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