Monday, 1 August 2011


There’s an interesting article over at Better Nation in which Jeff Breslin looks at the Labour in Scotland leadership contenders and their chances in the upcoming contest. (I call it Labour in Scotland because, as DougtheDug points out, there is no such party as Scottish Labour.)

Jeff’s conclusions are that, of the possible contenders, none is looking particularly inspiring, and points to Scotland on Sunday’s story which suggests that Joanne Lamont may be appointed acting leader while they “figure out which is the best way forward”, or, as I would put it...”scrabble about looking for someone with just a wee bit of talent.

Jeff somewhat bemusingly suggests that the only person to have made a mark on the SNP has been Kazia Dugdale, so I think that shows what an easy ride Salmond has had thus far, and what a lamentable bunch Labour are, if Dugdale is their star performer!!

But Dugdale is not Jeff’s choice for Labour leader at Holrood. Instead he proposes that Jim (Spud) Murphy be leader from London, and whilst a parliamentary leader would be appointed to fend off the First Minister in parliament, the strategy and real leadership would come from London.

Bring it on, I say. That Labour would admit that they are so disinterested in Scotland that from all the people they send to Holyrood (admittedly far fewer than before), they cannot chose one man or woman who is capable of leading them in opposition, and fit to be first minister (maybe) one day, is very telling. That the real leader of (tongue-in-cheek) “Scottish Labour” prefers to be in London rather than Edinburgh is all good for the SNP.

But if that were to be the plan, what of Jeff’s choice, Jim Murphy, doing it?

Well, I don’t think he’d want it. He took the Secretary for Scotland job reluctantly and would probably much prefer his defence brief, even though he seems to make no mark against the odious Fox.

But is he capable of it? I remember hearing Murphy on two occasions (while he was SoS) on Radio Scotland and on a Scotsman web phone in, being roundly beaten on every single question, by the questioners, who, for the most part gave the impression of being “ordinary working men and women" phoning in with their questions.

He trotted out scripted answers for questions on economics, international affairs, Scottish matters, etc, and when his questioners refused to accept these rehearsed stock answers, and pushed him for a proper response, he was lost. He could only repeat what he had said.

At one point he became so irritated with a man who would not accept his explanation that he accused the questioners in general of being part of an SNP plot to embarrass him.

Incidentally, that programme made me seriously doubt the BBC-Labour conspiracy theory. Not one single questioner had been planted to ask a friendly question.

On the basis, then, that he’s not very good, and it’s probably the last job in the world he wants, I think it might be reasonable to treat Spud’s candidacy with some doubt?

So, should it be Baillie, MacIntosh, Baker, Park, Lamont, Chisholm, Henry, Dugdale, A N Other, or someone from England, and if so, who?

What do you think...? Answers on a postcard to the usual address...


  1. I wrote about this a while ago Tris and my bet is on Gray staying on a while longer until Kezia is fit. Or that Johann Lamont is given the post temporarily. According to those in the know Murphy rather likes the Westminster life.

  2. You think Dugdale will one day be leader of the Labour Group, SR? Joanne had better not plan on taking an early retirement then.

    But, as an other erstwhile Labour leader said "bring it on". Alex must think all his birthdays have come in one day.

  3. Kezia Dugdale ha ha...!! That’s pretty much like the suggestions you hear that Willie Rennie has been keeping the SNP in check by getting his and the Lib Dems name in the papers a lot. Kez has done much the same but I don’t think that is keeping the SNP in check more like self-promoting and column inch grabbing. They are similarly shrill and trite with lots to say with little substance. Of course Jeff has a soft spot for Kez ever since his tear jerking interview with her after she gave up blogging (the first time) but interesting to see he does not actually rate her as any use.

  4. No Munguin,

    It's not true to say that he doesn't rate her as being of any use, but he doesn't see her as leadership material.

    Even once she has bedded in, I'd worry that she is too much Mr Foukes' creation, and her partnership with Tom Harris suggests that her politics are fairly right wing (an assumption, as I have no idea what her politics really are: I'm judging her by the company she keeps).

    The trouble with them is what DougtheDug has pointed out. Labour is Scotland is treated like a region of England. It is not a separate party and, as Gordon Brown pointed out, its leader is the leader of the party in England.

    They will always take orders from London. And London only really cares about the South East of England where the bulk of the population lives.

    Labour in Scotland should break away completely from London Labour and start its own party with left wing policies more attuned to the needs and desires of the people of Scotland. Bedecking themselves in the Saltire will do them no good if their policies are those of Essex and Kent.

    Mind you, I'm glad that they won't do this. More and more people are seeing the SNP as the party of the people, which it is.

  5. Labour in Scotland have a disease a sort of political retro virus which retreats and lurks in the part of the collective physiology where their spine would normally be found, if they were anything like normal.

    It lurks and then breaks out in ever severe bouts.

    It cannot be long now until it tips beyond saving.

  6. On a slightly different tack I was reading today that the fragrant MS Davidson, she of the ScotLab (uber alles division) persuasion has suggested that the Ian Rennie is providing a stonking calling to account of Salmond and his seditious crew, even better that Grey and whoever they have as lead singer today.

    Being of a devious nature could it be that the fragrant one is talking up the LibDems in the (forlorn in my thinking) that they could rise like the Phoenix to take back all they have lost to the SNP. This assumes that they Scotlab could hold on to their base vote and thus vault back into the lead of a Lab-Lib alliance against the SNP; business as usual?

    Such is the paucity of the Labour Party in Scotland; all over the place a desperately seeking how the engineer their old status quo.

    They have the Divine Right to Rule and Exploit in Scotland, ye ken?

  7. Two name checks in one article and the comments. My ears are burning.

    If you want to know the rules on how a Labour MSP group leader is chosen in Holyrood you have to go and look at Labour's Rule Book which is their constitution.

    The section you want is Chapter 4, Elections of national officers of the party and national committees and it refers to the Scottish Group Leader election in section B. 7.

    Under the rules if Iain Gray goes then the only permitted appointee is the deputy leader who in this case is Johann Lamont. They then have to hold an election either immediately or at the next conference.

    So if Iain Gray resigns either Johann Lamont gets the post until an election is held at the next Labour Scottish conference or they hold an election as soon as possible. I suspect that Iain Gray will hold on until beyond the Scottish October Conference which will give Labour until the Spring conference before they have to hold elections for the post of Labour MSP leader in Holyrood. That will give them some time to try and work out what to do after the review they're holding is published.

    At the moment the post of, "Scottish Labour Leader", is just vapourware as Labour will have to change their constitution to make a Scottish Leader who has authority over the entire party in Scotland, party members, councillors, MSP's and MP's. So until the mainly English membership of Labour do that (if they ever do) then Jim Murphy or anyone other MP they bring in as a replacement for Iain Gray will still only have authority over the Labour MSP's in Holyrood not over anyone else in the Labour party.

  8. Tris

    To quote a Labour MP "Who cares"

    Being Labours North British yes man or woman in the Scottish Parliament at present is about as attractive as being appointed captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. Both are sunk, and the wreck of Labour in Scotland will be talked about for years but not mourned.

  9. Hilarious, Snooty, old fellow.

    Lord knows why people think Rennie is any good. But good or not (and I think not) I reckon it will be a long time before there is any phoenix like revival of the Libdems, them having attached themselves so profoundly to the Conservatives.

    But I'm sure Ms Davidson will try to big them up. Unfortunately at the present moment a recommendation from the Scotlab team is like the kiss of death.

  10. Yes, Doug, fame indeed. Named twice in Munguin's Republic... it's only one step...or maybe a few more...from the front page of "Hello".

    Seriously, thanks for going into the detail of the constitution.

    I think you are right in your conclusions.

    The top and the bottom of it is that they are a mainly English party with a lot of different area organisations, mainly regions of England....including Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.

  11. Hi Dubs...

    I don't know that anyone cares much. I'm interested to see who will be opposite Salmond in parliament. I can't see anyone in Labour who comes anywhere near him in ability, and that includes the people who are in the English parliament, who are supposedly better than the Holyrood ones.

    Even if someone like Murphy were to be somehow parachuted in, Salmond would make mincemeat of him, as indeed would Nicola.

  12. If the BBC is anything to go by, then Ken Macintosh must be in with a shout. He is an ex-TV producer and was never off the TV during the elections. As for Kezia the publicity hound - she has no chance.

    Seeing Murphy's ugly mug above makes me wonder why Murphy, Douglas Alexander and John Reid are regarded by the media as "big hitters". Reid was an appalling minister where-ever he was placed and I cannot think of a single achievement from the other two nonentities.

    If Labour parachute Murphy in particular into the Scottish parliament I would be delighted to see his obnoxious nature laid bare by Salmond.

    I quite like wee Kathy myself - but that's another story.

  13. Well, JB, Macintosh is an unknown to me. I just had a look at his website... and there's nothing spectacularly good or bad there.

    I agree about the rest of them: Reid failed at everything. He was only any use because he could handle interviews with people like John Humphries and Sue MacGregor, mainly by talking, or shouting, his way through them.

    Douglas Alexander was spectacularly unspectacular. I can't even remember what job he did never mind how well he did at it.

    And, as I said, Murphy was beaten on phone ins by questioners. of course to be fair to him he was trying to defend the indefensible policies of Brown.

    Alex Salmond could walk right through all three of them together, never mind just one of them.

    We all know your fondness of wee Cathie (I think it's a C not a K), although I couldn't remember if it was her of Maggie Curren you fancied...

    Didn't you once have the enormous privilege of meeting her?

  14. This should help tris.

    Macintosh is an unknown to me.

    Murphy is vacuous and I am sure he gives the interviewer the questions so he can spout his pre-prepared answers.

  15. Cynical

    Thanks for the link. Do you think that he believes any of the guff that he was spouting?

    The result in May showed just how many of the intellectual arguments Labour won in the last parliament, not very many, or maybe even none.

  16. Yes every last word! No wonder Scotland has been allowed to sink so low when they have run it for decades.

  17. Iain Gray resigned on the 7th of May 2011 saying he would step down in the Autumn, code for after the October conference.

    By asking Iain Gray to hold on until the Autumn Labour appears to want a lame-duck Holyrood leader in place for nearly six months followed by a caretaker leader for 5 months before an election at the Spring conference for the post of Labour group MSP leader in Holyrood.

    When you think about that it means that Labour didn't think they could come up with a viable leader for Labour in the Scottish parliament without close to a year's breathing space to sort things out.

    I'm not sure what this Labour review will bring out but the call for a Scottish leader is being driven not by a grass roots campaign but the need to get someone the media can call "Scottish Labour Leader", so that he or she can be put up against Alex Salmond as a viable alternative.

    No-one in Labour really wants a Scottish leader. The MP's don't because reporting to a Scottish leader will be seen as a demotion, the Labour high command don't because they fear that a semi-autonomous Scottish Labour region might result in a fractured Labour party.

    Labour is British to the core. The idea that in the North Region Labour would create a, "Geordie Labour Leader", who would oversee all members, councillors and MP's in the North of England is ludicrous. Switch that idea to Scotland because Scotland is simply another Labour region.

    To be honest a Scottish Labour leader would be little more than a figurehead anyway but even the idea of reporting to a Scottish leader will make many Scottish Labour MP's choke on their croissants. The classic example is Willie Rennie. Who out there thinks that Danny Alexander or Michael Moore regard him as in their chain of command? Anyone?

  18. Good lord. You're right. He is vacuous.

    He thought they were winning the intellectual argument in parliament... with that front bench team? Where was he? On planet Zod?

    In any case, it sees like the populace didn't much agree that they were winning anything.

    "We didn't do u-turns", says the bold boy.... Hmmmm.... that's winning intellectual arguments?

    "We live in a time of inequality where the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer." Yes, and the Tories can take some stick for that, but lets not forget that it was happening all the time Labour was in power...and Blair had no problems with it. Was he off on Planet Zod, again, while that was going on?

    "We're about equality"... Are you really? That's something new then.

    What are the SNP about apart from independence?

    Bloody hell. He's been in opposition for 4 years against them and he doesn't know what the government was about? How can you oppose policies if you don't know what they are?

    Anyway, what the SNP is about was in the manifesto. I'd have thought he might have read that. In his position I would have.

    He's a smarmy self satisfied noodle head. Expensive suit though. He's obviously not one of the poor that's got poorer under Labour.

  19. Doug: Thanks. That's a well reasoned piece.