Monday 19 December 2011


This is a letter to Johann Lamont from Patrick Small. It was first published in Product Magazine, but I saw it in, and lifted from, Labour Hame, where it was contributed by Duncan Macniven

I think it encapsulates the issues that Ms Lamont needs to address over the next few months, but will, unfortunately, almost certainly not. 

The most important of them, I think, is the constant whining and criticising. Not everything the government does is good, no one would pretend that. But not everything it does is bad either. So stop the automatic sniping. No one takes you seriously if all you can do is whine. Start constructive opposition and you will gain respect. And tell that to Maggie Curran too!

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: Labour dominance is the natural order, the election results of 2007 and 2011 were some kind of aberration, 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 opposed 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 predecessor.
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’ manifestos 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 nose for 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.


  1. Tris

    I think Patrick Small was wasting his time.

    One part of her acceptance speech stood out for me,

    "Ours is a positive vision for a prosperous Scotland that can pay its own way, a wealth-creating Scotland that uses its wealth to build a fairer country, a Scotland determined that not one person's talent is wasted"

    First is she saying that Scotland does not pay its own way at present, and how does she propose that it uses its wealth since she favours the present position where we give our wealth away to Westminster and get our pocket money back.

    The immediate question is why this was not done when Labour were in charge for eight years at Holyrood and thirteen years at Westminster. Unlike Labour the voters have not forgotten the wasted years.

    Looks like "forward to no change with Labour"

  2. Has she kept that big fat lassie Jackie Bailley as her health spokesperson ?
    She'd be better getting someone who actually looks healthy and practises what she preaches.

  3. I'm sure he was wasting his time, Dubs, but I think all that he said was true.

    This "vision" of Scotland made me laugh. They are always having these "visions", but none of it ever transmutes to action.

    The vision is positive; they are negative.

    They don't seem to have stopped the negativity since that fateful day in 2007 when Labour lost control of Scotland. They whined and moaned for 4 years; their English counterparts snuggled up tight with neo-con war mongers, and they wonder why they have not only lost Scotland, but most of Glasgow too.

    If they can't see that they have to change, they are no use in government. Indeed they are no use in opposition.

  4. Yeah throbber, Ms Bailley is still at health.

    She's not a bad Shadow, and I think she's quite co-operative, in comparison to the rest of the Labour team.

    But I agree that she's not the best ad there is for healthy living!!

  5. Oh well at least she enjoys her grub tris. Elmer was keen on the odd subway sandwich as well.
    I'd ask the new Labour leader why it is that socialist controlled parts of the UK are the most deprived parts of the UK. Glasgow had 70 years of Labour and are at the bottom of the pile. Their former MPs having moved on to the House of Lords or prison for theft. Doing zilch for their voters.

  6. On her salary I suppose she can afford food in Edinburgh.

    Absolutely right. 70 years of Labour (for I'm not sure that that equates to socialism) has done them no good.

    I wonder what would have happened if they had all trooped out and voted Tory (apart for heart attacks on both sides)?

  7. All of the comments offered by Mr. Small are good advice and, in my humble opinion, would put the Labour party, in Scotland, back on the road to power again. And the chances of her taking this advice? Not a f**king hope in hell! Why? Because of all the exact same points that Mr. Small made.

  8. We don't want them back in power Gedguy. Not until we are independent and safe.

  9. They still voted a deputy based in Westminster.
    Labour is fundamentally unionist whether the forked-tongue rhetoric of Ms Lamont appears otherwise. She only won through union affiliate votes.
    If she were to take the excellent advice in the letter she may as well join the SNP? Unless she comes up with truely effective policies establishing unique Labour credentials (UK derived of course) there may well be one or two senior Labour MSPs tempted to 'cross' the floor in Holyrood.

  10. That's interesting Clarinda.

    Oh manners. First I should say welcome to MR. I don't think you've posted here before. I hope you'll not be a stranger.

    She didn't have the support of her MSPs I know, and like Ed, it was the unions who put her where she is...very decisively.

    Do you think that there is resentment? Do you think that there are people in Labour who actually would go along with independence, and would cross the floor... or in Scottish terms, budge round a bitty? Exciting thought... If you've more to share, we'd like to hear it.

    It seems that the direction of travel of the Scottish people has been made pretty clear. If the unionist parties fail to see that and rise to the challenge they will suffer the fate of the other dinosaurs in the past.

  11. tris

    Better to become extinct than live in a Nationalist Scotland

    this says it all for me

  12. Why Niko? I'd like to know why you hate the thought of Scotland without England so much you'd rather be dead.

    Nice song though.

  13. Tris

    When I said Patrick Small was wasting his time, it did not mean that I thought that what he had written was irrelevant, I think it was a waste of time because Labour will never listen.

    Its their way or the highway. A prime example was "we will listen to the people and they made their choice and Alex Salmond will hold a referendum" OK so far but then old Labour came out "its time he got on with the referendum as soon as possible.

    They got beat, losers sit on the sidelines and girn, winners make all the decisions.

    P.S. Does anyone really think it was her decision to include Curran in her cabinet, or was it the Labour leader wanting to keep a close eye on the North British branch office?? Cant have the natives getting ideas above their station now can we.

    P.P.S. Does anyone really believe she is now the boss of Brown, Darling, Murphy etc?

  14. I understood what you meant Dubs.

    No I don't think she is the boss. I actually don't think it's a bad idea for Curren to sit on the Shadow Cabinet. They should be working together, but given the personality of Curren, I can image that she will think that she is the boss. She's in the London parliament where all the big boys hang out.

    They say two women in a kitchen spells disaster. I wonder how they will (or won't) get along together.

  15. Tris - I was just wondering if the Labour vote numbers (if Ms Lamont publishes them as appears to be the usual action of all other political parties)and they are poor - especially the number of party member votes (out of 13,000 total?) what does that say about the support of Labour policy and personality? There must be one or two of their MSPs who reason that their failure in May was not just the fault of the hapless Mr Gray but a remarkable change of ambition and political direction demanded by the Scottish electorate. Unionism is becoming/has become redundant in Scotland - clearly demonstrated by either its dwindling and many dire representatives in Holyrood and/or little effective direction or support from their masters at Westminster.

    Despite the sole opposition (largely in the form of negative bias rather than robust debate)to the SNP resting in the grubby hands of the BBC and their goaders-on in the press - the progress of the SNP is steady, measured and politically, socially and culturally appealing. If so many Labour voters last May and perhaps some members who did not want to vote in this leadership election (we only have percentages so far!) - have changed to support the SNP, it's not beyond reason to wonder whether some Labour MSPs might follow suit - especially some who appear to have been passed over in the last and latest shadow cast-list?
    Thank you for your welcome - again!

  16. Now that the SNP enjoy 51% support to Labours 26%. Ms Lamont better wake up and smell the coffee and pay attention to the good advice in that letter! Because if it is "more of the same" just with some fancy tinsel and window dressing, then by the time the SNP reach 75% Ms Lamont and her crew would be better off joining the Tories and the Lib Dems in some dusty corner of the museum of ancient political history.

  17. Eloquently put Munguin

  18. Eeek Clarinda. I wasn't sure, but I thought it's better to welcome someone twice than not at all...:) Forgiven?

    Yes, I see your point. I can see that, if you are ambitious for Labour, or for Labour ideals (but I don't know if any of them really is) and you want to get into government (I'm sure most do), and you are bright enough to see that things have to change, you might be prepared to shoogle round a bit.

    Not much point in joining the Liberals. They probably wouldn't join the Tories in a million Sundays...and if they don't have an overweening desire to stay with mother England, we've just the place for them.

    I seem to remember that Lallands Peat Worrier had a breakdown of where the votes came from, and that she was put there by the unions (affiliates), so there won't be overwhelming support for her from her troops as they all voted for Ken.

    Found it: