Oh here we go again. It’s becoming a daily ritual, ranting about Johann. I’m starting to feel like a stalker. But it’s been a really bad day. I wish I could run away and hide from my problems like Johann, but full time carers don’t have the same luxuries afforded to the leader of the Labour party in Scotland. In the meantime she offers a convenient target for an outpouring of pent up frustrations.
So she is actually useful for something, although I’m sure the members of Falkirk Labour party and the staff at Grangemouth wouldn’t find that much of a consolation.
Anyway, on Monday we were presented with evidence that Johann lives. Ok, well maybe it’s “lives” in the sense that a sea sponge lives without the benefit of a central nervous system, ears, or eyes, but the lovely Johann has come out of hiding and has admitted what the rest of the country has known for quite some time: there were attempts to manipulate the selection process for a Labour candidate in Falkirk.
Admittedly it took a front page spread in the Sunday Herald, in which Falkirk Labour party members complained that they’d been left adrift and abandoned by the party leadership, none of whom could be arsed to turn up and explain to them what’s going on, before she decided it was time to “intervene”.
She didn’t add that the attempts at manipulation set off a chain of events that led to the greatest threat to Scottish jobs and the Scottish economy since Thatcher. Neither did she remind us that the leadership of the Labour party in Scotland then sat on its collective bahoochie replaying nostalgic old videos of conference delegates singing the Internationale. But we can take that as read. Johann has now intervened, to her own satisfaction if no one else’s.
If you look up the word “intervene” in the Dictionary of Labour Party Terminology, you’ll find it really means “shamed into giving a brief media interview after howls of outrage and derision over a leadership with as much direction as an inflatable banana in the Corrievreckan whirlpool”, but hey, let’s not quibble. Better late than never.
Scotland is on pause – oh the irony – because Johann won’t do the job that she and Labour claim she was elected to do, to lead the entire Labour party north of the Border. She didn’t think it was “appropriate” to discuss the situation with her fellow Unite members. She didn’t think it “appropriate” to discuss the issue with the leadership of the union that sponsors her as an MSP. And she certainly didn’t think it “appropriate” to speak personally to members of the Falkirk Labour party. She’s only a nominal leader, a latent leader. But better latent than never.
Johann is so much of a leader that she wasn’t even given a copy of the report that Labour central office carried out into the affair. It was reported on Monday that Johann had seen the report, although that’s not exactly what she said. She said she “knew what was in the report”. But that’s not saying much, everyone knows what’s in the report. It contains the contents of a Falkirk sewer and it’s deeply embarrassing for the Labour leadership. Still doesn’t answer the question of whether Johann is in the Labour leadership loop or not. I’m guessing not.
Decisively leaderish, on Monday Johann vowed to “have a look at” reopening the inquiry into the Falkirk serial collision. Not a definite commitment to reinvestigate the murky goings-on, just a vague statement that Johann might have a wee think about it. One of those promises that’s as vague as Davie Cameron’s commitment to “consider” further devolution in the event of a No vote. That’s reassuring then. Though somewhat less reassuring when you realise that Johann doesn’t actually have any powers to reopen an investigation or start a new one, which isn’t very leaderish at all.
However in the same interview she also repeatedly stated that Labour needs to “move on” from the debacle, sweep it under the carpet and desperately pretend that it never happened. She didn’t actually say that last bit, but it’s a safe assumption that’s where her preference vote lies.
So what’s it to be, reinvestigating or “moving on”? Labour is able act swiftly and decisively. By tea time it was reported that Labour was going for moving on, rather than doing anything of any practical use to clear up its problem with declining membership rolls, and the increasing ease with which small organised groups can manipulate selection processes in sclerotic constituency parties. And in a few weeks it may well be rinse and repeat in East Dunbartonshire.
They’ll kick it into the long grass, let the police investigate, and pray they find nothing illegal. Hopefully we’ll all forget and Johann can go back to accusing Alex Salmond of lying about something. It’s a tried and trusted strategy. Worked a treat with Stephen Purcell.
“Oh that’s a surprise,” said a shocked Scotland over its tea as it digested the news. Before going on to ask itself just how Labour expects to persuade us that we’re Better Together with the Union when the Union has been so spectacularly bad for Labour. Look what the Union has turned them into, a party that once stood for socialism and Scottish self-determination. The high road to British Parliamentary Socialism led to the cul de sac of Lamont, fiddling in Falkirk while Grangemouth burned.
The whole sorry saga was sparked off by a former officer in the Army Education Corps and sometime Labour MP who wanted to teach us a lesson in Chaos Theory. The classic version requires a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon to set off a destructive hurricane on the other side of the world, but Eric discovered that a fly head butting of a Tory in a Westminster bar worked just as well. It led to a storm over Grangemouth, and it seems the lasting casualty will be the Labour party. The storm ripped away their tarpaulin of lies and self-serving excuses, and even BBC Scotland wasn’t able to provide much shelter.
Their only hope of recovery is the birth of a party that is really a Scottish Labour party, a party that’s not always looking over its shoulder to make itself electable to Tory voters in swing seats in Middle England. A party with a proper leadership that doesn’t just mouth platitudes, but demonstrates solidarity with working people by having the confidence to adopt truly progressive social democratic policies, the will to carry them out, and the powers of a parliament that can make them happen. The current party leadership will never allow that to happen, so it’s up to us ordinary punters to make it happen.
It’s the first lesson of socialism, the lesson that Labour have long since forgotten. If the people want change they must make that change happen themselves, because those with power will not do it for us. We can only do that by voting Yes next year. A Yes vote will drag Labour into change, despite themselves. Vote No and the Labour leadership will take it as a vote of confidence. We can expect many more Falkirks, and Grangemouths.
At least Scottish science has discovered a new principle of physics, so it hasn’t been total loss. Labour under Lamont has shown it’s possible to break the Joyce Barrier, the level you have to sink to before Eric Joyce is able to lecture you from the moral high ground.
As man responsible for toppling the first domino when he nutted that Tory MP put it in his blog:
“The party seems wholly unable to distinguish between competent, decent trade union organising and Unite’s intimidation, incompetence and bogus politics. Either that, or it’s simply too afraid. With the majority of the Scottish shadow cabinet members of and sponsored by Unite, and with a huge number of MPs in the same basket, it’s looking awfully like the latter.”
He added later on Newsnicht that he had no confidence that Johann was capable of taking action, a view which Alistair Darling apparently shares. But the Labour leadership is still going La-La-La-Lamont listening. It’s too afraid.
But it’s not the Unite union Labour should be afraid of. It’s not the banks or the press. It’s ordinary Labour voters, it’s the people – like me – who should be natural Labour voters but are too revolted by what the party has become. Because we have it within our power to give them the biggest fright of their lives on the 18th of September next year. A fright not even Johann Lamont will be able to hide from.