The leader of the Scottish Labour Party has resigned with a well targeted final shot at Ed Miliband.
Johann Lamont told the Daily Record that she was left with no choice but to resign because the Labour party refused to accept that the party north of the border needed autonomy just as Scotland wanted devolution from Westminster.
But Ms Lamont also faced criticism for her leadership of the party which has slipped to third behind the Conservative Party in a poll this week; a trend which, should it continue, would be the first time since the 1950s that the Conservatives polled higher than Labour.
Lamont took over the leadership of the SLP in 2011, after a disastrous result for the party where it had never been at a lower point, losing to the Scottish National Party.
“I am proud of what we have achieved over the last three years.” she told the Daily Record. “The Scottish Labour Party had never been at a lower point than 2011. But we became competitive again.”
“We won well in Glasgow in the 2012 council elections and did well in a series of by-elections. I believe we held Alex Salmond to account.”
However, her own Glasgow constituency voted YES in the recent independence referendum – a result which weakened her authority in the wake of a huge rise in the membership of the SNP when Labour was supposed to have led the NO vote in Scotland.
But Lamont said that the reason she had resigned was because of the authoritarian attitudes of London and “dinosaur MPs” in Westminster.
Frustrated that the demands of the referendum campaign had stalled the pace of party reform, she opened up the review of Labour structures in Scotland and laid out her vision for the future of the party.
According to her, this led senior colleagues to lobby members of the Scottish Labour Executive saying she had to go and accuses Westminster MPs of threatening to leak letters to the press.
And she was, understandably, angry that Ed Miliband’s office in London moved to replace Scottish Labour general secretary Ian Price with their own candidate without even the courtesy of a phone call, a move current Labour rules meant Lamont could not stop.
In the traditional manner of political resignations, she has been highly critical of the party she sees as letting her down. Coming hot off the back of Len McCluskey saying that it “wouldn’t matter” if Ed Miliband was run over by a bus it’s another blow to the floundering political leadership of Miliband.
“This has been orchestrated by people who do not understand the politics they are facing. Scotland has changed forever after the referendum.” Lamont said.
“Party members up and down the country, voters on the doors, have spoken to me about the change they want.
“And that’s a Scottish Labour Party which reflects their views. That’s what I have been trying to build.
“However, some wanted me to become the issue.
“The Scottish Labour Party and its renewal are more important than me.
“That is why I am standing down – so that debate our country demands can take place.”
She added: “And just as the SNP must embrace that devolution is the settled will of the Scottish people, the Labour Party must recognise that the Scottish party has to be autonomous and not just a branch office of a party based in London.
“Scotland has chosen to remain in partnership with our neighbours in the UK. But Scotland is distinct and colleagues must recognise that.
“There is a danger of Scottish politics being between two sets of dinosaurs … the Nationalists who can’t accept they were rejected by the people, and some colleagues at Westminster who think nothing has changed.”
“That has to change. The Scottish Labour Party must be a more autonomous party which works in partnership with the UK party. We must be allowed to make our own decisions and control our own resources.
“The Scottish Labour Party should work as equal partners with the UK party, just as Scotland is an equal partner in the United Kingdom. Scotland has chosen home rule – not London rule.”
It seems that Lamont’s direction for the SLP was too much for Labour MPs in Westminster who feared their own future and political influence. Without a huge number of Scottish MPs in Westminster, Labour has no chance of winning the next General Election. And it was the importance of these MPs which stopped Labour from supporting ‘English only votes’ which received a huge amount of support after the Scottish vote.
“The new devolution settlement must start with what is best for Scotland and not what suits Westminster MPs.
“Colleagues need to realise that the focus of Scottish politics is now Holyrood, not Westminster.”
There have been calls for former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to lead the party after he was seen as a huge boost to the Better Together campaign in September.
Perhaps someone with his authority and experience would be stronger against what seems to be a case of bitter in-fighting but would Ed Miliband want someone who is viewed as a political heavyweight to reemerge in the Labour party?