Monday, July 18, 2011

Scottish Labour could be stuck with leader Gray as internal soul searching could take a year, a coin flip, Ken Macintosh or Jackie Baillie

Dear All

Labour people might not like it but part of the reason that they lost the Holyrood election 2011 was because Iain Gray was a poor, weak and ineffectual leader.

It came down to who was the best to defend Scotland’s domestic interests from Westminster.

People choose the SNP because of their four years of competent government particularly in the two key areas, finance and health.

Much more was done with less.

That is Labour’s problem, they had ran out of ideas, policies and spent four entire years being a negative force that refused to work constructively within the parliament.

They couldn’t point to a record of what they stood for that would better people’s lives because there wasn’t one.

After the election party leaders of other parties fell on their rubber swords and resigned, not from parliament but to the back benches.

Iain Gray duly let it be known that he would also fall on his rubber sword.

But Labour’s problem is who takes over the ship that has the keel ripped out.

The new crew brought onboard are made up of ex MSP’s relatives, researchers, non entities and extraordinary non bright people.

Most of the Scottish Labour big hitters are gone, Andy Kerr, Pauline McNeill and Frank McAveety all blown out of the water by the SNP.

Labour stands in a virtual wasteland, an apocalypse with a few survivors crawling back towards Holyrood.

That leaves’ Scottish’ Labour with a problem, who to lead them after Iain Gray.

Trouble is they could be stuck with Iain Gray as a lame duck leader for almost a year because of the party’s byzantine rulebook.

There has been a delay in the replacement process meaning any leadership contest is difficult this year.

And with a review in progress which is expected to beef up the role of the Holyrood leader that would delay the contest until next spring.

At present there is soul-searching in Labour to why it suffered its worst defeat for 80 years.

Quite simple, people have lost faith north of the Border in Labour representatives to work for the community.

People see Labour representatives as there to protect the rich and powerful.

UK leader Ed Miliband is the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland.
That is a problem as he is also the de facto leader of the Holyrood Labour MSPs because the person elected to take charge in Holyrood answers to him.

Miliband wants a new narrative to come out of the review into the party in Scotland, including “how the role of the Scottish Labour leader should develop and change; including how the election process might be amended”.

It is a rebranding exercise.

The exercise is being led by shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy and MSP Sarah Boyack.

So, who is in the frame for leader?

It comes down to two people.

Ken Macintosh and Jackie Baillie are the contenders.

Of the two, the only credible candidate is Ken Macintosh, Baillie is damaged goods and isn’t up to the task of taking on Alex Salmond.

Also she isn’t the kind of person who the public will warm to, she is from the Wendy Alexander stable and we all know what a disaster her tenure was.

One senior Labour source said:

“You would be pushing it [to have a new leader] by the end of the year. If there’s going to be an election, we would have to take a fair amount of time. The last thing we want to do is rush through some half-baked proposal. We need a consensus, and you don’t get that in five minutes.”

This isn’t simply about electing a leader.

It is about developing an entire strategy for the Labour Party in Scotland so far there is little evidence that either Macintosh or Baillie have grasped that point.

People want elected representatives to do what it says on the tin, deal with their problems, fight for their causes, Labour hasn’t done that and the SNP stepped in to fill the void.

From Councillor to MSP to MP, there is an attitude problem of can work won’t work.

People see it.

A leader is a figurehead but when all is said and done, it isn’t the leader who wins elections, it is the team.

And Labour’s machine is broken.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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