Tom Peterkin: Lamont’s silence on unions a gamble

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont. Picture: Greg Macvean
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE silence from Johann Lamont over Labour’s travails in Falkirk and its relationship with the trades unions remains deafening. As Ed Miliband gears up for a battle over the very heart and soul of the party, Lamont has yet to make any meaningful pronouncement on what the future holds for Labour.

What she has said is that she intends to reflect on the findings of the review to be conducted into Labour’s relationship with the unions by Lord Collins, the former party General Secretary.

In her only utterance on the matter, she went on to say that when she was elected Scottish Labour leader, she was clear that “we had to open up our party and involve the people we wish to serve. Any steps that we can take to reach out to the country and let them inform our politics are welcome”.

It was hardly an illuminating statement and did little to suggest that Lamont has got a handle on her party’s travails and her views on redefining Labour’s relationship with its funders.

This reticence is especially surprising given Lamont’s feisty nature and the fact that this controversy erupted in her back yard amongst the local party memebers in Falkirk.

Little wonder that the SNP have been making hay at Lamont’s expense. The SNP take glee in pointing out that a recent review of Labour in Scotand was supposed to have changed Lamont’s relationship with her party.

No longer is she simply the leader of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, she is now supposed to have full responsibility for of all she surveys north of the border – MPs and all.

Lamont’s reluctance to get involved with this, admittedly very tricky, issue merely fuels SNP claims that the review was nothing more than window dressing and that Scottish Labour remains tied to the London hierarchy via an umbilical cord.

In private, Labour MSPs say that Lamont has been in close touch with London on this issue.

One yesterday said there was little merit in the Lamont “breenging in” on a matter that has now escalated from a little local difficulty over alleged ­
vote-rigging in Falkirk into a major battle over the future direction of the UK party at large.

Given that this has become such a defining issue for Miliband’s leadership, there must be a huge temptation for the Scottish leader to open up her filing cabinet and bung the issue in the drawer marked “too difficult”.

But the reality is that the longer this silence goes on, the longer people will question her own relationship with London and the unions.

After all it is not just Miliband who owes his position at the top of the people’s party to the unions.

Lest we forget, when Lamont became Scottish Labour leader she did not win the ballot of individual party members.

She triumphed because of the support given to her from MSPs and the electoral college made up those very same trades unions.