SCOTTISH Labour leader Johann Lamont has denied she is preparing to announce her resignation after a bruising referendum campaign.
Several senior sources in the Scottish Labour Party yesterday said Ms Lamont will step down to make way for a fresh leader, less than three years since she took on the role.
But last night when asked if Ms Lamont would resign, her spokesman insisted: “No, she’s not. She set out plans [in her conference speech] to lead the party into 2016. That’s the plan. She won’t be saying anything anytime soon.”
In her speech in Manchester, Ms Lamont said: “I look forward to working with [Westminster Labour leader] Ed [Miliband] in Number 10 to lead Scottish Labour to victory in 2016.”
However, a number of senior sources said she is preparing to resign. One said: “We are looking at a worse result in 2016 than in 2011 unless there is a change and I think she recognises that.”
Another senior source said she might announce her departure as early as today.
And one MP said: “We are in for the fight of our lives and we don’t have the people at the top to win it at the moment.”
Many within Scottish Labour hope that Gordon Brown could be persuaded to take Ms Lamont’s place after he was credited with saving the Better Together campaign to get a No vote in the independence referendum, but sources close to the former prime minister said he would not stand.
Other potential candidates include shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy MP, praised for his 100-town tour of Scotland during the referendum campaign. It is believed he wants the job. The current deputy Scottish leader, Anas Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Central, who toured Scotland on a “battle bus” during the referendum campaign, is also being widely tipped.
When asked by The Scotsman if they were preparing to stand, both Mr Murphy and Mr Sarwar declined to comment.
However, Mr Sarwar said last night: “There is no vacancy. Johann Lamont is our leader and will lead us into 2016.”
Among the MSPs, Kezia Dugdale, who was first elected in 2011 but has quickly risen through the ranks, is seen as a strong contender.
Ms Lamont was privately criticised by some in her party for having a low profile in the referendum campaign.
There is also concern among MPs and MSPs after the Yes campaign and the SNP picked up swathes of support in traditional Labour areas.
With Glasgow-based Nicola Sturgeon expected to replace Alex Salmond as SNP leader, there is concern that she will further erode Labour’s grip on traditional areas of support.
The nominations open for the leadership tomorrow.