JOHANN Lamont, the new leader of Scottish Labour, has warned that “nothing will be off limits” when it comes to reforming the party.
In her speech after the result of the leadership contest was announced yesterday, the 54-year-old MSP said bluntly that Labour had looked like a “tired old political machine” as it plummeted to defeat against the SNP in May’s Holyrood elections.
In a change-or-die warning, she said she hoped to boost the party’s talent pool and bring in fresh faces if it was to survive.
Labour would oppose independence in the forthcoming referendum, she added, but would also support plans to “refresh and renew” devolution, while also driving down power to local government.
She added that the party was no longer living in an “age of plenty” and that problems could not be solved by throwing money at them.
Lamont’s victory came amid controversy, however, as it emerged that her closest rival for the job, MSP Ken Macintosh, had received more votes from party members than she had.
Lamont won marginally more votes than Macintosh among MSPs, MEPs and MPs, but owed her victory primarily to huge support from members of affiliated unions.
As with Ed Miliband last year – who also won thanks to support from unions – Lamont is certain to face claims her leadership will be in hock to union interests.
Lamont, a former teacher and MSP for Glasgow Pollok, comes to the job with 12 years’ experience as an MSP, having risen to become deputy justice minister in the old Labour-Liberal Democrat-run Scottish Executive.
Today, she is expected to begin appointing her shadow Cabinet which is likely to include a local government figure among non-MSPs.
Yesterday she said straitened times required a new approach. She said: “We are no longer living in an age of plenty and won’t be for some time to come. We need to challenge ourselves to find new ways of delivering social justice in an age when resources are scarce. We need to remember equality isn’t just for when the sun shines – its even more important when the roof leaks.”
On reform, she said: “While I am leader nothing will be off limits. Our one test will be what is in the interests of the people of Scotland – not what is in the interests of ourselves.”
Her victory yesterday was expected. She won a majority on the first ballot, in a clear victory over second-placed Macintosh. But a breakdown of the vote showed she was heavily reliant on the unions, one of three “electoral colleges” in the party’s rulebook, with elected members and party members making up the other two.
Asked whether he thought that the electoral college system should be reformed, Macintosh said: “I think there will be lots of changes for the party. If she [Lamont] looks at some of our structures perhaps they look a little bit out of place these days and that will be one for the new leader to look at.”
Labour said 96 per cent of parliamentarians voted, 67 per cent of members and 12 per cent of unions.
Party officials said Labour has around 20,000 members and 300,000 union-affiliated members. On those figures, approximately 13,400 members and 36,000 union affiliated members voted.