Spin doctor Rami Okasha quits in ‘purge’ at Scottish Labour HQ
SCOTTISH Labour’s head of communications has stepped down in a move widely seen as part of a shake-up of the party following last year’s humiliating election defeat to the SNP.
• Rami Okasha leaves role with Scottish Labour
• Johann Lamont praises his ‘dedication and service’
Rami Okasha left his role as a Labour employee yesterday after being suspended last month, amid reports of a turf war with party leader Johann Lamont’s press chief Paul Sinclair, appointed at the end of last year.
Mr Okasha worked at Scottish Labour’s John Smith headquarters for the past four and a half years under a contract with the UK party, but his role was widely viewed as being in conflict with that of Mr Sinclair – a former Downing Street adviser.
Ms Lamont yesterday issued a statement thanking Mr Okasha for his “dedication and service” to Labour, which included being party campaign co-ordinator for the last Holyrood election.
However, Mr Okasha’s departure from the Glasgow HQ will strengthen the hand of Ms Lamont, who is the first Scottish Labour politician to be leader of the whole party in Scotland rather than just the MSPs group at Holyrood.
Scottish Labour’s general secretary Colin Smyth has already left his role, with the party now set to have a dual HQ in Glasgow and Edinburgh as part of Ms Lamont’s organisational shake-up.
Mr Smyth, the party’s top unelected official, had been in the post for five years, presiding over the Scottish party’s successful 2010 general election, but also its catastrophic loss to the SNP last year at Holyrood.
Mr Sinclair will continue in his Scottish Parliament-funded role as Ms Lamont’s head of media, although a replacement will be found for Mr Okasha.
However, the replacement is unlikely to be given full responsibility over communications and strategy, leaving Mr Sinclair as the most powerful spin doctor in Labour’s ranks.
The replacement will also be based in Edinburgh, closer to the seat of power at Holyrood. The party’s official media operation will be based in Edinburgh, with the Glasgow base mainly for administration and fund raising.
Mr Okasha said: “I have been part of a team running the last European, General and Scottish elections, winning three parliamentary by-elections, and this year’s local authority campaign, so now is a good time to move on to new challenges. I strongly support Johann in her efforts to build a new Scottish Labour Party and look forward to playing any role I am asked.”
Ms Lamont said: “I would like to thank Rami for his dedication and service to the party. He is a man of considerable merit and no one could ever say he didn’t put in the hours. He leaves with my best wishes and I hope he enjoys the success he deserves in his future career.”