Last but not least, Siobhan McMahon MSP, recently elected to represent Central Scotland and already becoming known as a cause-oriented campaigner, explains why she is supporting Johann Lamont MSP to become Scottish Labour’s leader.
When, in the early hours of Friday 6th May 2011, I realised that I had been elected as a Labour MSP for Central Scotland, my first response was neither of joy nor jubilation; it wasn’t even of surprise (although I was very surprised).
Despite being obliged to put a brave face on proceedings, my dominant feelings were of dejection and sadness.
Dejection for a campaign that had spun out of control, and resulted in one of the worst nights in Labour’s electoral history. Sadness for the many friends and colleagues that had lost their seats: diligent, committed and passionate individuals who had devoted much of the previous 12 years to serving Scotland.
It angers me to hear their names besmirched, and it is partly for them, but primarily for the people they represented, that I am supporting Johann Lamont to be Labour leader in Scotland.
A lot has been made of Labour’s defeat. I have heard many theories – that we were complacent, arrogant and disconnected; that we fought a Westminster campaign for a Holyrood election. Whatever the reasons, there is no doubt that, as a party, we got things badly wrong.
Some have claimed that, as Labour’s Deputy Leader and a key figure in the campaign, Johann is not the appropriate person to take us forward; that she is part of the Anciene regime, and too deeply implicated in what went before.
I disagree entirely. If we were to debar all those who bear a measure of responsibility for Labour’s past from participating in Labour’s future, we would be hard pressed to find anybody at all.
Johann understands the need for change.
During her launch speech, she emphasized our collective need to return to first principles.
We did not lose the last election during the short campaign or during the one or two years that preceded it. Over the past 13 years, the landscape of Scottish politics has changed dramatically, but Labour has not changed with it – and things that do not adapt to changing environments face extinction. So we must act now, and act decisively.
Johann Lamont has the determination, the passion and the commitment to drive forward the change that is needed.
As both individual and politician, Johann encompasses much of the Scottish experience. She represents, one might say, the two sides of Scotland.
Although raised in Anderston, she is the daughter of Tiree crofters. Although she talks Glasgow, she is fluent in Gaelic, and was the first politician to address the Parliament in that tongue.
Johann is the city and the country; the urban and the rural; the old and the new. She values and respects the past, but she will always look towards the future.
What will Johann bring to the leadership?
Having known Johann for several years, I can testify to her compassion and her commitment to social justice. She spent many more years as a teacher than she has as an MSP, and this formative experience shaped her politics. She is well known as a champion of single parents and carers, and is a natural communicator with a gift for empathy and understanding.
To be a good communicator, one must be a good listener. Under Johann, the Labour party will return to its humble roots. It will listen, learn, and earn, once again, the right to govern.
One question that has been asked is, “are you Nationalist, Unionist, or Devolutionist?” As far as I am concerned, one cannot be a Labour MSP without believing in devolution, and without fighting for those powers that will make Scotland a stronger, healthier, and more equal society.
Johann has always fought for what she believes in and, as leader, she will continue to do so. She will fight for the community blighted by poverty and unemployment. She will fight for the carer struggling to cope. She will fight for the teenager striving to flourish, and she will fight for the business endeavouring to prosper.
Put simply, Johann gets it – she gets the things that really matter.
We are in the age of twitter and Facebook, of blogs and blackberry messenger; politics has changed, and Scotland is not immune to that change. Johann appreciates these mediums, and utilizes them appropriately – as a means of communication, not self-promotion. Too often, the internet is a forum of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Johann only talks when she has something to say; a value, an idea, a policy, to convey.
For all these reasons, I can honestly say that I believe Johann Lamont is, without doubt, the right candidate for the job.
If, like me, you want to see a strong and united Labour party in a strong and equal Scotland, than I urge you to join me, and support Johann Lamont MSP for Labour leader in Scotland.