So who would the burd vote for?

I thought, seeing as it is my blog, that I ought to post at least once this week.  And given that I’ve allowed Labour guests to have their say on who they’ll vote for – and very grateful I am that they took time out to share their views – also thought I ought to have a think about who I might vote for, if I had a vote of course.

I could have been one of the many lucky Labour types who have more than one vote.  Imagine being in the Lamont household this week.  Not one vote (Johann’s), not two (her husband’s, who is the longstanding Labour Glasgow councillor Archie Graham), not even four (as individual party members and also elected representatives) but it is possible that this leadership contender’s household cast eight votes (also as affiliated union members).  Indeed, given that Ms Lamont is a Co-operative party sponsored MSP, she might even have enjoyed another vote through that route.  The burd hopes that not only did she and her husband vote early and often, but that they also voted wisely.

I’m sure, long ago, there was a point to this multiple electoral college but I’m struggling to see its relevance now.  One member, one vote: good enough for the rest of us after all.

So if I had one vote, or even three, whom might I have chosen?

Actually, the guest posts helpfully pointed up some of the contenders’ strengths and weaknesses.  And I’m happy to add a few observations of my own.

If nominations are anything to go by, then Johann Lamont is clearly the front runner.  With plenty of support from across the piece – elected representatives, CLPs and the all important unions – she appears to be the one to beat.  And while the burdz heart sings at the prospect of another woman leading a political party in Scotland, for once, I am willing to admit that that might not be good enough reason in itself.  Yes, Johann Lamont is the continuity candidate with a long hinterland of activism and involvement at all levels of her party but she is also a thoroughly decent and hardworking person who has more than earned her spurs.  She has earned her tilt at the top prize and still manages to come across as in touch with her roots.

She is definitely on the left of the Labour party but also has that authoritarian streak of the left that is so inexplicable to the likes of me.  Much to admire about her parliamentary career – especially the fact that she led the revolt against her own government in order to support the SSP’s bill to abolish poindings and warrant sales – but we will never see eye to eye on her approach to youth justice.  She was one of the most vocal advocates of the ASBO policy which has achieved precisely nothing.

But Johann has also done much to promote relatively unfashionable and unsung causes, long before they grabbed the imagination of other politicians:  championing the cause of carers and kinship carers in particular.  Does any of this make her leadership material?  I think it does but she would be a safe choice.  And I’m not sure that’s what Labour needs right now.

Scottish Labour needs a reformer, someone who will do a Kinnock or a Swinney and make the hard internal choices to make the party fit to govern once again.  Labour as a dominant political force is finished;  it needs to find its place in a multi-party system where it cannot take election for granted.  That is a big mind and cultural shift to make and it will need a leader who has ideas and an attention to detail to internal party activity, someone who is also unafraid to push through change and rage against the vested interests who want to keep their ever-diminishing power bases intact.  That requires someone very special.

Could Ken Macintosh be that leader?  Sadly, no.  Ken is a thoroughly decent and affable individual and is an assiduous and diligent parliamentarian with whom I have had the pleasure of working on a whole range of bills.  But what makes him so accessible to those on the outside of Parliament is precisely why he lacks the necessary political acumen to be Scottish Labour’s leader.  He has ideas and of all three candidates, he is the one to come out firmly as a devolutionist rather than a unionist.  That I like.  And he is focused on the future, which is also a good thing.  But it’s backbone that I fear is lacking.  The willingness to drive through change, to avoid internal pitfalls.  Ken is a consensus politician and while that is a huge strength in so many ways, it is not what is needed for his party right now.

Which leaves Tom Harris.  A bit of a loner in terms of where he sits in the movement, he does of course have friends and admirers but not the caucus enjoyed by the likes of Johann Lamont.  And that would give a modernising leader power:  beholden to few, so long as he kept his goals clear-sighted he could push through a reform agenda or at least, bomb politically in the trying.  Interestingly, he’s from the right of the party, a Blairite in fact (which is almost a swear word in Scottish political circles).  And that would give us a different perspective and narrative.  The slightly left of centre in Scottish politics is pretty crowded:  the field is more open if one glances to the right.  Of course, he would have difficulty lining Salmond up in his sights from Westminster but frankly, that’s the least of Labour’s worries right now.  in any event, these sorts of considerations are mere flotsam.

Perhaps I am drawn to Mr Harris because of the outsider thing – the way MSPs ganged up behind their ain in nomination terms was pretty poor – but also because of his boldness and frankness.  It takes guts to put yourself out on a limb and engage in a way few other politicians have been brave enough to do in recent years, through the internet and social media, particularly when it means you might be passed over when promotions are being handed out (as he was recently).  Like Ian Smart, I admire the fact that Tom Harris was prepared, after the mauling in May, to not only think the unthinkable but say it.  And in order to try and flush some bigger beasts out of the closet, he was prepared to stand to try and force a battle of ideas, which sadly has been rather lacking from this contest.

But if I was a Labour member, Tom Harris would get my vote purely on the basis of this.  Anyone with that level of creativity and who has his sense of humour intact after a gruelling leadership contest must be worth a punt.


14 thoughts on “So who would the burd vote for?

  1. Caron,

    You say that Johann Lamont was against devolution in 1979. First of all, how do you know that? Secondly does what she thought as a 21 year old particularly matter?

    If she’d opposed devolution in 1999 then there might be an issue!

  2. I hope Labour types play a long game here. There was a time when you could expect to find principled people n key positions in Labour. The Blairite flight from principles has left many a voter short of reasons to consider a Labour vote. It’s going to take a while to win them back. It’s going to take a long time, but the longest journey starts with a single step. Even his suppoorters seem to believe that Bomber Harris is without scruple, so electing him hardly seems a good start to the Long March to Credibility. Johann Lamont seems to be just another West of Scotland machine politician to me, and the ‘other one (c. Ed Milliband) hasn’t actually registered on my radar.

    I think you should elect someone on a short-term basis whilst you conduct an exercise into working out what you are for.

  3. One hopes Labour choose Lamont – good for everybody in so many ways.

    Authoritarian, yes that is Labour.

    As far as authoritarian in Scotland goes, I don’t know myself but a friend holds the view that they are like that in Scotland because of the presbyterian culture of Scotland – don’t know myself but she is authoritarian.

    As far as being on the ‘left’ of the party – she has been in it since the 1980s and through the 1990s – she is a careerist like the others. You can’t be in Labour without being right-wing.

  4. What an invigorating and encouraging contest this has been (for SNP members that is).

  5. I’ve said this elsewhere before, but this seems to be the most uninspiring leadership contest since Clegg vs Huhne. Then again, Gray vs Jamieson vs Kerr was hardly a barn-stormer either. I really have no idea who I think should win, nor who I want to win. It’s a massive disappointment, coming hot on the heels of the pretty exciting Tory leadership contest.

    None of these candidates will do anything about Labour in Scotland’s main problem, which is their knee-jerk reactionary nature towards the SNP. None of them will become a champion for the cause of getting more powers devolved to Scotland NOW. There will be no revolution, and Labour in Scotland will continue to rely on the SNP eventually making themselves unelectable as their route back to power, as opposed to embracing some positive changes and vision to make themselves more electable. Same old, same old.

  6. If I were a member of the Labour party, I would truly despair at the choice on offer. Johann Lamont was against devolution in 1979 and as you say is an old fashioned authoritarian, Ken Macintosh has that streak of shameless hypocrisy that was on show at the fees demo the other day and is utterly dull and Tom Harris is great fun, but the thought of five years of him and Salmond kicking lumps out of each other is profoundly depressing.

    • “Ken Macintosh has that streak of shameless hypocrisy that was on show at the fees demo the other day”

      A Lib Dem criticising someone for being hypocritical in regards to university fees?


  7. Leaders don’t need their own ideas and if the SLAB leader needs some they could always ask people like Ian Smart or Aidan for them.

    I think what I’d be looking for is a safe pair of hands. No more donation troubles, no officegates, and no Rick Perry- or Herman Cain-style meltdowns on TV.

  8. I tend to agree. I don’t have a vote either, but if I did, I’d be thinking not so much about who could unite the party but who would come across well to the public, since after all they are the ones who choose governments. I’d love to see a female leader too but Johann Lamont does not come across well on TV, and, sad though it may be, a non-media-friendly leader is not a good idea. Ken Macintosh and Tom Harris are both reasonable media performers, but I think Tom has the edge in terms of confidence and authority, so I think he’s the better option. I must say though, I don’t think any of them have been massively inspiring so far in this campaign.

    • Yes it has been dullsville. Shame really. Though think the real fireworks will come closer to the 2016 election – not sure this leader will survive til then.

  9. How can anyone vote for any of the prospective leaders when as an outsider I cannot understand what Labour stand for other than not being Tory which worked for them in the past but has no relevance today.

    Tom is obviously so right wing that him being a member of Labour is is only way of getting elected.

    Ken, well when his examining of others actions believes that Iain Gray won most of the FMQs one has to question his actual judgement.

    Johann after using false evidence to try and attack the FM puts her creditability as possible leader suspect.

    Without going down the childs blindfold game of pinning a tail I have no idea just the same as Labour policy.


  10. See, Tom comes across as an outsider but he also has that amazingly strong authoritarian streak Johann has with an orange jump suit on and with him it extends to the policy making processes.

    That would be less of a problem if he wasn’t so viciously right wing, what we definitely don’t need is the SNP and Labour leapfrogging their way from centre-left back to centre-right.

    And Tom really, really, really needs to stop trolling.

    I know voting for him’s a bad idea, but it’s an *interesting* bad idea and those are bloody dangerous things.

    • Oh I absolutely agree. As Ian Smart puts it, he hasn’t a single idea I agree with. But that is why it is an interesting bad idea. And I think he might be the internal reformer you need. Needless to say, he hasn’t a hope. So in some ways, mine was a safe punt!

      • I don’t know about the internal bit actually, he might clean out the machine and get more effective people in and while that may be necessary I’m not sure it’s sufficient – we might end up with a bigger disconnect between lay membership and the pros :/

        I agree the other two candidates would need to get down to a St Andrews beach with some petrol (and probably fling themselves on the fire as well) before he was really competitive in this though :/

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