Alex Massie Alex Massie

Alas, poor Johann Lamont: a symptom, not the cause, of Labour’s decline in Scotland

It was the wee things that did it. Things like vision, inspiration, confidence and all the other details that coalesce into that strange something called leadership. There are many types of leader and leadership is another of those things easier to see than define but all successful leaders share one essential quality: they can choose a hill and persuade their followers that’s the place they must die.

Johann Lamont never had a hill. By the end she didn’t have much of an army either. Scottish Labour is a party suffering from some kind of political dementia right now. It kind of remembers being a contender and it still stands before a mirror shadowboxing but the moves are slower now and less convincing all the time. There is a search for lost glories that could, in other circumstances, be reckoned almost pitiful.

Actually, it is pitiful. Well before the end you could only feel sorry for Johann Lamont. She had never thirsted to be leader and it was, in truth, never quite clear that she deserved the job. No-one ever doubted her personal decency or integrity. She was, all too plainly, only doing her best. That made it worse. That Johann Lamont did not lead the Scottish Labour party terribly well was less remarkable than the fact she led it at all.

But then it long since ceased to be a great job. Look at Labour’s benches at Holyrood and with only a few exceptions you’re hard pressed to find many people you’d trust to supervise a tyre fire, let alone lead a political party. There is some young talent – Kezia Dugdale, Jenny Marra – but in general the cupboard isn’t so much bare as non-existent. If this is the B Team you don’t want to see the C Team.

And still Labour talks as though it had the right to reckon itself the natural party of government in Scotland.

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