Johann Lamont 'determined' for change
- 17 December 2011
- From the section Scotland
All new leaders promise change. There would be little point in holding internal party elections otherwise.
But Johann Lamont seems decidedly determined - and stressed the point repeatedly for emphasis.
Warm congratulations to Ms Lamont for a clear victory in the first round of voting for the Scottish Labour leadership.
There was something of a stumble on the way in that she was outpolled by Ken Macintosh in the section of the electoral college reserved for individual party members.
Victory among affiliate members and Parliamentarians saw her through.
But, as her rivals acknowledged, the somewhat arcane rules of Labour's election system were known in advance.
They had no complaints whatsoever - and I do not believe that there will be any lasting question marks over Ms Lamont's leadership as a consequence.
She is entitled to lead. But how?
She made a notably good start with a thoughtful and well-constructed speech of acceptance.
It even had a few moments of humour - OK, one at least.
Even her admirers hope that side of her character will be more to the fore as she begins the task of leading Labour back from its comprehensive defeat at the hands of the SNP in May.
The leitmotif was change. Indeed, she said nothing was "off limits". No policy, no party rule, no way of working could not be changed.
She went further. Labour leaders, she argued, had kidded themselves into thinking that Scotland was innately supportive of their party.
It had not been true for some time. The people had sought to signal that - but Labour had not listened.
The scale of the defeat in May, she argued, meant that message was impossible to ignore.
If translated into practice, that means a dose of serious humility from a party which seemed to regard Scotland as a presumed fiefdom, as a zone of unquestioned and unquestioning support.
Change too in the shadow cabinet - opening it up "to include people whose right to be there is their expertise and their ambition for Scotland".
It will be intriguing to see what that means in practise.
And, echoing a theme advanced by Douglas Alexander, change in the attitude to the SNP.
Labour must not, she argued, be defined as simply the party which viscerally hated the Nationalists.
Partly, that was borne of opposition to independence. But, partly, it emerged from Labour's sense of entitlement to support in Scotland.
From that mistaken standpoint, the SNP were seen as interlopers, as pests to be eradicated rather than rivals to be contested.
But one thing, it appears, will not change. Support for a devolved Scotland within the Union.
In contesting the SNP, she said there must be no individual or collective hatred - but reasoned argument, founded upon support for the devolved parliament and opposition to what she called separation.
With that in mind, she challenged her SNP opponents to hold the independence referendum at the earliest opportunity - and to found it upon a single question.
Congratulations are also due to MP Anas Sarwar, who won a convincing victory in the first round in the contest to be deputy leader.
In a thoughtful and well-delivered speech, he urged party unity.
One of his primary tasks will be to build and sustain exactly that in links between Holyrood and Westminster; links which have been severely tested in the past.