By G.A.Ponsonby
The SNP has attacked what it has described as Johann Lamont's "summer of silence" as the invisibility of the Scottish Labour leader continues to raise eyebrows.
Lamont, who replaced former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray after the party lost the 2011 Scottish elections, has failed to surface despite an ongoing scandal over the party's selection process in Falkirk and disastrous poll results.

Despite claiming to have become leader of the entire Labour party in Scotland, the selection scandal in Falkirk that has engulfed the party has seen Lamont and the Scottish arm of Labour bypassed as party chiefs in London have struggled to get a grip on the situation.

The Scottish Labour leader is also under pressure after a recent re-shuffle highlighted splits within the Labour Holyrood group over her 'something for nothing' welfare stance.  A recent poll indicated Scottish Labour has fallen further behind the SNP compared with the humiliation the party suffered in 2011.

In the meantime her deputy, Labour MP Anas Sarwar, has appeared to have taken the place of his beleaguered leader, fronting recent attacks on Labour splinter group 'Labour for Independence' which was formed by Labour party members unhappy with the Scottish party's stance over independence.

Sarwar is also set to represent Scottish Labour in a forthcoming TV set piece with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, which will see welfare debated.

Commenting, SNP MSP Sandra White accused the Scottish Labour leader of having been "sidelined" by London party bosses.

Glasgow MSP Ms White highlighted a similar episode last summer which saw Lamont's style of leadership criticised after she appeared to duck several issues, including the emerging scandal over Eric Joyce and her position on Trident nuclear weapons.

The SNP MSP said:

"For her to have been so invisible for a second summer in a row instead of showing any kind of leadership during her party's crisis will only heap further pressure onto her.

"Her boss Ed Miliband has been roundly criticised for his own silent summer - but it seems she is so keen to follow London's lead that she has decided to follow suit.

"Last year Johann Lamont also spent the summer in silence – and only emerged to launch her disastrous Cuts Commission which has done so much damage to her party's position in the polls.

"Having spent another summer hiding from the public eye, the pressure is clearly on for her to produce something big as this summer draws to an end.

"If she cannot come up with something to lift her party out of its appalling position in the polls, the serious question mark over her leadership will only grow bigger."

MEANWHILE, Lamont's deputy, Labour MP Anas Sarwar, appears to have taken on the role of leading the party in Scotland.  Sarwar spearheaded a recent attack on Labour for Independence after the group emerged to challenge Labour's stance on Scottish independence.

The MP is also set to represent the No campaign in a planned televised debate on welfare to be shown by STV that will see him go head-to-head with SNP depute Nicola Sturgeon.

However Sarwar's own commitment to the Union was called into question last month when it emerged his own father, former Glasgow Labour MP Mohammad Sarwar, had decided to quit the UK in favour of a high profile political position in his native Pakistan.

Anas Sarwar indicated he was "glad" with his father's decision and said: "Usually it is the father that expresses pride in their son, but I'm glad to wish my father good luck as he takes up a new political challenge in Pakistan."

Anas Sarwar, who was privately educated at Hutcheson Grammar school, 'inherited' his own Glasgow Govan seat from his father who had stepped down after representing the constituency for 13 years.  The candidacy followed a failed attempt at entering Holyrood as a Labour list MSP.

In 2009 in an interview with the Guardian he described the Holyrood voting system as a "perfect system" and voiced his support for reform of the Westminster voting system.  However he recently caused controversy by appearing to attack the Scottish electoral system and described the Scottish government as a "dictatorship".


His father's political career has been peppered with controversy with claims of election rigging and tax problems surfacing.

In 2010 Mohammad Sarwar was blocked from receiving a peerage after he was nominated by the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  The refusal followed advice from the HMRC which said there were problems with the tax situation of the former Labour MP.

In 2007 Athif Sarwar, brother of Anas, was convicted and jailed for three years for his involvement in an £845,000 money-laundering scam using the family cash-and-carry business.  However he was later cleared on appeal and released.

In 1997 Sarwar senior was at the centre of bribery allegations after the News of the World claimed had paid a rival, Islam Badar, £5000 to scale down his own campaign and also bribed two other candidates.

Sarwar denied the allegations and claimed the money paid to Mr Badar, who had been handed the cash while sitting with Mr Sarwar in his white Mercedes, was in fact a loan.

Sarwar's Labour colleague Iain Davidson gave evidence against him at an internal Labour party inquiry and told of his fears that he would suffer personal abuse from Sarwar supporters.

Speaking at the time Davidson said: "I would expect to be attacked and blamed for the Highland clearances, as well as the Irish potato famine, the Great Fire of London and the drowning of Atlantis."

Sarwar was subsequetly expelled from the Labour party.  A nine week court case found Mr Sarwar not guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice and he was eventually re-instated into the Labour party.

Mr Sarwar's election agent at the time of the bribery allegations was Margaret Curran, who is now the Shadow secretary of State for Scotland.

His rival for the candidacy in Govan was Mike Watson who went on to become an MSP and then a Labour peer.  Mr Watson was himself the subject of a scandal after he was jailed 16 months for arson after he attempted to set fire to curtains in an Edinburgh hotel in 2004.

Watson was allowed to rejoin the Labour party on his release from prison and remains a Lord.


# bringiton 2013-08-18 11:36
The fundamental problem facing a leader of Labour in Scotland is how to tell a different story to the electorate in Scotland from that being spouted by their masters in London.Of course,they could follow Lamont and decide only to tell the London story but that might not be a good career move.This issue is not going to go away as long as London labour are in charge.
# cjmjr 2013-08-18 12:04
Who thought they would ever see Labour activists selling Tory policy on the doorsteps of Scotland, oh how the once mighty Labour party has fallen condemned forever to the opposition benches, if they survive at-all.
# mudfries 2013-08-18 12:19
The more that Sarwar guy is on the TV the better for the yes cause if you ask me, he is from the jim murphy school of politics - talks to you as if your a three year old! in fact its a close call between Murphy, Sarwar and the child catcher from Mary Poppins as to who makes your flesh crawl the most! labour are just a front for the Conservative party "Vote No" campaign anyway, everybody knows it. sorry! chitty chitty bang bang! cheers govanite.
# Chateaulait 57 2013-08-18 17:55
Quoting mudfries:
in fact its a close call between Murphy, Sarwar and the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as to who makes your flesh crawl the most

I think you owe the Child Catcher an apology mudfries lol
# Henderson 2013-08-18 12:19
Nice to see our friends at New Scotch Labour being taken to task.
Come on Labour in Scotland; get off the sinking SS Britanic and into the lifeboat of independence for all our futures. You being led by chancers & losers.
# govanite 2013-08-18 12:45
Quoting mudfries:
Murphy, Sarwar and the child catcher from Mary Poppins as to who makes your flesh crawl the most! labour are just a front for the Conservative party "Vote No" campaign anyway, everybody knows it.

You mean Ian Fleming's Chittychittyban gbang, right ;)
# WRH2 2013-08-18 13:04
What is it with "Scottish" Labour leaders? Jack McConnell went missing as well at one point, and now Johann Lamont. Could it be there is a big black hole in the middle of the Labour Party in Scotland?
But seriously, Johann Lamont would be better admitting that she only leads the Labour group in Holyrood instead of this silly pretence. It is impossible for one party to have different policies for different parts of the UK, but given the growing divergence between Scotland and rUK that is what is needed but can't be achieved. Surely, to even the dimmest in the Labour Party in Scotland it should be obvious the solution is independence.
# Davy 2013-08-18 13:36
Has anyone checked the debating chamber at Holyrood, she may still be sitting there wondering why everyone has taken so long to go to the toilet.

Joking apart the members of the labour party in Scotland must be wondering what the hell is going on with their party.

No statement from their leader in over a month, every attack their party and better together have made on the YES campaign, ridiculed within a day sometimes a couple of hours. Seeing their party doctoring photos to try and black the name of their own members who happen to disagree with the london party line.

Why are they not saying enough is enough and telling their leadership to offski, I dont understand why they are walking about like sheep and letting it happen!!!

Sarwar V Sturgeon, bring it on.

Saor Alba.
# curley bill 2013-08-18 20:09
I worked with an old guy once who got locked in the toilet at the end of the shift - we only knew he was missing when we got back to the digs.
The difference is that we went and looked for him.
# call me dave 2013-08-18 14:14
Johann was never going to be the person to revive the labour party fortunes in Scotland.
After she was left holding the parcel when the music stopped, reality wasn't long in setting in.

Her 'something for nothing' speech and her position on university fees went against the grain as was joining the better together launch with the coalition mob, not clever. (Labour would like to doctor that picture)
Finally not coming clean on Trident and being directed from London on policy leaves it beyond doubt.

Better to be thought incompetent than push yourself into the limelight and have it confirmed.
# creigs1707repeal 2013-08-18 15:22
Johann Lamont has only one course of action left that will bring her any shred of credibility among the Scottish electorate - she has to come out of hiding with an announcement at a press conference that she is defecting to Labour for Independence. She, more than anyone, must now see how London Labour are riding roughshod over the Scottish people and their elected representatives , including Lamont.

Now that would really put the cat among the pigeons. Come on Johann - you can do it.

YES Scotland.
# cjmasta 2013-08-18 15:24
I think one nation labour should strike fear in all who call Scotland home with the exception maybe of the tories. Why should English politics dominate scotland's any longer? it's quite simple, you get what you vote for! Vote for labour - get the tories!
# andy-cap 2013-08-18 15:39
Maybe we wont see Lamont back as SLAB's leader, or maybe we wont see her back in Scottish politics either, cant say I'll be upset to see the back of her, after her "Something for nothing comment".
# Breeks 2013-08-18 15:59
I just find the whole issue of Labour / Scottish Labour / Johann Lamont / Red Ed / Falkirk / innumerable Labourites crawling around the BBC just mind numbingly dull and thoroughly tiresome.

Why are we talking about this train wreck of a party which trades upon the integrity and reputation of former Labour socialists while at the same time disowning the principles they stood for?

What price for some constructive engagement with the future of our country? People who are undecided or committed Unionists deserve better than this. We are on course to arrive at the referendum with the No camp in utter disarray, a legion of frustrated 'undecideds' who can't get a straight answer, and a disillusioned YES camp frustrated that the rebirth of a sovereign Scotland will ultimately be determined by a squabble over Alex Salmond's waistline.

Labour should grow the f___ up and engage with the debate or be put off at the next station and left behind.
# weegie38 2013-08-18 16:01
Something worth noting is that three of Labour in Scotland's most prominent figures have overlapping turf. Lamont's Holyrood seat, and Sarwar & Davidson's Westminster seats are all in Glasgow SW.

Moreover Davidson, it shouldn't be forgotten, stood for the Scottish Deputy post on what was basically a joint ticket with Lamont. Both were supported by the same trade unions and secured the trade union vote in general.

Sarwar is close to Jim Murphy, the arch-Blairite (who doesn't want to be seen dirtying his fingers in Scottish affairs, as he has aspirations to be UK party leader after Miliband). And Glasgow City Council is firmly in the Lamont camp, with Lamont's husband as the Deupty Council leader and Mathieson firmly in their pocket.

I suspect there's quite a bit of enpire-building and in-fighting going on behind the scenes in all this. Labour in Scotland has always resembled a bunch of ferrets in a sack.
# mealer 2013-08-18 16:02
Maybe Ms Lamont has rediscovered at least some of her principles and is refusing to say anything until London gives her something reasonable to say.Or maybe she's keeping out the road because she knows she's not up to the job.
# Jamie Black 2013-08-18 17:13
The Labour party are handing the SNP independence on a plate.

They re shocking and the sooner they get a leader with vision, charisma, someone able to make a speech and speak off the cuff the better. I bet Alex Salmond can't wait for FmQs to start again.
# clootie 2013-08-18 18:15
I can't see a down side in this.
Sit back and enjoy.

# hadrianswall 2013-08-18 18:22
A very good article on why Glasgow Labour are known as the Glasgow Mafia. The leaders spend no time on policy. Instead they are involved in powers struggles which have nothing to do with soliciasm, people or what is right. It is no coincidence that the foot soldiers are thin on the ground. Slowly but surely their natural supporters are seeing this. Their support will continue to dwindle.
# Abulhaq 2013-08-18 19:17
I do wonder how long Anas will stick with the Labour party. A floundering ship with no captain. He cant seriously fancy himself in that politically irrelevant rôle, can he?
# MacSenex 2013-08-18 20:10
Where is Douglas Alexander in all of this?

On the one hand one Labour MSP says he's not interested in Scotland while another Labour source says he's lining up to oust Hugh Hendry as MSP in Paisley South to take theLabour leadership post Independence
# call me dave 2013-08-18 20:38
I would take independence and ditching H.H. at that price!
# ynot 2013-08-18 22:20
Think SLAB are being a bit presumptious expecting the Scots to vote for a Westminster MP in an independent Scotland. My guess is there will be a few current SLAB MSPs "come out" and support Independence with 6 months to go before the Referendum thereby hoping to boost their credibility in the eyes of the voters eg Chisholm, Mackintosh, McAllion. An additional possibility is Henry Mcleish returning to politics in Scotland after similarly declaring support for Independence some time in advance of the Referendum. H McL first leader of the New Scottish Labour Party: how sweet would that not be as a form of political revenge?
# snowthistle 2013-08-19 07:56
Think McAllion has already come out in favour of independence as evidenced in his excellent articles on this website
# chicmac 2013-08-19 02:13
Hasn't Anas Sarwar's uncle Mohammed Ramzan not also 'defected' to support for independence?
# Dalriada 2013-08-19 07:34
It is inaccurate to describe Labour for Independence as a "splinter group" since they have not broken away. Indeed many of their members are long standing party activists. The article is otherwise excellent.
# proudscot 2013-08-19 09:48
Seriously, in the interest of a more adult debate on the issue of Scotland's independence, it would be conducted on a much better level if the two main opposition parties replaced ther respective leaders. In my opinion that could be someone like Murdo Fraser or Margaret Smith for the Tories, and possibly Malcolm Chisholm for Labour.

The LibDems are now an irrelevance in Scotland, so Willie Rennie could continue in his current role of annoying political midgie, being swatted away regularly by the First Minister.
# Jamieson 2013-08-19 09:52
I think Lamont is practising the advice in the old saw ... "It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt."
# Christian_Wright 2013-08-20 04:40
Another great slice and dice, sushi piece by Ponsonby.

As this exposé demonstrates, the SNP and the independence movement are well served by the enemies providence has provided them.

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