It’s been hard to keep up with the avalanche of opprobrium that’s been poured onto Johann Lamont’s head since Tuesday, as nationalists, commentators and Labour loyalists alike have all reacted with shock and horror to her craven, mendacious abandonment of the last shreds of the once-great party’s ideology.
(Even the most foaming of Labour’s ultra-staunch comment-thread attack dogs, such as Left Foot Forward’s absurd “Newsbot9″, called it “political suicide”.)
We can’t help but note the irony in the fact that Scottish Labour’s first ever full-blown, supposedly-independent leader is the one who has eliminated the final vestiges of difference between the more traditional Scottish party and its neoliberal London parent.
So to save you scouring the internet haphazardly, we’ve gathered together our top 10 picks of the bunch for some leisurely weekend reading. And just for fun, you can vote for your favourite in the poll in the central column. It’s no easy task. Enjoy.
(Joyce McMillan for The Scotsman)
“And it’s therefore profoundly sad to note, this week, the Scottish Labour leader’s monumentally ill-judged decision to join in this oppressive chorus of boss-class miserabilism, orchestrated by people who care nothing for the lives of ordinary citizens, in Scotland or elsewhere.”
(Willie Sullivan for Compass)
“It seems the principle of universality is to be discarded and therefore the hopes of a truly progressive tax system. Universal benefits are the fairest, most efficient, least stigmatised method of distributing any form of collective benefit. We can all have them and those that earn enough will pay it back in tax. I don’t really care if Rod Stewart gets a free bus pass as long as he’s more than paying for it in his tax. Give up on one side of those scales of social justice and you give up on both.”
(Robin McAlpine for the Jimmy Reid Foundation)
“And so I am simply dumbfounded. The snap reactions have all been that this is suicide because each of the things she attacked is popular. That is true – I fear for anyone having to sell that manifesto. But there is a greater existential issue about the relationship between Scotland and Labour. If you ask me, this is not only suicide, it is suicide-and-damnation all rolled up into one.”
(Suki Sangha for Communique)
“Why fund a Labour party which is hell bent on destroying the lives of millions of ordinary working people? How long will we make excuses for a Labour Party which has consistently come out and attacked workers? Why are we so desperate to hold onto a vision of the Labour party which is so distant to the reality of New Labour?”
(Iain Macwhirter for the Herald)
“It looks as if the Scottish Labour leader has gone through the list of the most popular policies in Scotland and decided to dump the lot. All she needs to do now is abolish free personal care and bus passes and she wins the teddy bear. “
(Richard Seymour for the Guardian)
“By any reasonable definition, Johann Lamont’s policy announcement on Tuesday was a train wreck. After Iain Gray’s lacklustre, gaffe-prone and election-losing leadership, pro-Labour pundits had persuaded themselves that Lamont was quite a heavyweight Scottish Labour leader. They should be face-palming. The policy implications of Lamont’s speech – ending universal benefits, raising tuition fees, cutting free prescriptions – were bad enough. The atrocious, reactionary soundbites, demanding an end to “something for nothing” culture, were worse. And it was all delivered in a colliding procession of clichés and non-sequiturs, with faltering speech, and without conviction.”
(George Eaton for the New Statesman)
“In challenging the concept of universal benefits, Lamont has underestimated the strong body of popular support that exists for them. “What is progressive about a banker on more than 100,000 a year benefitting more than a customer on average incomes from the council tax freeze?”, she declared. But universal public services, to which all contribute and from which all benefit, are the essence of social democracy. Once this principle is abandoned, greater cuts will inevitably follow as the rich, no longer receiving, have less incentive to give.”
(Ian Bell, for the Herald)
“Tuition fees, granny’s bus pass, personal care in old age: As of this week, these are all, it seems, mere luxuries. Ms Lamont seemed to say that these things had not been earned. She wanted to say that they could not be defended. Historians can check the dates. For now, I’ll give you this: Scottish Labour died yesterday. A white flag was seen. Johann Lamont’s whitened face, her anguish and frustrated fury, told the story.”
(Jonathon Shafi for International Socialist Group)
“‘The idea that Scotland is a land where everything is free is a lie’, says Lamont. How dishonest, how deplorable, that a Labour party forged by the trade unions of yesteryear should use point-scoring with Alex Salmond to advance an agenda so robustly right-wing that it would make George Osborne proud.”
(Robin McAlpine for the Jimmy Reid Foundation)
“I cannot make this clear enough – Ms Lamont is utterly wrong. We’ve had this debate; we’ve had it endlessly. Universalism won, selectivity lost. In Scotland (outside the commentariat) there is no desire to roll back the universal welfare state. The population has had plenty of opportunity to do so – at no point has it not been a democratic option in Scotland. But it didn’t choose it. The right wing has never really accepted the difference between having a debate and winning a debate.”