THE Western Isles Labour Party has unanimously endorsed Glasgow Pollok MSP Johann Lamont as local choice for the new Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
And, meeting at the Bridge Centre in Stornoway on Tuesday evening (November 15), local members also fell behind Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar as their choice for her Deputy.
The Bridge Centre – an award-winning modern complex of social housing and youth facilities – was especially appropriate as Johann Lamont, when Deputy Minister for Communities in Jack McConnell’s administration from 2004 to 2006, had personally secured the funding for the building. That party activists in a region often and unfairly attacked for its supposed social conservatism have opted, respectively, for a woman as Scottish Labour boss and a Muslim Scots-Asian as her second-in-command will startle many. But local Labour activists take quiet satisfaction in simply picking the best folk for the jobs.
“The Constituency Labour Party on the islands fully support Johann Lamont and Anas Sarwar,” said local Labour chairman Matt Bruce. “We came to our choice during a members meeting last night and fully discussed the different candidates’ abilities. There will be a ballot to allow all party members their final choice and then the new leaders for the Labour Scottish Parliament team will be able to offer an alternative to the current Scottish administration.
“A voice for the islands needs to clearly point out the problems we are suffering and to offer a better future by working together in Britain.”
Donald Crichton, who took on local SNP MSP Alasdair Allan at the recent Scottish Parliament poll, commented: “Johann Lamont is highly experienced and was a solid Minister. She’ll take the fight to Salmond and be a good friend for the Western Isles. “And Anas will bring proven campaigning skills to the leadership, and reach the areas we need to win again.” With a brother in Garrabost, on Lewis, and Tiree connections besides, Johann Lamont is a well-known and highly respected figure in the Hebrides. In a result that, at the time, startled many, 22-year old Glasgow University undergraduate Malcolm K MacMillan – a young Lewisman - won the Western Isles seat for Labour in 1935 and represented the islands until 1970. Labour regained the seat in 1987 and the islands returned a Labour representative until May 2007.