25 Oct 2014

What’s happening to the Labour party?

Tony Blair trashes claims he said Ed Miliband will lose the general election, while Johann Lamont, leader of the Scottish Labour party, steps down after attacking colleagues in Westminster.

Former Labour leader Mr Blair on Saturday insisted Mr Miliband “can and will” win the next general election, despite reports that he predicted David Cameron would hold sway come May 2015.

His denial comes at a torrid time for the party as Ms Lamont, the leader of the Scottish Labour party, resigned with immediate effect on Friday night, saying her Westminster colleagues treat the party in Scotland as a “branch office”.

What's happening to the Labour party?

She attacked those who had tried to undermine her position as she struggled to reform the party in Scotland – an attempt which included moves to replace Scottish Labour general secretary Ian Price without her consultation, she claimed.

Their problems are not about personalities – they are much more deep-seated than that Former SNP leader Alex Salmond on the Scottish Labour party

Mr Blair reportedly backed the Conservatives to defeat Ed Miliband “because Labout has failed to make a good case for itself”, according to a source quoted by the Telegraph.

But Mr Blair refuted the claim, tweeting that Mr Miliband and Labour “can and will win the next election”.

Scottish division

Scottish Labour has fallen into division and recriminations in recent weeks, despite helping to secure a no vote in last month’s independence referendum.

Labour former first minister Lord McConnell said the party must rediscover its “sense of purpose”, while a new group of Labour activists has called for radical changes, including a change of name to the Independent Labour Party and becoming fully autonomous from Labour’s London leadership.

What's happening to the Labour party?

The Labour for Scotland group also supports Holyrood being given full control over income tax, as well as complete responsibility for welfare – a position which goes further than Labour’s existing plans for further devolution.

Speculation had surrounded Ms Lamont’s position during and after the referendum, with former prime minister Gordon Brown linked to the job, as well as fellow MP Jim Murphy – although he ruled himself out last weekend as he urged the part to unite around Ms Lamont.

Her current deputy Anas Sarwar is also seen as a potential candidate, and takes up the role until a new leader is formally chosen.

Ms Lamont joined the Labour Party as a teenager, spending 20 years as an English teacher before being elected to represent Pollok at Holyrood.

Labour turmoil

She took over as leader in Scotland in the aftermath of the 2011 election, when Labour suffered one of its worst defeats in Scotland.

What's happening to the Labour party?

She is the second Scottish party leader to resign following the referendum after First Minister Alex Salmond decided to step down.

Mr Salmond will be replaced as First Minister and SNP party leader by deputy Nicola Sturgeon at their party conference in Perth next month.

Mr Salmond said: “I always found Johann Lamont to be a spirited opponent in the Scottish Parliament, strongly dedicated to her party, and I wish her well for the future.

“The fact that Scottish Labour are now going to have their fifth leader since the SNP took office in 2007 indicates that their problems are not about personalities – they are much more deep-seated than that.”