It’s an open secret that relations between Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and her deputy, Anas Sarwar, have taken a dip recently.
The Sunday Herald revealed that MP Sarwar had been sidelined from his party’s referendum campaign; instead, he was put in charge of the Labour battlebus.
The wider issue is who will lead Labour into the 2016 Holyrood election, regardless of the referendum result.
MPs and MSPs are gossiping about whether Lamont, who was never uber-keen on becoming leader in the first place – will be in post long-term.
Speaking to the Sunday Post at the weekend, Sarwar was asked whether Lamont would be in charge for the next Scottish Parliament poll.
His quoted reply: “Johann Lamont is leader of the Scottish Labour Party.”
Let’s assume Labour is thinking about a post-Johann world. Which individuals are being tipped internally as potential leadership material?
1. Anas Sarwar. Lamont’s ambitious deputy is believed to see his future at Holyrood, not Westminster. He’s deemed to be a talented networker – watch him schmooze those Labour activists on the battlebus tour - but his detractors say he has lacks substance. His son’s attendance at a private school is another ‘issue’.
Sarwar may also find that the logistics of getting to Holyrood are problematic. Although Scottish Labour delayed its List rankings until 2015 – a decision some party insiders said was to aid MPs – Sarwar would have to take his place behind existing List members whose rankings are protected.
His best hope would be if an occupant of one of Labour’s first-past-the-post seats generously made way.
2. Jim Murphy. Demoted in Ed Miliband’s last reshuffle, the Blairite East Renfrewshire MP may now see more of a future in Scottish politics. As with Anas’ bus tour, Murphy’s ‘100 towns in 100 days’ jaunt is an ideal way to acquaint himself with Scottish Labour members.
However, he is not close to Lamont and her team, whose troops believe Murphy is vain and out solely for numero uno. Don’t expect Lamont to make any decisions that would help Scottish Labour’s leading moderniser.
In common with Sarwar, Murphy’s path to Holyrood looks complicated. He too would have to depend on a lucky retiral.
3. Kez Dugdale. One of the brightest of the 2011 intake. The Lothians MSP is good on TV, presentable and not as rabid as some of her colleagues when dealing with the SNP. For instance, she was in favour of the Labour-SNP coalition in Edinburgh council.
However, the Blairite tag may be unhelpful. She is involved with Movement for Change, which David Miliband founded.
4. Drew Smith. Labour’s two biggest trade union affiliates - Unite and Unison – are fans of the Glasgow MSP, which is enough to make him a contender.
Bear in mind that Ed Miliband’s one-member-one-vote reforms for the UK party do not apply for the Scottish post. Up here, Tony Benn’s bizarre electoral college, which gives 1/3 of the votes to the affiliates, still holds. The status quo favours the candidate with strong trade union support. However, senior insiders believe Smith is too much of a student Lefty to be taken seriously.