For weeks now, I've been meaning to write a post containing a Top of the Pops list (or Top of the Scot Goes Pops list) of the stupidest things that unionist commentators said in the immediate aftermath of the referendum. Hopefully I'll still get around to doing it, because there's a hell of a selection, but in the meantime let's remember just one particular gem - I think it was possibly a Daily Mail editorial that said about Alex Salmond's resignation, "with one deft flick of the electorate's knife, the fish-faced king was no more". I may not have remembered the last bit correctly, but it was some such gibberish. The gist was that, far from the reality of Mr Salmond being this country's most popular and trusted political leader, we instead live in a parallel universe where the voters loathe him as much as the Daily Mail does, and where they "defeated" him in order to "expel" him from office. (And of course he didn't resign of his own free will, or anything like that.) So presumably on Planet Mail, whenever a party leader resigns immediately after a referendum, we can take it as read that the party in question suffered a humiliating defeat in that referendum. Therefore, the fact that Johann Lamont has just resigned as Scottish Labour "leader" means that the No-supporting Labour party must have lost the independence referendum. Hmmm. It's confusing, isn't it?
I'll be honest - my first reaction upon hearing the news was one of bitter disappointment. Ms Lamont has been an absolutely dreadful leader - it's a moot point whether she's been even worse than her predecessor Iain "the Snarl" Gray, but at the very least she's been just as bad. If only she had stayed in harness for eighteen more months, it would have been a racing certainty that Labour would have suffered a third successive defeat in a Holyrood election. Now of course, there are any number of dire Scottish Labour parliamentarians in both Edinburgh and London who might be fancying their chances tonight, and who would just as reliably assist the SNP in securing the hat-trick. But it seems to me that Labour have nothing really to lose from a vacancy now - at worst, things will stay as they are, but there's just a chance they might find someone half-decent to take over, in which case Nicola Sturgeon might be given a run for her money in 2016.
So I was feeling pretty downhearted, until I realised that Lamont's departure was by no means an amicable parting of the ways, and that she had tossed a grenade into the constitutional debate with her stated reasons for resigning. Hopefully that means there's at least a chance that something positive will come out of this. Surely the new Labour for Scotland group will now have to rise to the challenge of putting up a candidate to argue the case for a much more radical devolution package, and also for their London colleagues to take a "hands off" approach on matters that are properly the province of the Scottish party. Even if that candidate doesn't win, they might be able to set the tone of the leadership campaign, and secure concessions from the eventual winner. If as a result Labour finally becomes the party of devolution that they've always claimed to be, they might be much more formidable opponents for the SNP, but that would be a price well worth paying for this country's sake.
If I could set aside all strategic considerations, I should probably take nothing but satisfaction from Lamont's demise, because she (or at least her public persona) is the absolute epitome of everything I loathe about the Labour party. I'm not just saying that because she happens to be the outgoing leader - I remember thinking it when I first saw her on television way back in the 1990s. It's like she sees Scotland as a dreamy, spoilt teenager, who needs to be given an endless series of bitter lectures about the stupidity of expecting too much from life. The notorious "shut up and eat your cereal" ad from the No campaign could almost have been Lamont : The Movie. If it's really true that she's been pushing the pro-devolution case behind the scenes, that does make me think better of her, but what I don't understand is why she had to wait until she resigned to speak out publicly. Why not use her mandate to say "I'm the elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party, and it's time to stop encroaching on my territory"? The whole point of having your own mandate is that you can't be sacked by Ed Miliband for talking out of turn. Well, that's the theory - hopefully her successor might have the bravery to turn that theory into something more concrete.
Final thought - if Labour can't rediscover their roots, could they at least give us a three-cornered leadership contest between Terry Kelly, James Kelly (my esteemed MSP namesake) and Alex "Braveheart" Gallagher to cheer us all up?