" Scottish political movers and shakers No 5 - Johann Lamont MSP
Monday, 29 April 2013 00:01 By Pryin Ize, Our Biographical Correspondent
Lamont exercises her authority over her MPs
At first (and subsequent) sight, Johann Lamont is an unlikely woman to be the leader of the whole Labour organisation structure stramash that is the northernmost part of Ed Miliband's Empire.
It is unfortunate that she is so often confused with John Lamont, a 19th century Scottish physicist who spent most of his working life in Germany and was ennobled by the King of Bavaria as Johann von Lamont for his services to science. von Lamont had craters on both the Moon and Mars named after him, and this is the origin of the Scots phrase "Lamont? Och, the puir wee craiter."
It is usually assumed that the modern Johann was named for her illustrious namesake, possibly due to confusion as to the gender of Johann the Elder, Johann the Younger - or possibly both.
An alternative origin for her name is that she was named after Sir John Lamont, who sided with the MacDougall's of Lorne against Robert the Bruce. When Bruce won, he exacted revenge against his enemies. Throughout their history, the Lamonts had a habit of being on the wrong side.
Go Left? Go Right?
The multiple identity crises that affected the young Johann were to be critical in developing her politics. Being a Gael in Glasgow was easy - but was she German as well?
As puberty approached, the question of gender identity became more critical. Was she male or female? Did the name determine gender, or was it the positioning of dangly bits on different portions of the anatomy?
The pre-pubescent Johann must have spent many anxious hours wondering where her dangly bits would develop, and that deep psychological trauma left deep scars, unhealed to this day.
Little wonder that gender politics were so important for the young woman (for those bits developed) who joined Labour at University.
She subsequently became a teacher, and spent 20 years in that role. Sadly, she failed to understand that contests with unwilling 15 year olds are not the most difficult tasks in life. "I've taught fifth-year Christmas leavers last thing on a Friday afternoon. Basically, if you can face that you can face anything", she once said. At that time, she hadn't tried to control Alex Salmond at noon on Thursdays - a task she has still failed to master.
As a Labour activist on the devolution wing of the party, Lamont argued for transferring powers from Westminster to Scotlandshire to prevent the separatist tendency siezing power and removing real control from Westminster. When the Scottish Parliament was reconvened, Lamont had been persuaded to stand as a candidate because of the 50/50 gender balance that was anticipated. Then Scottish Secretary, Donald Dewar, set about creating an equally gendered slate of compliant men and equally compliant women (No! Not in THAT way, you dirty minded beast! That was the Lib Dem practice.)
Ignored for Ministerial office by Labour's first two First Ministers, Lamont was eventually raised from the back benches by fellow teacher, Jack McConnell in the second half of his tenure, to Deputy Ministerial rank. As Labour's 'big hitters' lost their seats at Holyrood, or fled to Westminster, Labour in Scotlandshire went into panic mode. After the loss of Wendy Alexander, the Party was forced to select yet another leader, and Lamont (known as La-Mont to real leader Miliband) was reluctantly recognised as the best available. Observers doubted that the supposed control of MPs by a "numpty MSP" would have any effect, and this was demonstrated when they openly scoffed at the idea of further fiscal powers being taken from them and given to MSPs.
Many women would be destroyed by such an open scorning of them. However, she has hidden depths - the most important of which are her bunker under George Square and the tunnel network which permit the secret transmission of the speeches she is to give and the questions she is to ask. This allows her to retain links with her support mechanism, Archie Graham, Deputy Leader of Glesga Cooncil.
The importance of that relationship was exposed to an astonished country by a BBC Scotlandshire expose, that she and Archie were conducting a passionate affair - in defiance of all normal relationships.
"Being spanked by the Chairchoob was humiliating to her", said a handmaiden, "but when Airchie does it, it's all flowers and Gregg's pies."