In a withering attack published in this week's Tribune newspaper, Janey Buchan, Labour member of the European Parliament for Glasgow, said party centralism and elitism had been factors in April's election defeat.
But she added that anyone who had thought that would be changed with the replacement of Neil Kinnock by John Smith had been 'disabused' by the selection process for the Scottish party's leading official. 'The appointment . . . has been carried out in a way that has brought despair to many,' she said.
When Mr Smith appointed Murray Elder, the former Scottish party secretary, to head his Westminster office, no one had been surprised, Mrs Buchan said. But she added: 'The indifference towards members of the Scottish party executive in the way the job was advertised, the very short time allowed to get applications in, and the carefully-placed press leaks all contributed to some alarm.'
She said that it had been assumed that two women - Anne McGuire and Joanne Lamont, chairwoman and vice-chairwoman of the Scottish party executive, would be the contenders for the post vacated by Mr Elder. 'The two women have records of courage - McGuire in facing down the nationalist trend and making the Scottish membership face up to their real situation . . . and Lamont in taking on Militant.'
To the astonishment of Scottish activists, however, press reports then suggested that Jack McConnell, the leader of the Labour group on Stirling district council, had 'emerged' as the front-runner. Mr McConnell was duly appointed last Wednesday by a national executive panel.
Mrs Buchan warned: 'Let no one forget Hugh Dalton's analysis after the 1931 defeat, 'We remained loyal to the leaders when we ought to have been loyal to the principles'. There wasn't too much evidence of the latter when this coup was planned.'