Former GMB official Richard Leonard succeeds Kezia Dugdale in Scottish Labour leadership
AN ALLY OF UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been overwhelmingly elected as the new leader of Scottish Labour.
Richard Leonard was elected with 52 per cent of Scottish Labour party members in a leadership contest against the centrist candidate Anas Sarwar.
With the contest marred by personal attacks and claims of vote rigging and plotting by Labour MSPs, the turnout was just over 62 per cent, with only less than 22,000 Scottish Labour party members and registered and affiliated supporters taking part in the election to succeed Kezia Dugdale as party leader.
Leonard said: “With this new movement for real change, energised with this new generation helping to lead it.
“So that our purpose today is not just elected a leader. I aim to be the next Labour First Minister of Scotland." Richard Leonard
“But founded on our old and enduring idealism too. That is the unity we can rally around, not simply a call for unity but around a renewed unity of purpose.
“And our shared purpose is clear, to build again, to win again.
“Our purpose today is not just electing a leader. I aim to be the next Labour First Minister of Scotland."
“Richard's [Leonard] campaign offered a challenge to the rigged system that has benefited a wealthy elite and showed how he will lead Scottish Labour to transform society.” Jeremy Corbyn
The leadership contest was triggered by the shock resignation of Kezia Dugdale in August, with only Leonard and Sarwar becoming candidates in the contest when it began in September.
Leonard was seen as to the left of the party, whose policies would be similar to that of the UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn was the first to congratulate his ally, saying that under Leonard's leadership, “Labour will once again be a real force for change in Scotland”.
Corbyn said: "After being written off time and again, the General Election showed that our party is capturing the mood both in Scotland and across the rest of the UK.
“Our party will now unite around our new leader because we all share the same burning desire to elect a Scottish Labour government that works for the many, not the few.” Anas Sarwar
"There is much to do to continue our party's revival in Scotland and many who still need to be persuaded to put their trust in the Labour party.
“But Richard's campaign offered a challenge to the rigged system that has benefited a wealthy elite and showed how he will lead Scottish Labour to transform society.
“This can be a turning point in Scottish politics and our party will now come together, united to challenge Tory and SNP austerity that has held Scotland back.”
Corbyn added that he will be in Scotland next week to campaign with Leonard “as we build a movement that will help our party win in Holyrood and Westminster”.
“While Richard Leonard might talk a left-wing game, he’s an enthusiastic supporter of housing the UK’s nuclear arsenal just a few miles from Scotland’s biggest city – and he now needs to explain his position on Brexit and whether he supports the Tories’ plans to rip Scotland out of the single market.” Derek MacKay
Defeated leadership candidate Sarwar also congratulated his rival, saying: “He has my full and unwavering support, and I look forward to campaigning with him to return a Scottish Labour government.
“Our party will now unite around our new leader because we all share the same burning desire to elect a Scottish Labour government that works for the many, not the few.”
Sarwar is willing to continue to serve as the party's health spokesperson if Leonard asks him to continue.
The contest showed how divided Scottish Labour remains following the party slipping into third place in the Scottish Parliament behind the SNP and the Tories.
A war of words erupted between the two rival camps when Alex Rowley was secretly recorded discussing the leadership election saying he was in favour of Leonard while queuing up for a Momentum fringe event in Brighton, even though he was meant to be impartial in his role as deputy leader.
Also, both camps raised concerned about the process of signing up a new members eligible to vote in the contest, with accusations of unfair tactics on both sides.
On top of that, Sarwar faced questions during the contest over his family business – United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd – on whether the firm recognises trade unions or paid the living wage to its employees.
SNP Business convenor and Scottish Government finance secretary Derek MacKay said: “Despite Mr Leonard’s appeals for unity today, there is no doubt that this has been a deeply unedifying election to lead a deeply divided party.
“Far from engaging in a battle of ideas about how to improve the lives of ordinary people in Scotland, senior Labour figures have instead spent the last three months publicly tearing each other to bits, settling old scores and even suggesting that the campaign is being rigged.
“While Richard Leonard might talk a left-wing game, he’s an enthusiastic supporter of housing the UK’s nuclear arsenal just a few miles from Scotland’s biggest city – and he now needs to explain his position on Brexit and whether he supports the Tories’ plans to rip Scotland out of the single market. These things won’t sit comfortably with many Labour members, and will only add to the significant confusion that already surrounds Labour’s position on Trident.”
Photo courtesy of David Thomson
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