LOTHIAN Labour MSP Neil Findlay was today looking like the most serious challenger to former Westminster Cabinet minister Jim Murphy for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party.
When nominations for the post closed last night, the party’s Holyrood health spokesman, who is firmly on the left of the party, emerged with the backing of 12 parliamentarians, but also substantial support from the trade unions.
Fellow Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack had secured nominations from ten MPs and MSPs.
Mr Murphy, a former Scottish Secretary, was well ahead in parliamentary nominations with 43 MPs, MSPs and MEPs lining up behind him. But he is expected to struggle to win union support.
The National Union of Mineworkers and the building workers’ union UCATT said yesterday they were backing Mr Findlay, adding to the support he has already won from Aslef, Unison and the transport union TSSA.
Meanwhile, another Lothian MSP, Kezia Dugdale, is the frontrunner for the deputy leadership. She emerged with 51 MPs, MSPs and MEPs backing her.
Her only rival, left-wing Ayrshire MP Katy Clark, had received nominations from 11 parliamentarians.
The leadership and the deputy post will be decided by an electoral college system which gives parliamentarians one third of the votes, trade unions another third and ordinary members the final third.
Mr Findlay said the party needed a different approach in policy, strategy and leadership. He said: “We need policies that recognise the challenges people face and are radical enough to tackle them.
“We need to improve our organisation and structures to make sure those policies are communicated effectively.
“I can represent and drive through that fresh approach, providing a contrast with our past shortcomings and our opponents’ present failings.”
Ms Boyack called for a “vibrant, campaigning party”.
She said: “We need to reach out to people who share our values but who haven’t always voted for us. We need to build a vibrant, campaigning Scottish Labour Party across the country, a party that listens to people and brings them with us.
“Principles of social, environmental and economic justice need to underpin everything we do.”
Mr Murphy claimed the backing he had meant he could unite the party.
He said: “The broad range of support I have received so far from colleagues in the Scottish, UK and European Parliaments proves that I can be a unifying figure to bring the Scottish Labour Party together again.
“The fact I am backed by so many MSPs, MPs and MEPs, shows that the days of division in our party can and must be a thing of the past.”
The candidates will take part in a series of members’ hustings, with the ballot opening on November 17 and the result announced on December 13.
POLL POINTS TO NEW LOW FOR LABOUR
LABOUR is set to slump to its worst ever position at Holyrood in the next Scottish Parliament elections, according to a new poll.
The Ipsos MORI survey found SNP support at an all-time high of 57 per cent support in the constituency vote at the next Holyrood elections, with Labour on just 23 per cent.
And 50 per cent said they would also back the SNP in the regional vote, with Labour again on 23 per cent.
Projections suggest that would mean the SNP increasing its overall majority by upping its seats from 69 to 75 while Labour would fall from 37 to 31.
The Tories would be reduced from 15 MSPs to seven and the Lib Dems from five to four.
The findings come just days after Ipsos MORI found 52 per cent of Scots would vote for the SNP if there was a Westminster election tomorrow and only 23 per cent for Labour, suggesting the SNP could secure 54 seats, with Labour reduced from 40 to just four MPs in Scotland.
Mark Diffley, the director at Ipsos MORI Scotland, said: “The figures represent a high point for the SNP and a low point for Labour.”