Battle lines for Scottish Labour leadership starting to emerge

Anas Sarwar secured the early backing of a number of Parliamentarians after announcing his candidacy. Picture: John Devlin
Anas Sarwar secured the early backing of a number of Parliamentarians after announcing his candidacy. Picture: John Devlin
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The dividing lines in the Labour leadership battle began to emerge yesterday as Anas Sarwar secured the early backing of a number of Parliamentarians after announcing his candidacy.

But left-winger Richard Leonard appears to have already secured the vital “Corbynista” ground and criticised Kezia Dugdale for failing to make the most of the UK leader’s “bounce” effect at the recent UK election north of the border.

Mr Leonard has also secured the backing of Neil Findlay, Mr Corbyn’s key ally in Scotland, and the influential labour Campaign for Socialism in his bid for party leadership.

Mr Sarwar, the former deputy leader, announced his candidacy yesterday and insists he can be Scotland’s next First Minister.

He said: “Labour is revitalised in Scotland and I am ready to unite our party and lead us back to power.

“The people of Scotland do not need a Labour Party that is fighting itself. They need a united Labour Party in Holyrood that is fighting the SNP and ready to form Scotland’s next government. And they need a united Labour Party across the UK working together to elect Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.”

Mr Sarwar, the son of the UK’s first Muslim MP, Mohammed Sarwar, may struggle to win over left-wing activists who could hold the balance in the one member-one vote leadership ballot. He called on Mr Corbyn to quit in last year’s UK leadership election, while Mr Leonard backed the left-winger.

The Glasgow MSP is picking up the endorsements of his colleagues, with MSPs Pauline McNeill, Neil Bibby, Daniel Johnson and Jackie Baillie all backing him, along with MPs Martin Whitfield and Paul Kelly.

Mr Leonard will have the grassroots clout of the Labour Campaign for Socialism behind him, along with Mr Findlay and fellow left-winger Elaine Smith. The former GMB official will also have the backing of the trades unions in the forthcoming campaign.

Mr Leonard claimed yesterday it would have done better if Ms Dugdale’s campaign had been more closely aligned to Mr Corbyn.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland: “There was an opportunity, I think in all honesty, the Scottish Labour Party missed.

“I think there was a Corbyn bounce, I don’t think it was picked up soon enough and acted on quickly enough in Scotland.”

Mr Leonard said he did not want to “get involved in any kind of personality politics” as he addressed weekend reports suggesting that being English could hinder his electoral chances in Scotland, as well his private school background.

He said: “I can’t change the fact that in 1962 I was born in Yorkshire but actually I’ve lived the vast majority of my life in Scotland.So I’ve made a positive choice to live in Scotland. Neither can I change the fact that in 1973 at the age of 11 my parents put me forward for a local authority scholarship which gave me free education at a fee-paying school. I can’t change that.”