Backing for Richard Leonard from grassroots Edinburgh Labour activists

Calls for MSPs to pledge support

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 7:30 am
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard says critics have underestimated him
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard says critics have underestimated him

GRASSROOTS Labour members in the Capital have given a boost to Scottish party leader Richard Leonard after a group of MSPs called for him to step down.

A meeting of Edinburgh Central Constituency Labour Party (CLP) voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion reaffirming support for Mr Leonard’s leadership and called on Labour MSPs in the Lothians to publicly back him too.

The motion argued a change of leader would not reverse the party’s “long-standing electoral decline” nor improve its chances in next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

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And it criticised the “shameful practice of senior members briefing anonymously against the party”.

Glasgow MSP James Kelly resigned as justice spokesman last week, saying it was in the party’s best interests for Me Leonard to go. He was backed by North East Scotland MSP Jenny Marra, Edinburgh Southern MSP Daniel Johnson and Central Scotland MSP Mark Griffin.

Four Scottish Labour peers, including Edinburgh-based Lord Foulkes, also called for Mr Leonard to quit. And Westminster front-bencher Rachel Reeves said he should “consider his position”.

But Mr Leonard hit back in a television interview on Sky at the weekend, saying his critics had underestimated him and pledging not to walk away from the mandate he had won from the membership when he was elected leader in 2017.

And former shadow chancellor John McDonnell attacked the critics for “spending their time on internal political manoeuvres” during the pandemic.

There has been speculation about a motion of no confidence in Mr Leonard at a meeting of the party’s Scottish executive committee on Saturday.

And yesterday Mr Kelly and Mr Johnson wrote to party bosses asking for rules to be clarified. They believe a quarter of the MSP group would be enough to trigger a leadership contest.

The motion agreed by Edinburgh Central pointed out the party had had nine leaders in the past 20 years and Labour’s share of the vote and its number of seats had fallen at every Scottish Parliament election since devolution.

Maddy Kirkman, Labour’s candidate in Edinburgh Central for next year’s Holyrood elections, said: “A leadership election is the last thing we need right now.

“Richard has been out there engaging with the people hardest hit by the current crisis, taking the issues into the chamber and holding the SNP to account on areas like housing, a national care service and jobs.

“Our priority needs to be the upcoming elections and getting organised for that.”

And there was support from elsewhere in the Capital too.

Paul Nolan, chair of Edinburgh Eastern CLP, said: “Our members are furious at the personally selfish and politically stupid student-club antics of the rebel MSPs.”

Mr Leonard said: “Scottish Labour Party members know only too well just what a dereliction of duty it would be for the party to turn in on itself at the very point when the country is facing an unprecedented crisis.”