Pro-Corbyn former union official announces bid to be new Scottish Labour leader

Posted On: 
3rd September 2017

A pro-Jeremy Corbyn former trade union official has entered the race to succeed Kezia Dugdale as the new leader of the Scottish Labour party.

Anas Sarwar (second left) and Richard Leonard (centre) are expected to go head-to-head for the Scottish Labour leadership
Credit: 
PA Images

Richard Leonard said the party needed to be more "audacious" in order to defeat the SNP and return to power at Holyrood.

Ms Dugdale stunned politics last week when she announced she was quitting as Scottish Labour leader after two years in the job.

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She said the party needed “a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate” to take it into the next Holyrood elections in 2021.

Former GMB official Mr Leonard - who only became an MSP in 2015 - is the clear favourite to win the backing of party members and take on the job.

Announcing his candidacy in the Sunday Mail, he said: "I have always believed it is important to act according to Labour principles rather than simply manoeuvre and position to win support.

"This means taking more chances. Labour are in third place and unless we are audacious now, we will never win back the support of the people of Scotland. And that must be our aim.

"The Labour vote is picking up but that is not enough. We need to win power – not for its own sake but for a purpose."

He said the party needed "a distinctive Scottish Labour vision again delivered with energy but also with conviction and credibility".

And he added: "I have unflinchingly opposed nationalism and will continue to do so. Labour’s strength is that we organise and represent people across the whole of these islands, as part of a worldwide movement."

Mr Leonard is expected to be challenged from the right of the party by Anas Sarwar, a former MP who also entered Holyrood two years ago.

Writing in the same newspaper, he said: "The next Scottish Labour leader must unite our movement, continue to build confidence among voters and ensure the party are back where we should be – united, radical and in power."

The battle to be Scottish Labour leader is significant for the UK party as the winner will claim a seat on its ruling national executive council.

The key decision-making body is currently finely-balanced between moderates and the party's left-wing, but a victory for Mr Leonard will tip it in Mr Corbyn's favour.

Significantly, leading supporters of Mr Corbyn were among the first to welcome Mr Leonard's candidacy.