Scottish Labour MSPs round on Richard Leonard as they call for leader to quit

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard (left) with Jeremy Corbyn, following a speech during the Labour Party Conference. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard (left) with Jeremy Corbyn, following a speech during the Labour Party Conference. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Scottish Labour MSPs are calling for Richard Leonard to quit with senior politicians publicly calling for him to go.

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James Kelly has quit as the party’s justice spokesman at Holyrood with his resignation letter claiming it is in Labour’s “best interests” for Leonard to stand down.

The Glagsow MSP said he is now saying publicly what he had already told the leader privately – that if Labour is to reverse its fortunes in Scotland, “Richard must stand down”.


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He said that recent polling put Labour at an “unacceptably low” level of 14%, adding that the leader had “negative ratings even among our own supporters”.

He warned: “Such poll ratings would produce a catastrophic result from which our party would struggle to recover.”

Kelly said he had seen “no evidence” of a plan to reverse the party’s fortunes, telling the leader: “The situation has been apparent for some time and you have failed to turn things round.”

He continued: “I have no confidence in your ability to shape the party’s message, strategy and organisation.

“I know that this is a view shared by other parliamentarians, party members and indeed many members of the public.”

Meanwhile, North East Scotland MSP Jenny Marra told the Times newspaper that if the party does “not change course now, we risk catastrophe”.

She said: “Richard is a stalwart of our party but he cannot lead us. That’s the unavoidable truth and change is our best hope.”

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The North East Scotland MSP added: “The reality is that you only have a short window in political leadership to make an impression on the public. After three years the party’s standing is getting worse rather than better.”

With the current leader regarded as a left-winger, Marra said his leadership had been “tied from the start to the disaster of Jeremy Corbyn’s project”.

She added: “We need new energy, a new approach and to turn a new page.”

Their calls were backed by fellow MSP Daniel Johnson, who said: “It is not easy speaking out but my colleagues Jenny Marra and James Kelly have done the right thing.

“It is time to recognise the situation we are in and for Richard to step down.”

Leonard made clear he was not quitting, as he hit out at “disgruntled MSPs” who he accused of trying to “wage an internal war”.

He insisted: “I am leading Scottish Labour into the 2021 elections on a platform of building a National Care Service, establishing a quality Jobs Guarantee Scheme and reviving Scotland’s economy with a Green New Deal.

“If any party representative thinks an internal faction fight is more important than this agenda, they will have to answer to the party members and the voters whom we serve.”

Labour is currently third in the opinion polls in Scotland, behind both the SNP and the Tories.

In the European elections in May 2019 the party slumped to fifth north of the border, polling less than 10% of the vote.

Leonard was elected as Scottish Labour leader in 2017, after his predecessor, Kezia Dugdale, stepped down.

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