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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

To Lose One Leader…

by our Scottish political correspondent

OSCAR Wilde’s quip to the effect that “To lose one parent, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness” applies in spades to the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party.

On Thursday yet another Leader was gone when Richard Leonard announced his immediate resignation. He was the ninth since the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and the fourth since the 2014 independence referendum, and that excludes the Acting Leaders who took over whenever the departure was caused by death (Donald Dewar), trivial financial scandal (Harry McLeish and Wendy Alexander), boredom with the job (Kezia Dugdale), actual electoral defeat (Jack McConnell, Iain Gray and Jim Murphy), and finally fear of future electoral defeat by colleagues (Johann Lamont). Leonard’s departure comes into the final category.

Elected in late 2017, the departure of Jeremy Corbyn meant that Leonard’s position became increasingly insecure. In September he suffered resignations from his front bench team, and four months ago a ‘no confidence’ motion was tabled but withdrawn at the last minute. The elected Deputy Leader, and now Acting Leader, is no fan of his. In his resignation statement he said that he “considered what the speculation about my leadership does to our ability to get Labour’s message across. This has become a distraction” – but he has had that ever since he was elected. was elected.

Although Sir Keir Starmer went through the motions of paying him the standard compliments that are to be expected, it seems clear that he himself was actually the straw that broke the back by demanding Leonard’s resignation. Lothian MSP Neil Findlay condemned the fact that there had been a threeyear campaign to force Leonard out, adding that: “Donors made it clear that they wouldn’t be donating to the Labour Party if Richard Leonard remained the leader in Scotland and they wanted him replaced. These flinching cowards make me sick.” Backstabbing is part and parcel of the Labour Party tradition however, and in any case even sympathetic unions were not impressed by Leonard’s failure to generate a rise in the opinion polls. Indeed, a recent poll showed that about 60 per cent could not give an opinion about him because they did not know who he was. Eleven per cent had a positive view of him.

Even if nothing else works in Labour its machinery for electing leaders seems to work well, even if the contests do not bring about the desired recovery at the polls. Perhaps they could give the job to each MSP in rotation for a few months to save trouble of elections.

Tony Blair’s comment that “The only effective opposition that has come to the SNP in the last decade was actually when Ruth Davidson was the Conservative Party leader in Scotland” is not to be dismissed entirely, but Labour’s decline took place during the reign of rightwing leaders.

There are two candidates for the job. From the right we have multi- millionaire Anas Sarwar, the Constitution spokesman (and a former Deputy Leader) who inherited his Glasgow seat from his father who was later denied a peerage because of his tax affairs, but that did not stop him becoming Governor of the Punjab. His family business is the wholesaler that supplies Glasgow’s Asian shopkeepers who can be relied on to vote for him. Or else. One wonders why the shopworkers’ union USDAW was so quick off the mark to endorse him. In the previous contest he lost the membership vote to Richard Leonard by 9,516 to 12,469.

In the coming election campaign we will no doubt be hearing once more about the fact that he sends his children to a private school, of the wages in his family business, and of the occasion when he sent an email reading “we should redistribute wealth from the many to the few”.

The left(ish) candidate is Monica Lennon, the Health and Sport spokesperson who is fresh from her glorious triumph in securing the obligation for councils to supply free menstrual hygiene products, although she has ailurophobia, an irrational fear of cats.

Sarwar has said the SNP needs to focus on rebuilding after the pandemic and shut up about another independence referendum. Whilst Lennon is also opposed to one the near future, she is not opposed to one later, whatever that means. Labour has to take a firm stand one way or another on the question, and that will naturally alienate one set or other of its supporters.

The announcement of the new leader on 27th February will be awaited with bated breath by few.