SCOTTISH LABOUR HEAVE TO PERSUADE LEONARD TO RESIGN

Jackie Baillie, James Kelly and Richard Leonard.

By Bill Heaney

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie has been dragged into the latest moves to persuade Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard to resign before the campaign gets underway for for the Scottish Parliament elections next May.

An anonymous statement backing Leonard was issued today stating: says: “Richard has tried since he became leader to find common ground with these people.

“He removed someone from his 2017 leadership campaign team for talking about the ‘latest Jackie Baillie pish’ but in spite of Richard’s optimism and good faith, the reality is that the Jackie Baillie pish has continued to flow ever since.

“She was elected deputy leader on a unity ticket only a few months ago, so she has a responsibility more than anyone to sort this out.

“Richard’s supporters in the MSP group have been telling him for ages that these people aren’t interested in working with him, but he has tried relentlessly to keep them in the tent.

“Now in the space of 36 hours, James Kelly and Jenny Marra have succeeded in persuading him that the MSP group needs a change of personnel.” 

Jackie Baillie is the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, but she appears reticent about throwing her hat in the ring for the top job at Holyrood.

Labour London has failed to keep its nose out of Scottish Labour’s business and shadow cabinet member Rachel Reeves has also called on Richard Leonard to “consider his position” after four Labour MSPs demanded his resignation ahead of 2021 Holyrood elections.

She told Sky News: “I think that Richard Leonard needs to think about his position. The opinion polls in Scotland are pretty dire for Labour. We’ve got important elections next year. But those are decisions for Scottish Labour.”

Asked whether that was code for ‘he should go’, Reeves replied: “It is a decision for Scottish Labour… I think he needs to consider his position and do what he thinks is right for Scotland and for Scottish Labour.”

She added: “It’s not a decision for me to make. It wouldn’t be right for me as an English MP to instruct what happens in the Scottish Labour Party. But he needs to look at the opinion polls, consider his position and do what he thinks is right for Scotland and for Scottish Labour.”

The comments from the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and shadow Cabinet Office minister come after Keir Starmer’s spokesperson would not be drawn on the resignation calls by Labour MSPs.

Asked about the dissent in Scottish Labour on Wednesday, the UK Labour leader’s spokesperson replied: “This is a matter for Scottish Labour. But Keir and Richard have a very good working relationship.

“They’re both focused on next year’s Scottish elections, where we are determined to take on the SNP and challenge them on their domestic record.”

Asked about Labour’s poor polling in Scotland, the spokesperson added: “Keir has set out his determination to rebuild people’s trust in Labour across all corners of the United Kingdom. Matters of leadership are for Scottish Labour.”

Responding to the Tuesday resignation of James Kelly, who was justice spokesperson, Leonard said: “It is deeply disappointing that disgruntled MSPs who never supported my leadership would choose the day when the Scottish government finally accepted a Labour policy demand of ten years – for a National Care Service – to try and wage an internal war.”

Talking to the BBC yesterday, he added: “I’m concerned that this is a signal that there is too much inward-looking inside the group at Holyrood and not enough outward-facing, and I think that that calls into question some of these people are the best people to stand for the Labour Party next year.”

In an interview with Good Morning Scotland, Leonard pointed out after the Sky News interview with Reeves this morning that she was not a member of Scottish Labour.

A well-placed Scottish Labour source this morning told LabourList: “Richard is in good spirits. The plotters don’t have a plan and are now floundering.“They timed their intervention to divert attention from the SNP conceding a National care Service – but this has massively backfired. Members are furious that once again these chancers are more concerned about their places on the regional lists than they are about pushing our policies.”

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