Richard Leonard with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn


Demands for “loyalty” from a besieged leader should be treated with suspicion. Loyalty to whom or what?

It is not an ethical dilemma which troubles the Tories. A leader perceived to be a loser is dispatched with minimum gratitude and maximum ruthlessness.

Labour worries about these things and Richard Leonard should not prolong its dilemma. I  suspect he is being done no favours by a cadre who insist he must stay, regardless of consequences.

In this respect, he may be little different from Jeremy Corbyn, on whose tide he was swept into a position he never expected to hold and in which he has proved decent but inadequate.

So where does “loyalty” now point?  That is a question for all of us who hold Labour membership cards but also for Mr Leonard himself. He can read the numbers.

Some who have called for him to go have given large chunks of their lives to advancing Labour’s cause and the generations whose prospects it has transformed. They too should expect loyalty to that legacy.

I spent a disproportionate part of my own past in draughty village halls, building support in the Highlands and Islands where, not long ago, Labour had constituency MPs and MSPs.

In last year’s European elections, under Corbyn-Leonard, Labour won four per cent of the vote and under ten in Scotland as a whole. Four per cent, Richard.  Is that what I am supposed to be loyal to?

There is not the slightest sign of improvement and loyalty now has to be prioritised. To an individual?  Or to the many who need a Labour Party, rather than the few who regard electability as an optional extra.


Government by edict only works for so long. Eventually, people start to question and become resistant to being told what to do.

I suspect many in Scotland are close to that tipping point.  There are so many anomalies, so little satisfactory explanation, so much suspicion of politicking that even edicts which are justified risk disrepute. That is dangerous.

Nicola Sturgeon informs us she has “probably answered more questions about Covid-19 than any other leader on the planet”.  It is unlikely to occur to her that this might signify a problem rather than the solution.

Like any politician who has not done a lot else, Ms Sturgeon is an expert only in ….  well, politics. Unarguably, however, she has commandeered more broadcasting time than any politician, of nation large or small.

Her admirers put this ubiquity down to “leadership”. Others are more sceptical. Certainly,it has not been a great success in terms of outcomes while there is a difference between questions batted away and satisfactory answers provided.

In other countries, routine updates usually come from apolitical medics unaccompanied by a politician’s lengthy monologue. If there are policy initiatives, they are announced under scrutiny rather than by decree.  That might usefully become the norm here too.

With a daily pulpit, there always has to be something to preach from it.  Much of what we have heard over the weeks was geared to headlines which is the difference between a political briefing and a public health one. The broadcasters must surely recognise that distinction.

Whatever happened to the “elimination strategy” or the false claim that English cases were “five times more prevalent than in Scotland” leading to the pernicious rubbish fuelled by Ms Sturgeon about closing the border? Such pronouncements carried – to put it mildly – political undertones under guise of public health briefings.

As elsewhere, we have an increase in the number of identified Covid-19 cases but I have no real idea of what that actually reflects.  Let me give you an example. The son of Spanish friends was tested this week in advance of returning to school. He was positive but asymptomatic and this led to other cases, so far benign, being identified.

Like Ms Sturgeon, I am a lay person.  But I guess that story illustrates that the number of identified cases is hugely influenced by the number of tests carried out. In Scotland, barely ten per cent of us have ever been tested so do we have any idea how many people are carrying, or have carried, the virus?

I would love to hear an authoritative answer to explain why there has been so little testing in Scotland and whether that demands remedying. But I want to hear it from an epidemiologist and not from Nicola Sturgeon whose vested interest is in confusing science, statistics and political defensiveness.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted this week about the “utterly irresponsible” Midlothian house party with 300 attending.  Nobody would disagree though the point has not been missed that other utterly irresponsible actions in Scotland’s Covid-19 saga remain uncensured and unapologised for.

Again, house parties are symptoms of government by edict which has not been thought through.  Young people will find a way to party. Banning music in pups and clubs pushes them into unregulated settings (where, as I heard one nightclub operator pointing out, they are more likely to consume drugs than alcohol).

Yet, where is the compelling evidence to support banning music and television sound?  I watched a commentary-free football match in a pub and if the decibel inspector had appeared, he would have shut the place down. In the absence of sound, people are more rather than less likely to shout.

Meanwhile, half Scotland’s beleaguered hospitality businesses report 30-40 per cent drops in custom since the unsound sound ban was introduced. From Greek tourism to Glasgow v Aberdeen lock-down rules, too much of Scotland’s government by edict is failing to justify the necessary public trust.

We need more scrutiny and less decree with reasonable questions answered by people who are independent of politicians and their other agendas.


  1. A fair enough commentary on where we are with Covid19.

    Nicola Sturgeon has stage managed the daily briefings very well. Especially since the statistics are a closely guarded secret where health authorities are banned from any disclosure whatsoever.

    So consider locally. Are the number of tests in West Dunbartonshire more or less than in Glasgow or in Aberdeen. Are the positives more or less. Are numbers going up or down. Who knows, its a secret, and whilst the cretins are better advised, or should I say entertained by the Daily Briefing, some of the cretins would like to be able to see the statistics.

    And what was the supposed levels in West Dunbartonshire that allegedly occasioned the need to stop grandparents visiting their grandchildren at home but could instead take a tax down to the local boozer – diner where they could eat, meet and drink with their grandchildren.

    And oh yes, shock horror, everyone loves a bogey man, even the Nazis had a bogey man, and we have one in the nature of the 300 young folk who had a rave in a big house in Midlothian. At least hordes of police heavily tooled up put the insurrection down with absolute ruthlessness. Public enemies real or imagined require to have their heads put on a spike and on public display. And the young, uncaring, reckless, young are now our enemy and no lesser than our First Minister says so.

    Anyway, on a more mundane note does it matter who leads the Labour party in Scotland. Widely forecast to achieve 14% in next years Hollyrood election, if you strip out the percentage of these Labour voters who now support independence, the Labour vote is actually around 8%.

    Changing Richard Leonard would be like shifting the last deck chair just before the Titanic broke in half and sunk below the waves.

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