THE CONTEST FOR THE LEADERSHIP of the Scottish Labour Party (SLP) has been waged in comradely terms far removed from the open hostilities Jeremy Corbyn and the left usually experience. Sharply traded discussions in CLPs, union branches and on social media have of course taken place, but these have been fraternal for the most part, political and depersonalised.
Tawdry journalism from the SNP-supporting press has sought to manufacture division and rancourion and rancour where there is none, and members on either side of the debate have mostly resisted such invitations to discord. Progress-supporting MP Ian Murray is a lonely voice using the nationalist press to cast doubt on the election process.
However, the collegiate mood should not imply a low stakes contest. The SLP’s partial recovery in June was compromised by a campaign which relegated the redistributive radicalism of our manifesto below a preoccupation with constitutionalism. If we are to build on what we did achieve, we must acknowledge the source of our impetus. Richard Leonard’s campaign – fizzing with policy ideas and proposals, all of them rooted in a systemic critique of poverty – offers us the opportunity to install a leader intent on aligning Scottish Labour with the UK party’s direction of travel.
Survation polling points to an upsurge of support if the SLP replicates the leftwards turn of the UK party. The SNP’s current strategy is to try to diffuse the threat. Mhairi Black MP’s intemperate attack on Corbyn at the SNP Conference is a measure of their anxieties.
We are cautiously confident. Anas Sarwar, for all his qualities, is associated with the Better Together politics of triangulation. His personal life reflects poorly on his socialist credentials. He owns shares in a company that did not pay the living wage nor recognise unions. He also sends his kids to private school. So he will be vulnerable on everything from education and workers’ rights to his (newly discovered) support for Corbyn.
Richard has secured six of nine CLP nominations in Glasgow - where Sarwar topped the party list system, in which MSPs are placed in order of preference for list seats in the Scottish Parliament - and every CLP in the Mid-Scotland and Lothian parliamentary regions. CLPs assumed to be bastions of the right, such as Cathcart in Glasgow, have voted for the politics of ‘real change’. The final CLP tally was 43 together with 14 nominations from affiliated trade unions and societies, with all the major unions, including GMB and Unite, in support. We are hopeful that by the end of November the SLP will resume its historic role in electing a socialist Labour leader.
Co-convenor Edinburgh CFS/Momentum, and Edinburgh North and Leith CLP executive