Scottish Labour: mobilise to push back

Submitted by AWL on 16 September, 2020 - 8:20 Author: Ann Field
Richard Leonard

The campaign by the right wing of the Scottish Labour Party to oust Richard Leonard as leader, which began on the day he was elected in late 2017, reached a climax on 12 September with the tabling of a “no confidence” motion for an Executive Committee meeting.

Signatories to the motion included Suzan King and James Adams, “representatives” of CLPs in Glasgow and Central Scotland. They had no mandate from members to have signed it and had made no attempt to obtain one.

Other signatories to the motion who had no mandate and had made no attempt to obtain one included Jacqueline Martin (USDAW), Monique McAdams (Scottish Labour Women’s Committee) and Baroness Meta Ramsay (who, inexplicably, sits on the EC as a member of the House of Lords – gifted the ermine for her services to MI6).

Another signatory to the motion with no mandate was Jane Prinsley. She sat on the EC as member of the now dissolved National Organisation of Labour Students. A non-existent organisation cannot provide a mandate.

When the non-existence of the body she supposedly represented was raised at the meeting, she was shown the door. She then posted a tweet accusing Richard Leonard supporters of “dirty tricks”. The right wing does not do irony.

If the no-mandate signatories to the motion had been disregarded, the motion would never have even made it onto the EC agenda.

In the course of the discussion Ian Murray – the sole Scottish Labour MP, who, we now know from the recently published book Left Out, pulled back from quitting Labour and joining the right-wing “Independent Group” only at the eleventh hour – spoke in favour of the motion.

So too did the Deputy Leader, the ultra-right-wing Jackie Baillie. “Union Jack” Baillie was sacked from the front bench in Holyrood in 2018 for briefing the press against Leonard. The only result of her sacking was that she had even more time to brief against him.

After two and a half hours of discussion the “no confidence” motion was withdrawn. But by then the damage had already been done (divided party, leader not backed by deputy leader and sole MP, etc., etc.). Not that the right wing cares anyway.

As a result of the right-wing stranglehold, Scottish Labour has been in steady decline for two decades. Gerry Hassan’s The Strange Death of Labour Scotland was published in 2012. And the party has died a lot more since then.

Taking Labour voters for granted, rigging selection contests, supporting the Iraq War, calling in the police in 2013 to investigate Unite members in Falkirk for recruiting people to the party, allying with the Tories in Better Together, installing Jim Murphy as leader, discriminating against low-paid local authority women workers – all bound together in a toxic culture of bullying, intimidation and contempt for democracy and accountability.

That has been the record of the right wing and the reason why Scottish Labour continues to languish in the polls. Voters do not believe that it has changed for the better. And the tabling of the “no confidence” motion is rightly seen as evidence that the party still smells too much of what drove voters away from it.

Which party are voters being called on to vote for in the 2021 Holyrood elections?

The one with Richard Leonard as leader and some left-of-centre policies? Or the party of Baillie, Murray and Anas Sarwar (who was lining himself up for leader if the “no confidence” motion had passed) which substitutes a Union Jack for an election manifesto?

In 2016 Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected Labour leader at national level. But the right wing did not accept the result and go away. They continued to brief against him and undermine him at every opportunity, as confirmed by the Labour Party report leaked earlier this year.

The Scottish Labour right wing will behave in exactly the same way, except to the extent that their behaviour will be even more toxic, even more dishonest and unscrupulous, and even more fatal to the task of rebuilding the labour movement in Scotland.

The left should not take last weekend’s defeat of the right wing as a signal for “unity for the good of the party”. It should be the start of cleansing the Augean Stables. Especially in the West of Scotland, where they are their most sordid.

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