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Party discontent

Labour veteran calls on Leonard to step down

Richard Leonard

Firebrand: Richard Leonard has promoted a hard left agenda (pic: Terry Murden)

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard’s ability to haul the party out of the political shadows is being questioned by insiders who believe it would be best if he stepped down.

Labour peer Lord Foulkes has cast doubt on Mr Leonard’s leadership, pointing to a poor showing in the polls.

He told the Daily Record that Mr Leonard had to put the interests of the Labour Party in Scotland ahead of his own interests.

He added that deputy Jackie Baillie could take over on an acting basis for the Holyrood election.

Mr Leonard was elected leader ahead of Anas Sarwar in 2017 but party insiders are concerned that his brand of Cornbynesque left wing policies have failed to win support among voters. Last year a Panelbase poll revealed that more than a third of Scottish Labour voters could not name him as the party’s Scottish leader.

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Lord Foulkes said Labour was being presented with an opportunity to “take advantage” of the SNP’s perceived weaknesses in health and education but was failing to make inroads.

The former Labour MP and MSP said: “He has to make that decision. He has to put the interests of the Labour Party in Scotland ahead of his own personal interests.

“He needs to make a judgement about whether he thinks he can take advantage of this opportunity. Time is running out.”

He went on: “The truth is Jackie [Baillie] is there, if necessary, to take over as acting leader, and she would do the job.

“He [Leonard] needs to think of what is best for the party in terms of the Holyrood elections. Tony Blair has sent a coded message to him and he needs to think carefully about it.”

The former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair recently spoke about the contrast between Sir Keir Starmer’s growing support south of the Border and Mr Leonard’s performance in Scotland. The party fall to fifth place at last year’s European election, and lost six seats at the General Election in December.

Mr Leonard is the ninth Labour leader since the beginning of the Scottish Parliament.

A party spokesman told the Daily Record: “Next year’s election is a chance to get people’s priorities back into Parliament and that’s what we are focused on.”

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