The contest for the leadership of Scottish Labour is a straight fight between the left’s Richard Leonard and former Progress vice-Chair Anas Sarwar. Sarwar’s campaign has hit a number of obstacles, with controversy over his family firm’s low wages to staff and refusal to say whether it recognises unions, over substantial dividends he has taken from it, and over the expensive private school his sons attend, leading to allegations that he is one of ‘the few’.
These revelations and Leonard’s clear anti-austerity stance appear to be taking their toll.
Most Labour MPs and MSPs (members of the Scottish Parliament) came out early for Sarwar – but those are the same MSPs who also came out against Corbyn’s leadership in 2016 and the leadership vote is OMOV (one member one vote), so their declaration is unlikely to have much impact on the result. Certainly it is starting to appear that Labour members in Scotland are not paying attention.
Only ten days ago, the CLP Nominations Twitter account, normally considered a good source of analysis, gave Sarwar a slender lead among Labour members:
However, by Sunday the same account was reporting a big lead for Leonard in actual CLP (constituency Labour party) nominations:
Leonard also has big lead in union nominations – even the normally right-wing USDAW has endorsed him in response to the controversy over Sarwar’s family cash-and-carry firm and its treatment of its employees.
Sarwar has a modest lead in nominations by Scottish councillors, but this merely shows that Scotland needs the same ‘new broom’ among councillors in Scotland that it must use in England and Wales to bring that layer of the party into line with its membership and vision. As the vote is OMOV, councillors have no more say in the result than any other member.
The job is far from done. Scotland has fifty-nine constituencies, so only just over half have declared and there’s no guarantee that the ratio so far will be maintained among others.
Those who want to see Scottish Labour in line with the party’s direction under Jeremy Corbyn can’t rest on any laurels and must push to the finish line. But they have every reason for hope and positivity in the remainder of the campaign, especially with new members and supporters coming on board and eligible to vote, most of whom are expected to back Leonard.
If Leonard wins, there will be three immediate impacts: an increase in pressure on Carwyn Jones and other ‘centrists’ in Wales – and worry among other parties in Scotland and the UK-wide Tory party.
And an even greater level of hope and energy among the grassroots of the party everywhere.
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