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Three Scottish Labour MSPs call for Richard Leonard to resign

Image credit: Holyrood

Three Scottish Labour MSPs call for Richard Leonard to resign

Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly has quit as shadow justice secretary in protest, calling for Richard Leonard to resign as Labour leader ahead of the Holyrood election.

Kelly is the third Labour MSP to urge Leonard to step down, with Jenny Marra and Daniel Johnson also calling for his resignation. 

In his resignation later, which he posted on Twitter, Kelly said he had spoken to Leonard three weeks ago in the Labour leader’s office “about my concerns for the party’s prospects in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections”.

“I outlined my view that to reverse the party’s decline it was necessary for you to resign as leader. You responded by saying you wished to remain in post as you believed you could reverse our poor position in the polls,” the letter said.

Kelly said “the position of the party continues to decline not improve” pointing out recent polling that put support for Scottish Labour at 14 per cent, and that Leonard’s polling as leader was “particularly low”.

“Such poor ratings would produce a catastrophic result from which the party would struggle to recover,” he said.

“I have no confidence in your ability to shape the party’s message, strategy and organisation. I know that this is a view shared by other parliamentarians, party members and indeed many members of the public… it is clear that after nearly 3 years in charge you are not able to take the party forward.

“I firmly and sincerely believe that is in the best interests of the party that you stand down as leader.”

Marra told The Times: “If we do not change course now we risk catastrophe. Not just for the party but for all those who believe in and need a fairer, more equal Scotland.

“The reality is that you only have a short window in political leadership to make an impression on the public. After three years the party’s standing is getting worse rather than better. No one can say that Richard has not had opportunities to turn the situation around.”

Following Kelly and Marra’s statements, Johnson tweeted that the pair had “done the right thing”.

“It is time to recognise the situation we are in and for Richard to step down,” Johnson said.

“I have attempted to raise my concerns and make constructive suggestions. These have gone unheeded and there has been no change in approach or performance. Continuing like this will be disastrous for our party and is why I no longer have confidence in Richard Leonard’s leadership.”

Responding to the calls, Leonard said: “It is deeply disappointing that disgruntled MSPs who never supported my leadership would choose the day when the Scottish Government finally accepted a Labour policy demand of ten years – for a National Care Service – to try and wage an internal war.

“I am leading Scottish Labour into the 2021 elections on a platform of building a National Care Service, establishing a quality Jobs Guarantee Scheme and reviving Scotland's economy with a Green New Deal.

“If any party representative thinks an internal faction fight is more important than this agenda, they will have to answer to the party members and the voters whom we serve.”

Rhoda Grant and Neil Findlay have expressed their support for Leonard.

Grant said: “Richard Leonard was elected leader of Scottish Labour less than three years ago with the overwhelming backing of members and affiliated unions.

“The crisis facing our country requires bold thinking and it requires a united Scottish Labour Party, under the leadership of Richard Leonard, fighting for the real change we need.”

Findlay accused the MSPs of “plotting and front stabbing” and said their calls were about list selection placings.

“The same people who are demanding @LabourRichard resigns are the ones who told us that Better Together was a huge success story for Labour and that Jim Murphy was the salvation of the Party - they have been repeatedly wrong and are wrong again – it’s treachery with a snarl,” Findlay tweeted.

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