Scottish Labour members and supporters have elected left wing candidate Richard Leonard as their party’s new leader.
The results of the Scottish Labour leadership election announced today, Saturday, show Leonard won against the right’s candidate Anas Sarwar.
The vote among Labour Party members was close, with Leonard on 51.8 percent and Sarwar on 48.2 percent. But among affiliated supporters—trade union members—Leonard took more than three quarters of the vote.
Leonard said that Labour would be a “movement for socialism”.
Leonard’s victory is a reflection of the growing strength for the left that has taken place across the rest of the Labour Party in Britain.
It shows clear support among Scottish Labour party members for the left wing, anti-austerity, anti-racist and anti-war polices of Jeremy Corbyn that revitalised Labour. And it is a rejection of years of right wing leadership.
Jim Monaghan, a Labour Party activist in Glasgow told Socialist Worker, “This is part of the new mood of members of the party.
“There’s been a lot of excitement around Labour’s For The Many manifesto from the general election. There’s new people joining and getting involved in other ways. Corbynism is finally coming to Scotland.”
Now Labour Party activists hope that Leonard’s election victory could help to rebuild support for Labour in Scotland.
Support for Labour collapsed in Scotland following the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. Labour sided with the Tories in defence of the British state when independence represented a break from politics as usual.
But Labour began a recovery at the general election earlier this year. It regained seats from the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Jim pointed to Corbyn’s manifesto as the reason for Labour’s success—but said Scottish Labour’s right wing leadership had help it back.
“Leonard’s victory will make a huge difference,” he said. “Labour came very close to taking a lot more seats from the SNP than it did.
“Our problem in the general election was while we were making gains with the manifesto the leadership campaigned on an anti-SNP, anti-second referendum message. People wanted to hear about the policies that we’ve got to change things”.
Jim added that he hopes Leonard’s leadership will be “a more democratic leadership—more about reflecting the members’ views.”
A Labour Party source told Socialist Worker that Leonard would offer “A campaigning leadership, a listening leadership.
“It’ll be a leadership that works outside of parliament—it won’t be focused just on being a parliamentarian. It’ll be about getting out and about, campaigning and challenging austerity”.
Leonard’s victory as a candidate associated with a break from the right wing Labour, certainly could help the party recover. But it won’t be enough.
Labour’s support has suffered in Scotland partly because of the austerity driven through by Scottish Labour councils. The party’s leadership should call on its councils to stop implementing cuts.
And Scottish Labour’s hostility to Scottish independence still alienates many potential supporters.
And activists can use the momentum of Leonard’s campaign to build resistance to austerity, racism and Trident nuclear weapons in the workplaces and on the streets.
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