Labour leadership contest officially launched

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by a Newsnet reporter 

Labour’s Scottish leadership contest has officially started with confirmation from the party that there are three candidates for the post of leader, and three for the post of deputy-leader.  Nominations for the contest closed at noon on Friday.  There will be a six week campaign period, with the result of the election due to be announced on December 17th.

by a Newsnet reporter 

Labour’s Scottish leadership contest has officially started with confirmation from the party that there are three candidates for the post of leader, and three for the post of deputy-leader.  Nominations for the contest closed at noon on Friday.  There will be a six week campaign period, with the result of the election due to be announced on December 17th.

The three candidates for the leadership post are Johann Lamont MSP, previously deputy to Iain Gray, Ken MacIntosh MSP, and Tom Harris MP.  The three deputy leadership candidates are MP Ian Davidson, and MSPs Anas Sarwar and Lewis Macdonald.  A fourth potential candidate for the deputy leadership, Elaine Murray MSP, withdrew from the race after failing to gain the requisite number of nominations from party colleagues.  

Tom Harris, MP for Glasgow South, is the only leadership candidate who is not a member of the Scottish Parliament.  Mr Harris has struggled to gain the necessary nominations from MSPs amongst reports that many Holyrood members regard his candidacy as a “hostile intervention”.  At his campaign launch Mr Harris noted that while MSPs found it “tolerable” for an MP to stand for the leadership, they “have decided, collectively, that it would be unacceptable for an MP actually to win.”

He added: “Given how serious our electoral position, it is discouraging that anyone could think it sensible to begin a search for a new leader by excluding more than half of parliamentarians eligible to vote in this contest.

“I am a Scottish politician.  I represent a Glasgow constituency.  I’m as Scottish as any other Scottish politician in my party as others.”

Mr Harris reiterated his support for the Calman Commission but said that he wanted to remove the constitutional issue from the “front and centre” of Scottish political debate, saying: ”I want a standing commission, chaired by whoever, maybe Dr Calman himself, I don’t know, to keep devolution in all parts of the UK under constant review, to look at the evidence for any case for either re-reserving or newly devolving any powers.

“Allow them to get on with the job, and here’s the radical bit: I want Scottish politicians to actually use devolution and use the powers of the Scottish Parliament.”

The second candidate for leader, Ken Macintosh, has been criticised for his low profile.  According to one critic within the Labour party, although Mr Macintosh has been a Labour MSP since the inception of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, he has “never put a feather on the front bench”.  Mr Macintosh’s campaign also suffered a blow during the Labour party conference in Manchester recently, when party leader Ed Miliband was unable to remember his name.

Although Johann Lamont has yet to formally launch her campaign, she received a boost yesterday with the announcement from the powerful GMB union that they would be backing her candidacy for leader and Ian Davidson for deputy.  Ms Lamont is believed to be favourite to win the post.

Harry Donaldson, secretary general for the GMB union in Scotland, said:  

“These are the two candidates best equipped to win back the support of working people in Scotland to Labour because they will move Scottish Labour closer to working people.  Both have a good track record of campaigning with GMB in the past.  GMB want to build on that for the future.  We hope that GMB Scotland members back our lead but we are a democratic organisation and it will ultimately be up to our members to decide.”

The announcement of the official candidates and the launch of the contest was made by Colin Smyth, general secretary of Labour in Scotland.  Mr Smyth said:  

“The six validly nominated candidates will now go forward and seek supporting nominations from local parties, affiliated organisations, Scottish Young Labour and councillors.

“The official hustings period will start later this month when thousands of party members will get the chance to quiz the candidates on their ideas, policies and approach, right across the country.

“Ballot papers will then be issued to all Scottish Labour members and hundreds of thousands of party supporters who pay a political levy through their affiliated organisation or trade union.”