Tom Harris launches broadside against backward Scottish Labour

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By G.A.Ponsonby

Labour MP Tom Harris has launched a stinging attack against the Scottish branch of the party just days before a replacement for outgoing leader Iain Gray is announced.

Mr Harris, who dropped out of the contest to replace Mr Gray after not one MSP gave him support, implied that Scottish party members were ‘backward’ and suggested that they were incapable of the kind of radical change that the party needs.

The outspoken Labour MP implied that the party in Scotland were incapable of making the changes required after May’s disastrous defeat to the SNP.

He said: “The kind of change the party needs is not the easy or comfortable kind.  If our new leader implements change with which members are comfortable, then it’s either not enough of a change, or it’s the wrong kind of change.”

Mr Harris also appeared to take a swipe at contest front runner Johann Lamont whose favourite tag is down to trade union support.

Calling for trade union involvement in Labour Party leadership contests to be scrapped he said: “We need to prevent members of affiliated trade unions – many of whom vote for our political opponents – having a say in the election of our leader.”

Harris is known to favour more ‘Blairite’ type policies and his attack on trade unions will be seen by some as a coded message to his supporters to back Lamont’s only rival, Ken Macintosh.

Last week it emerged that Harris’ ex-wife Marie Rooney was behind an email campaign urging party members to vote for Johann Lamont.

In the email Ms Rooney wrote: “My name is Marie, I am a nurse and I joined the Labour party 30 years ago.

“The first step on that slow road back to power is deciding on a new leader and I am backing Johann Lamont as the right woman for the job.”

Mr Harris’ comments are sure to cause embarrassment to whoever the eventual winner turns out to be and will be seen by some as signs of a split within the Labour party.

[Following claims by Mr Tom Harris that he has never used the word “backward” to describe Scottish Labour, Newsnet Scotland has amended the headline of this article by removing the original double quotes.  We have also amended the second sentence of the article.  The word ‘backward’ is used in order to paraphrase Mr Harris’s comments which were contained in an email sent to Labour party members.

Newsnet Scotland is not the only outlet to interprate Mr Harris’s comments as suggesting the party were ‘backward’ as can be seen from this article from Worker’s Liberty: http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2011/12/14/blairite-drops-out-scottish-leadership-fight]