Leader of Scottish Labour Party, and Corbyn ally, forced out by Blairites

Former Scottish Labour Party leader, Richard Leonard (Photo: Kevin Walsh/Wikimedia Commons)

The resignation of the nominally left Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard will, in all likelihood, result in the Blairites winning back the leadership of the party in Scotland.

Anas Sarwar, the right-wing MSP and millionaire who Leonard defeated in 2017, is likely to announce he is to stand.

Sarwar transferred his £4.8 million stake in the family cash and carry business to his children during the 2017 leadership contest. The Sarwar family firm did not pay the living wage or recognise trade unions. He also supported the coup against Jeremy Corbyn in 2016 when he was challenged by Owen Smith.

The announcement of Leonard’s resignation came the day after a meeting between multi-millionaire businessman and former Labour donor Lord Haughey, as well as Robert Latham, the lawyer who gave £100,000 to Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign. Haughey, it was reported, had demanded Leonard be removed before he would donate to Labour again.

Significantly, at that meeting leading Scottish Blairites Jackie Baillie MSP and Ian Murray MP were also present. Starmer was told about the meeting and then asked Leonard to stand down.

Richard Leonard claimed he had been considering resigning over Xmas anyway. Which is probably the case.

Either way, these events underline, yet again, alongside the defeat of Corbynism in the UK party, that the pro-capitalist wing of Labour is now in the ascendency.

Jeremy Corbyn remains suspended as a Labour MP after having the whip removed. Corbynism’s mild left programme is being systemically eradicated by the Starmer counter-revolution as he moves Labour onto safe ground for capitalism.

The opportunity to create a genuine anti-austerity workers’ party was squandered by the leadership of the Corbyn movement who sought compromise with the Blairites, at every turn.

Instead, as Socialist Party Scotland and the Socialist Party (England & Wales) called for, the right-wing should have been driven out of the Labour Party by allowing the right of Labour members to democratically deselect Blairite MPs, MSPs and councillors etc.

Under Leonard’s leadership, Labour councils still carried out cuts. The policy of opposing the right to a second referendum on Scottish independence was maintained, further undermining Labour’s already dwindling support in Scotland among the working class. During the December 2019 general election, the number of Labour MPs in Scotland was yet again reduced to a single MP.

As we warned in November 2017 after Leonard’s victory: “The right-wingers in the Labour Party are ruthless. They will do everything in their power to defeat the left and remove Corbyn and, for that matter, Leonard over time. In this, they have the full backing of the capitalist establishment.”

Reflecting those points, the left Labour MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament), Neil Findlay, commented after Richard Leonard’s resignation: “Looks like those who have led a three-year campaign of briefings to journalists, leaks of private conversations and the constant feeding of stories to the media to bring down a decent and honest man have succeeded…These flinching cowards and sneering traitors make me sick.”

Mass workers’ party needed

Unfortunately, Neil Findlay is standing down an MSP. He should, however, support the call for the building of a new mass workers’ party in Scotland. With the millionaire tendency back in the driving seat of Scottish Labour, the trade union movement, with more than 500,000 members in Scotland, should call a conference to discuss building real working-class political representation through a new workers’ party.

As a step toward this, the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is standing candidates in the May Scottish parliament elections. Our candidates will be standing on a fighting socialist manifesto committed to public ownership, trade union rights, an emergency programme for job creation, a mass campaign for indyref2 and a new party for the working class in Scotland.

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January 2021