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Support for Leonard after attacks

SENIOR Scottish Labour figures have slammed centrists in the party for undermining Richard Leonard’s leadership ahead of next year’s Holyrood elections.

A series of “co-ordinated attacks” surfaced in the past week, with calls from the centre-right of the party for Mr Leonard to resign. 

George Foulkes, Lord of Cumnock, called earlier this week for deputy Jackie Bailie to be given the reins of the party for the election.

Donor Archie Macpherson followed, calling on Keir Starmer to intervene, backing MP Ian Murray to take over at the helm after Mr Leonard’s leadership qualities were questioned by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

Scottish Labour chairwoman Cara Hilton told the Star that the “mischief and division” were “deeply disappointing,” calling for unity among elected members. 

Ms Hilton said that members should be focused on offering a “fresh start” for voters as an alternative to the “division” and “inaction” of the SNP. 

She added: “It’s no surprise that we can’t convince voters when we seem so determined to fight amongst ourselves once again. 

“We can only win if we are on the side of the Scottish people, not engaged in never-ending and self-defeating navel gazing. 

“It’s our responsibility to unite behind our leadership team here in Scotland and at UK level to put petty divisions and power struggles aside.”

Left-wing Labour MSP Neil Findlay warned that indulging in “yet another” leadership contest would ensure losses at Holyrood next year. 

He said: “It appears the usual suspects are on manoeuvres yet again. The very same people who claimed to be lifelong friends of [former Scottish Labour leader] Johann Lamont who knifed her, not in the back, but in the front, and installed Jim Murphy as leader.

“That went well, didn’t it. The focus of every MSP, MP, and ermine-clad peer of the realm should be on winning seats in that election and nothing else.”

Campaigners within the party reiterated their support for Mr Leonard, warning that political opponents were creating an opportunity for other parties to “exploit division which isn’t really there.”

Campaign for Socialism chairman Vince Mills said: “It looks like a co-ordinated attack from the right of the party on the left of Scottish Labour. 

“It shows a lack of commitment to the party itself. If their central concern was the success of the Scottish Labour Party they’d do everything to present their backing.”

A Scottish Labour source told the Star that Mr Leonard had gained results with his “consistent scrutiny” of the Scottish government.

The source added: “With the Tories in disarray once again, Scottish Labour is united in advocating our better alternative for a post-Covid Scotland.”

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