LABOUR can win control of the Scottish Parliament if it makes the case for a socialism rooted in “values forged in the fire of daily struggle,” Scottish Labour’s new leader Richard Leonard said on Saturday.
At an event in Glasgow, the party announced that left-winger Mr Leonard, a former trade union official who has served in Holyrood for less than two years, had won the backing of 56.7 per cent of the party’s electorate.
He beat Anas Sarwar, a former vice-chairman of the Blairite faction Progress. Mr Leonard will succeed Kezia Dugdale — and will become the Scottish party’s sixth leader since it was ousted from government in Holyrood elections 10 years ago.
In a victory speech, Mr Leonard — who was backed by most of Labour’s affiliated unions — said being elected to lead “a movement of socialism” was “a source of immense pride but also very humbling.”
“Our shared purpose is clear: to build again, to win again,” he said.
“Our purpose today is not just electing a leader. My aim is to be the next Labour first minister of Scotland.”
He said “our socialism” would be rooted in “values forged in the fire of daily struggle.” And hailing the courage of workers staging a “work-in” at the infrastructure firm BiFab, he said: “The Scottish Labour Party is nothing if it is not on the side of working people [in dispute].”
He said Scottish Labour would also seek to tackle a toxic culture of sexism and harassment across politics and introduce an independent system for reporting allegations.
Scottish Labour continued to lose ground after the SNP won enough seats to form a minority administration at Holyrood in 2007.
In the 2015 general election the party faced a wipeout, winning just a single Westminster seat. But it made a small recovery in the snap poll this year.
Some party activists have said Labour’s decline north of the border can be attributed to the party positioning itself to the right of the SNP. Former leader Johann Lamont blasted Scotland’s “something for nothing” culture, questioning the country’s free prescriptions and lack of tuition fees.
Mr Leonard signalled a break from this approach, saying Labour would argue to “invest in universalism, not means-testing.”
Labour’s national leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mr Leonard’s victory could be “a turning point in Scottish politics.” He said Labour would “once again be a real force for change” north of the border.
“Richard’s campaign offered a challenge to the rigged system that has benefited a wealthy elite and showed how he will lead Scottish Labour to transform society,” Mr Corbyn added.
• Ms Dugdale came under fire this weekend after it was announced that she would appear on reality show I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here. Both Mr Leonard and Mr Sarwar criticised her decision to take part, which will take her to the Australian bush for several weeks. The new leader said the group of Labour MSPs would discuss what action to take in the coming days, and would give “due consideration” to the possibility of suspending his predecessor.
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