Exclusive: ‘No reason’ Alex Rowley shouldn’t be in Shadow Cabinet, Labour women’s group say

Ben Wray

Shadow Cabinet reshuffle saw high profile centrist MSPs Anas Sarwar and Jackie Baillie removed 

SCOTTISH LABOUR WOMEN’S MOVEMENT have defended the decision of party leader Richard Leonard to bring Alex Rowley MSP, who quit as deputy leader last December after allegations of harassment, back onto the Cabinet.

Rowley was moved into the position of Communities and Local Government spokesperson on Thursday [4 October] as part of a reshuffle by Leonard after weeks of infighting among his top team, with centrist MSPs Anas Sarwar and Jackie Baillie removed from the positions of Health and Economy spokesperson respectively.

In November last year Rowley was suspended from the party after a harassment complaint was made to Police. After an investigation the Police found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, and an internal Labour investigation was stopped after the complainant – a former partner – decided not to pursue it through the party after initially submitting a statement.

READ MORE – Leah Franchetti: Reshuffles are a fact of life – time for Labour to roll its sleeves up

Leonard has defended the decision to bring Rowley back in, and he was backed up by the Scottish Labour Women’s Movement, a feminist group within the party which “exists to challenge and end the structural, economic and social discrimination [women] face”.

A spokesperson for SLWM told CommonSpace: “We are aware that in 2017 there was a complaint made against Alex Rowley by a former partner which was investigated by the Police. Mr Rowley referred himself to the Scottish Labour Party for investigation. The Police found no evidence of wrongdoing and the complainant did not engage with the Scottish Labour Party investigation.

“In these circumstances, we are satisfied that Scottish Labour made all reasonable endeavours to determine the facts and no further action was required. On this basis, we see no reason why Alex Rowley should be precluded from inclusion in the Shadow Cabinet.”

The spokesperson said that they were “committed to making the Scottish Labour Party the best place for women” and that “there is no place for harassment and we expect that any allegations of misconduct be investigated timeously, fairly and without prejudice.”

They added that they welcomed Leonard’s new gender balanced shadow cabinet and offered “particular congratulations to all eight women”.

READ MORE: #MeToo and abuse media coverage risks ‘re-traumatising’ survivors, charities say

Rowley said in December following the end of the internal investigation that he was “pleased the panel has discharged the case which I referred to them, but I am disappointed that they were unable fully to investigate – and I to have the opportunity to answer – the allegations, which relate to the acrimonious end to a relationship nearly five years ago.”

Tensions in the shadow cabinet boiled over following the Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby’s decision to end financial support for former leader Kezia Dugdale MSP in her defence against a lawsuit by the pro-independence ´Wings Over Scotland´ blogger Stuart Campbell, who has accused her of “defamatory innuendo”.

The case relates to a Daily Record column Dugdale wrote in March, in which she alleged one of Campbell´s tweets was “homophobic”. Some prominent Labour MSPs – including Baillie and Sarwar – criticised the party’s decision to withdraw funding. Leonard said he understood that some were upset at the decision, but that it “will stick”.

The Daily Record is now providing legal funding for Dugdale’s defence.

UPDATE: A councillor on the steering committee of SLWM has criticised the organisation’s decision to defend Rowley’s appointment. Glasgow Labour councillor Eva Murray, who also works on Kezia Dugdale’s staff, tweeted: “I’m supposedly on the steering committee of SLWM. I wasn’t consulted on this statement. In a time of #MeToo & more timely the Kavanaugh confirmation, we are absolutely sending the wrong message. Rowley should not have been allowed back into the Shadow Cabinet.”

Picture courtesy of Alex Rowley

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