Leonard shakes up top adviser team

Alasdair Clark

Shedding the former leader’s advisers, Leonard has advertised for key staff support

RICHARD LEONARD has advertised for key posts in his top team as the party launches a new campaign offensive, with Corbyn joining the new Scottish Labour leader in Scotland this week. 

Key advisers hired under Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale have been moved on, with their former roles being advertised as vacant yesterday. 

The “Work for MP” site listed the vacancy for a chief of staff to Leonard, alongside another two other roles for a head of policy and communication yesterday. 

Lesley Brennan, who was an MSP for 70 days before the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, is currently acting as chief of staff to the Scottish leader.

A senior insider close to Leonard told Commonspace that the relationship between the new leader and the Scottish party’s HQ was “settling in”, but that the appointment of these senior adviser roles would ensure things were on a firm footing. 

Read more: Scottish Labour in turmoil as personal attacks mount in leadership race

Another insider said that although relations had not been hostile, there was a test of loyalty for those who had been brought in under Dugdale.

A secret recording of the party’s deputy leader at the time, Alex Rowley, expressing his support for Richard Leonard, led Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie to speak of a “complete betrayal” and a plot to oust Kezia Dugdale from her position. Insiders said this was the source of some of the initial tension. 

Senior party staff positions in Holyrood and the party’s Glasgow headquarters were previously dominated by those appointed by Kezia Dugdale and Jim Murphy, and although they were officially neutral in the bitter leadership contest, most were thought by Leonard’s inner circle to favour Leonard’s centrist rival Anas Sarwar. 

Read more: “Renewed purpose” for Scottish Labour as Corbyn visits Scotland

Monica Lennon MSP, who was deputy chair of Leonard’s campaign, was openly critical on Twitter of a Scottish Labour researcher who had taken a sabbatical during the leadership campaign to work for Sarwar’s campaign. 

Commonspace was told on Monday that a campaign tour by Jeremy Corbyn in Scotland this week marked a “renewed sense of purpose” and a closer, more coordinated relationship between the UK and Scottish party. 

The shadow chancellor John McDonnell is also expected in Scotland later this month, and the party will hold its conference in early March. 

Picture courtesy of Scottish Labour 

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