Scottish Labour in turmoil as personal attacks mount in leadership race

Caitlin Logan

SNP criticise Labour for being more focussed on “internal spats” than real issues

SCOTTISH LABOUR has been accused of obsessing over “settling old scores” by the SNP, after a party hustings saw leadership candidates Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard bicker over private conversations.

Richard Leonard responded to criticism by Anas Sarwar for voting with the Tories on Brexit by accusing his opponent of having privately expressed his intention to do the same.

When Leonard raised the issue of Sarwar’s support of a coup against Jeremy Corbyn, Sarwar hit back by claiming Leonard had criticised the leader privately.  

The exchange, which took place at a hustings in Dumfries and was televised by ITV, is just the latest incident in a leadership race shaped by acrimony and personal disputes.

READ MORE: FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon takes aim at Scottish Labour’s internal strife

Sarwar said: “Richard was one of those who broke the Labour whip to vote with the Tories to trigger article 50. I think that was a mistake.”

“The Labour leader will always ask for loyalty from his MSPs and his party, and I think you can only credibly ask for that loyalty if you’ve shown loyalty yourself.”
Richard Leonard responded: “You raise the word loyalty Anas, and I’m bound to say you signed a letter calling for Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation when 60 per cent of the Labour party voted for him.”
“And as for the symbolic vote which the Scottish Parliament held in February, in discussions we had a week before, Anas was on the same side of the argument as me, and then he changed his position over the course of the next week.”

“So you can draw your own conclusions from that.”

READ MORE: FMQs: Anas Sarwar’s millions embarrass Labour in tax debate

Sarwar answered with a threat to his opponent: “I would caution Richard to be very, very careful about talking about private discussions, because I know what private discussions he was having with me about Jeremy Corbyn.”

This follows a leaked recording of interim leader Alex Rowley expressing his support for Richard Leonard, which led Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie to speak of a “complete betrayal” and a plot to oust Kezia Dugdale from her position.

Baillie’s response led to further controversy when a press officer for Richard Leonard’s campaign responded to a request for comment by the Daily Telegraph with an email titled “coment [sic] on latest jackie baillie pish”.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine commented on the latest exchange: “The Labour leadership campaign just gets dirtier and dirtier. If this is what they’ll say in front of TV cameras, what are they saying privately?

“As usual Labour are more interested in their internal spats than on taking on the Tories.” Joan McAlpine MSP (SNP)

“It’s easy to forget that these pair are supposed to be on the same side – but as usual Labour are more interested in their internal spats than on taking on the Tories. It’s a dereliction of duty.”
“Labour’s continued infighting on Europe is putting Scottish jobs and our economy at risk. This isn’t the time for navel gazing. We need a united front standing up for Scotland’s place in the single market and customs union.”
“Clearly whoever wins this contest, they’ll be serving their own clique rather than the people of Scotland.”

Former Scottish Labour Party leader Kezia Dugdale has this week criticised the two candidates for “knocking lumps out of each other” and displaying “an absence of any new ideas”.

Picture courtesy of Scottish Labour 

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