Scot­land in Union leader Graeme Pear­son: I quit Labour over Cor­byn

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 POLITICAL NEWS -

TBY PAUL HUTCHEON

HE leader of the most prom­i­nent pro-UK cam­paign group has re­vealed he has quit Scot­tish Labour af­ter be­com­ing dis­en­chanted with Jeremy Cor­byn. Ex-MSP Graeme Pear­son, who is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Scot­land in Union (SIU), said Cor­byn was not hav­ing an im­pact and ques­tioned whether he could lead Labour into Gov­ern­ment.

He also ap­peared to damn Scot­tish Labour leader Kezia Dug­dale with faint praise by say­ing she was do­ing “all right” in the job.

Pear­son was a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer and the di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Scot­tish Crime and Drug En­force­ment Agency be­fore get­ting elected as a Labour MSP in 2011. He held shadow cab­i­net po­si­tions when Jo­hann La­mont and Jim Mur­phy led Scot­tish Labour, but he re­tired from Holy­rood at the last elec­tion.

In Jan­uary, he was un­veiled as the chief ex­ec­u­tive of SIU, a non-party or­gan­i­sa­tion com­mit­ted to mak­ing the “pos­i­tive case for Scot­land stay­ing in the UK” and op­pos­ing a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. Pear­son launched the group’s Project Lis­ten in Glas­gow’s Light­house last week, with the aim of sign­ing up one-quar­ter of a mil­lion sup­port­ers by the sum­mer.

How­ever, it has now emerged that he stopped lis­ten­ing to his own party some time ago.

Speak­ing to the Sun­day Her­ald, Pear­son, who was on the moder­ate wing of Scot­tish Labour, said: “I am not a Labour mem­ber.” He said his de­ci­sion to quit was “not solely about Scot­land in Union, but that was one of the ben­e­fits that would al­low me to be non-par­ti­san”.

Pear­son ex­plained: “I felt my time in the Labour Party had come to a nat­u­ral con­clu­sion and that the Labour Party was go­ing in a di­rec­tion that wasn’t im­por­tant to me per­son­ally.”

He con­firmed Cor­byn’s lead­er­ship, which has seen the party hit record lows in the opin­ion polls, was a fac­tor be­hind him quit­ting: “I’ve got every lik­ing for the man as an in­di­vid­ual, but I just found the di­rec­tion he was go­ing in, and the way in which he con­ducted pol­i­tics, wasn’t in­flu­en­tial and didn’t have an im­pact on the big is­sues of the day.”

Pear­son said: “It’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween [be­ing] a thor­oughly de­cent guy to be with, and some­body who would lead a party and de­liver for or­di­nary peo­ple.

“I know he un­der­stands some of the is­sues that af­fect or­di­nary peo­ple, I just didn’t think he would de­liver on the out­come of lead­ing a gov­ern­ment. My mem­ber­ship was due to lapse in Jan­uary and I had de­cided to al­low my mem­ber­ship to lapse. And I be­gan with Scot­land in Union in Jan­uary. The cyn­ics will say ‘ one led to an­other’, but it didn’t.”

Pear­son backed Ken Mac­in­tosh over Dug­dale dur­ing the last Scot­tish Labour lead­er­ship con­test. Asked how he be­lieved she was do­ing in the job, he said: “I think she’s do­ing all right. I think that she plugs away.” He said Scot­tish Labour fig­ures were work­ing “very hard”, but noted: “Un­til and un­less this over­bear­ing na­tion­al­ist pres­sure is chal­lenged in a forth­right way and over­come, it is al­ways go­ing to be dif­fi­cult for Labour.”

Pear­son’s res­ig­na­tion is the lat­est sign that Cor­byn’s lead­er­ship is di­vid­ing Scot­tish Labour.

Se­nior party fig­ures were an­gry with Cor­byn last week af­ter he said he would be “fine” with a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, a view that put him at odds with Dug­dale.

A Scot­tish Labour spokesman said: “We thank Graeme for his years of ser­vice to the party and wish him well in his new in­de­pen­dent role.”

An SNP spokesper­son said: “It’s not a huge sur­prise that Graeme Pear­son and his band of ul­tra-union­ists are un­com­fort­able with Jeremy Cor­byn, who said that an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum would be ‘ab­so­lutely fine’.

“But deep down we know that Kezia Dug­dale is just as un­happy with Jeremy Cor­byn and be­lieves he is com­pletely un­electable. She’s said as much.

“That leaves Labour telling the peo­ple of Scot­land they should be stuck in a union where they think only the Tories can win – a hard case for any­body to sell.”

For­mer MSP Graeme Pear­son has quit Scot­tish Labour af­ter be­com­ing dis­en­chanted with Jeremy Cor­byn

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