Union baron backs Leonard in bat­tle for Labour top job

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - POLITICS - By Kieran An­drews kan­drews@sun­day­post.com

TRADE UNION boss Len McCluskey has backed left- winger Richard Leonard to be­come the new Scot­tish Labour leader.

Mem­bers’ votes will de­cide which can­di­date re­ceives Unite’s of­fi­cial back­ing, with meet­ings and hus­tings to take place in the com­ing weeks.

But sources said the in­flu­ence of Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Mr McCluskey, a key ally of UK Labour boss Jeremy Cor­byn, was likely to prove de­ci­sive in who ends up re­ceiv­ing the union’s sup­port.

One union in­sider said: “Given the na­tional po­si­tion, par­tic­u­larly that of the gen­eral sec­re­tary in sup­port of Jeremy Cor­byn, if you looked at the cards it would be

likely they will fall in favour of Richard Leonard.

“There is due demo­cratic process that has to take place but if you were a gam­bling man I would sug­gest Richard Leonard is the most likely to be sup­ported.”

Such an out­come would be a blow to the other lead­er­ship con­tender, Anas Sar­war, a Unite mem­ber.

He is seen as be­ing in the mod­er­ate wing of the party, with Mr Leonard more to the left and closer po­lit­i­cally to Mr Cor­byn. Mr Leonard has al­ready been backed by union chiefs at the Trans­port Salaried Staffs’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

The union’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee unan­i­mously gave its sup­port to the for­mer GMB union or­gan­iser, say­ing his “rad­i­cal­ism” could help the party win back power.

Mr Leonard and for­mer MP and pre­vi­ous deputy leader Mr Sar­war are the only two can­di­dates to suc­ceed Kezia Dug­dale, who dra­mat­i­cally quit her post a fort­night ago af­ter two years in charge.

Both can­di­dates launched their of­fi­cial cam­paigns this week­end, with Mr Leonard ad­dress­ing ac­tivists in Glas­gow yes­ter­day.

He ruled out any elec­toral pacts with the SNP, an idea floated by Labour MEP David Martin, say­ing: “There will be no ground ceded to na­tion­al­ism at the ex­pense of pro­gres­sive so­cial­ism un­der my lead­er­ship.

“No coali­tion, pacts, or deals with the SNP. And no sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.”

Mr Leonard also claimed that “whole­sale, real, and rad­i­cal change” was needed to tackle Scot­land’s “eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems” .

Mr Sar­war said Labour was “park­ing our tanks on Nicola Stur­geon’s lawn” when he launched his bid on Friday night.

Speak­ing in the SNP leader’s con­stituency, he told sup­port­ers that the con­test was about elect­ing the next First Min­is­ter.

Mr Sar­war told sup­port­ers they could choose “to fo­cus on the di­vi­sions of the past, or to build a fairer fu­ture for all”.

SNP MSP James Dor­nan branded the con­test the “least in­spir­ing choice in the his­tory of de­vo­lu­tion”.

The re­sult will be an­nounced in Novem­ber.

■ Richard Leonard ad­dresses ac­tivists in Glas­gow as he launches his bid to suc­ceed Kezia Dug­dale as Scot­tish Labour leader.

■ Unite chief Len McCluskey.

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