New Labour leader must stick around

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - POLITICS - BY KIERAN AN­DREWS

YOU might think Scot­tish Labour just loves an elec­tion.

The party is now on the hunt for its sev­enth boss since 2014, if you in­clude those who acted up wait­ing for the job to be filled “per­ma­nently”. It has per­formed as well as you would imag­ine dur­ing such in­sta­bil­ity.

Forty MPs lost their jobs in the 2015 Gen­eral Elec­tion, the Con­ser­va­tives re­placed Labour as the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion at the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment a year later, and the Tories stayed ahead of the once-dom­i­nant party in Scot­land in this year’s snap Com­mons vote – de­spite a bet­ter-than-ex­pected per­for­mance from can­di­dates with red rosettes.

Fast-for­ward 11 weeks and Kezia Dug­dale was brief­ing her res­ig­na­tion to a tabloid newspaper a few hours be­fore she in­formed her MSPs by What­sApp.

You’re do­ing bet­ter than me if you can find a Labour politi­cian with a kind word to say about their for­mer boss and the man­ner of her de­par­ture.

For, un­like pre­vi­ous de­par­tures, there was no coup be­fore the quit­ting. This was Ms Dug­dales’ de­ci­sion and her’s alone.

The bat­tle to re­place her is be­tween Anas Sar­war (pic­tured above), who briefly took on the job in 2014 while Jo­hann La­mont’s suc­ces­sor was cho­sen, and trade union­ist Richard Leonard.

Mr Sar­war, a for­mer MP who lost his seat in the col­lapse of 2015, is highly am­bi­tious and has per­formed well since tak­ing over the health brief at Holy­rood.

His al­lies high­light his ex­pe­ri­ence and pol­ished pub­lic per­for­mances.

Doubters ques­tion whether he has the depth re­quired to be First Min­is­ter.

Mr Leonard is un­doubt­edly Jeremy Cor­byn’s can­di­date, even if he has so far kept the UK leader at arm’s length.

He is a well-re­spected fig­ure in the trade union move­ment, is seen as “au­then­ti­cally” of the left, but doesn’t have any kind of pub­lic pro­file to speak of.

Both can­di­dates are seen as good, but not earth shat­ter­ingly so, and for that rea­son alone this will be a very close con­test.

The big­gest ben­e­fi­ciary, no mat­ter who wins, could be Mr Cor­byn.

He has a much greater grip on Labour’s rul­ing ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee with Ms Dug­dale’s for­mer deputy Alex Row­ley hav­ing taken her place.

Mr Row­ley has been a vo­cal sup­porter of Mr Cor­byn so is un­likely to chal­lenge him in the same way Ms Dug­dale did on crunch votes.

That means he is more likely to force through rule changes that will ben­e­fit him in the fu­ture, like mak­ing it eas­ier for his suc­ces­sor to come from the far left.

Who­ever wins north of the Bor­der could learn a les­son from Mr Cor­byn in “stick­a­bil­ity” – the per­sonal qual­ity he high­lighted in a re­cent in­ter­view with this pa­per. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties who chop and change at the top are not suc­cess­ful. Vot­ers don’t know what they stand for.

Bar­ring dis­as­ter, the min­i­mum re­quire­ment for the next Scot­tish Labour leader is to stay in post longer than their re­cent pre­de­ces­sors. That is a ne­ces­sity if they are to have any chance of elec­toral suc­cess.

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