Labour plunged back into civil war today as an ally of Keir Starmer urged the party’s Scottish leader Richard Leonard to ‘consider his position’.
Shadow minister Rachel Reeves said opinion polls north of the border were ‘pretty dire’ for Labour, with crucial Holyrood elections looming next May.
But Mr Leonard hit back that Ms Reeves was not even a member of the party in Scotland, and insisted the ‘best chance’ was to unite behind him.
The row escalated out the day after four MSPs – James Kelly, Jenny Marra, Daniel Johnson and Mark Griffin – publicly called on Mr Leonard to go.
Mr Leonard, who was closely aligned with Jeremy Corbyn and took the leadership in 2017, branded them ‘disgruntled’.
Labour plunged back into civil war today as an ally of Keir Starmer urged the party’s Scottish leader Richard Leonard (pictured) to ‘consider his position’
Shadow minister Rachel Reeves told Sky News (pictured) that opinion polls north of the border were ‘pretty dire’ for Labour, with crucial Holyrood elections looming next May
But Ms Reeves, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, told Sky News: ‘I think that Richard Leonard needs to think about his position.
‘The opinion polls in Scotland are pretty dire for Labour, we’ve got important elections next year.’
Holyrood elections are due in May, with Scottish Labour currently third in the opinion polls, well behind Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP.
Meanwhile, the party lost all but one of its seats in Scotland in the general election last December.
While Ms Reeves stressed the decision is for Scottish Labour to make, she added Mr Leonard should ‘consider his position and do what he thinks is right for Scotland and for Scottish Labour’.
Mr Leonard hit back, saying: ‘Rachel Reeves is not a member of the Scottish Labour Party and I am elected by members of the Scottish Labour Party – that is who I am accountable to.
‘They elected me back in 2017 to lead the Scottish Labour Party into the May 2021 Scottish Parliament elections; that is what I am on course to doing.’
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, he said he had received a ‘huge number of messages of support from right across the party, the trade unions’.
And he added: ‘I am confident I have got the backing of the members of the Scottish Labour Party, who elected me just under three years ago.’
Mr Leonard insisted Labour’s ‘best chance’ in next May’s Holyrood elections is to unite behind his leadership.
And he added he is confident that, as polling day approaches, ‘more and more’ people will turn to his party.
He said: ‘I think the political environment is changing because of the pandemic, I think people are re-evaluating their priorities, and I am sure as people get nearer to the election next year they will understand that the next five years, the next Scottish Government, the next Scottish Parliament’s priorities will need to be on recovering the economy, tackling the jobs crisis and investing in public services like our National Health Service.
Keir Starmer (pictured at PMQs yesterday) has been trying to revive Labour’s fortunes after the disastrous tenure of Jeremy Corbyn
‘They’re the priorities the people have got, they’re the priorities of the Scottish Labour Party; that is why I am determined that, as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, we remain outward-looking.’
He continued: ‘The best chance we’ve got is to unite behind me, to go forward on that policy agenda I set out.
‘I don’t under-estimate the scale of the challenge we face, but I have got faith in the Labour Party, I’ve got faith in the values we stand for, I have got faith in the policy ideas we will offer the people.
‘I am convinced that, when we get closer to the election, as the policy agenda is defined, the choices that people face are defined, I think that more and more of them will turn to the Scottish Labour Party.’