This Scottish Labour leadership candidate just proved he could make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister

Support us and go ad-free

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Richard Leonard has already proved he could make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister.

Given Labour has lost most its Scottish seats to the SNP, Scotland is key to the party winning the next election. But a right-wing-led Scottish Labour has previously enabled the SNP to flank it from the left.

That could be about to change.

Richest 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 50%

Launching his leadership bid, Leonard got straight to the heart of the matter:

Inequality is rising so that in Scotland today, the richest one per cent own as much wealth as all of the poorest 50 per cent.

Such grotesque inequality is unacceptable. But one problem for the Corbyn movement is prominent Labour figures opposing his leadership. Outgoing Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, for example, joined the attempt to remove Corbyn last summer.

Leonard, however, signed a letter defending Corbyn. The letter backed the Labour leader mainly because of his record-breaking democratic mandate from members:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Labour Party members are not passive onlookers to be used and exploited at election time, only to be ignored thereafter – they are the lifeblood of our party, we are nothing without them… we therefore want to make it clear that we wish to uphold the democratic rights of Labour Party members and support the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

‘Effective opposition’

Anas Sarwar, the other contestant in the leadership race, has championed Corbyn now the contest has begun. But last summer, Sarwar backed the coup against him. The millionaire MSP signed a letter calling for Corbyn to resign because he didn’t provide an “effective opposition”. Sarwar also backed Owen Smith’s leadership challenge against Corbyn last year and unsuccessfully tried to persuade his local Labour branch to do the same.

Until losing the seat in the 2015 general election, Sarwar was MP for Glasgow Central, where he replaced his father, who had held the constituency since 1997. Sarwar also used to be the vice chair of Blairite pressure group Progress.

Setting out his stall, Sarwar heaped praise on Dugdale’s leadership:

In 2015, with our party on its knees, many Labour members wanted to run and hide.

Not Kezia Dugdale. Her passion for the cause and her burning desire to improve the lives of every Scot saw her charge into the fray.

That’s despite Dugdale appearing to suggest voters should vote Tory to remove the SNP in the 2017 general election.


Sarwar also attacked the SNP in his opening comments. He accused the SNP of being “motivated by flag waving”. But Labour surely needs to win over SNP voters. And they may not take kindly to such language. SNP supporters are actually more left-wing than their Labour counterparts, according to a study by Strathclyde University. Contrary to Sarwar’s accusation, they cannot just be defined as nationalists. And more broadly, Scottish people are well to the left of the rest of Britain on a variety of issues, according to YouGov.

Writing about the Scottish Labour leadership election, SNP MP Mhairi Black challenged such rhetoric from Labour. The party frequently blames the SNP for problems caused by the central UK government, such as inequality or austerity. The Conservative government allocates most of Scotland’s funding, while controlling most of its tax powers. For example, the Scottish government has no power to set VAT – a tax which increases inequality by disproportionately hitting ordinary people.

Two birds, one stone

A major barrier to Corbyn becoming prime minister has been internal opposition from prominent Labour Party figures. Another significant barrier is that right-wing-led Scottish Labour has been outflanked from the left by the SNP, meaning Labour has lost most its seats in Scotland.

But now, Leonard may be able to kill both birds with one stone. First, the MSP for Central Scotland showed he supported Corbyn when it counted. So he could unite Scottish Labour behind Corbyn’s platform. Second, Leonard has consistently held progressive views that align with Scottish voters. So the SNP would find it difficult to outflank Scottish Labour from the left if Leonard led the party.

By contrast, Sarwar opened with lazy attacks on the SNP. He had not responded to The Canary‘s request for comment by the time of publication.

Rather than trying to score points, the Corbyn movement is popular because it challenges the grotesque inequality at the heart of today’s problems. Leonard has shown he gets that.

Get Involved!

– Read both the leadership candidates’ pitches to voters in full here.

Featured image via YouTube and Labour website

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed