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Labour MSP quits Holyrood team

Published 12/05/2015

Alex Rowley said Labour needed a 'fundamental change in direction and strategy'
Alex Rowley said Labour needed a 'fundamental change in direction and strategy'

A member of Labour's shadow cabinet at Holyrood has quit, saying the party would not become "strong" and "relevant" under Jim Murphy's leadership.

Alex Rowley, who had been Scottish Labour's local government spokesman, said the party now needed a "fundamental change in direction and strategy", and told Mr Murphy that he would not "sign up to your leadership as one of your shadow team".

He argued that it would be a "mistake" for the former Scottish secretary to remain in the top job and lead the party in next year's Holyrood elections

Mr Rowley spoke out after his party lost 40 of its 41 Scottish MPs in a general election routing by the SNP - including the loss of Mr Murphy's East Renfrewshire constituency to the Scottish nationalists.

In the aftermath of that, Mr Murphy said he wanted to stay in the post to help rebuild the party.

But Mr Rowley, who was election agent for former prime minister Gordon Brown, said Mr Murphy's position as leader while not holding a seat at either Holyrood or Westminster would be an "unhelpful distraction".

His resignation from the shadow cabinet puts more pressure on the leader, who has already faced calls to quit.

Mr Rowley, the MSP for Cowdenbeath, made the comments at a meeting of Scottish Labour MSPs yesterday.

In a letter to Mr Murphy explaining the move, he said: "It is clear from the discussion yesterday that dissent in public from the leadership view is perceived as disloyalty, but I am convinced we need a fundamental change in direction and strategy, and therefore cannot sign up to your leadership as one of your shadow team."

Mr Rowley added: " From an early age my memories are of my parents talking about politics and the need for working people to organise and fight for a better and fairer society, and that is why I joined the Labour Party.

"It was suggested to me at the weekend that it would be disloyal to the Labour Party if I were to speak publicly on these issues.

"I have given that a lot of thought and consideration, and I concluded that it would be disloyal and damaging to Labour were I not to speak out.

"I believe now, more than ever, that we in Scotland need a strong relevant Labour Party and we will not achieve this under your leadership, therefore I have no choice but to speak out."

He praised the " level of hard work and dedication" Mr Murphy had brought to the job over the last six months and said he agreed that Scottish Labour's problems would "not be fixed solely by a change of leadership".

But the MSP said: "Much of the focus of the next year will be on the Scottish Parliament and the performance of the SNP government over the last eight years in Scotland.

"I sincerely hold the view that you continuing as leader whilst not in the Scottish Parliament, and not in an elected position holding a democratic mandate, means you will become an unhelpful distraction from the real issues that Scottish Labour must focus on."

Mr Rowley's resignation from the shadow cabinet comes after Neil Findlay - who had stood against Mr Murphy for the post of Scottish leader - quit his post as fair work, skills and training spokesman on Saturday.

Mr Findlay said the general election has been a " 'disaster'' for the party in Scotland, adding that "radical solutions" were required to its problems

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