New Scottish Labour leader believes message of ‘hope’ can carry him to power
He became the fourth person to hold the post in the last three years after defeating rival candidate Anas Sarwar.
New Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard promised to offer voters a “message of real hope” as he set his sights on becoming the country’s next first minister.
The former trade union organiser who was elected to Holyrood 18 months ago defeated the more moderate MSP Anas Sarwar as Scottish Labour elected its fourth leader in just three years.
While his predecessor Kezia Dugdale had campaigned against Jeremy Corbyn, the election of Mr Leonard will be seen as moving the party more to the left.
Under Mr Corbyn Labour has enjoyed a surge in support, with the UK leader saying the result of the latest leadership contest could be a “turning point in Scottish politics”.
Mr Leonard’s election was however, overshadowed by the news Ms Dugdale is take part in the reality TV show I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!.
The Labour group at Holyrood will now consider if she should be suspended in the coming days, Mr Leonard confirmed, although he stressed this course of action was not his “immediate response” to the news.
With Labour now the third party in Scottish politics behind the SNP and the Conservatives, Mr Corbyn accepted there is “much to do to continue our party’s revival in Scotland”.
Richard Leonard has been elected Leader of the Scottish Labour Party pic.twitter.com/NGUJwv73qh— Scottish Labour (@scottishlabour) November 18, 2017
But he said: “Richard’s campaign offered a challenge to the rigged system that has benefited a wealthy elite and showed how he will lead Scottish Labour to transform society.
“This can be a turning point in Scottish politics and our party will now come together, united to challenge Tory and SNP austerity that has held Scotland back.
“I am confident that under Richard’s leadership, Labour will once again be a real force for change in Scotland.
“I look forward to campaigning with him in Scotland next week as we build a movement that will help our party win in Holyrood and Westminster, to transform our country for the many not the few.”
After a leadership contest which was at times bitter and divisive, Mr Leonard was the choice of 12,469 party members and supporters – 56.7% of those who took part in the ballot
And he said his victory showed said the party was “hungry for a Scottish Labour leadership guided by principle, driven by passion, rooted in experience”.
Speaking to activists at the Glasgow Science Centre after the result was announced, he pledged Labour would be the “radical party of change once more”.
Congratulations to @LabourRichard on his victory. I'm proud of our campaign, our team and all the volunteers. I'm sorry I couldn't do it for you, but I look forward to campaigning with Richard and our party in the weeks, months and years ahead. pic.twitter.com/ksziA0S0d7— Anas Sarwar (@AnasSarwar) November 18, 2017
Mr Leonard said: “We have started to build a Scottish Labour Party which people can believe in again, we are only at the beginning.
“After this leadership election we will reunite on the basis of our values, values forged in the fire of daily struggles, reconnecting with people in workplaces and in communities right across Scotland.”
I would like to congratulate Richard Leonard on being elected the new leader of the @ScottishLabour Party, and Anas Sarwar for his energetic campaign. https://t.co/NDT7Q9nLM8 pic.twitter.com/o6sK6Ur8Uy— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 18, 2017
He added Labour must now “take to the people of Scotland a new message of change, a message of real change, and so a message or real hope”.
And while he said Scotland had endured a “lost decade of nationalist mediocrity” under the SNP, his party could win the battle of ideas with the nationalists.
Mr Leonard said: “Our shared purpose is clear, to build again, to win again. Our purpose today is not just electing a leader, my aim is to be the next Labour first minister.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson congratulated Mr Leonard, but said: “As Labour’s ninth leader since devolution, many people will be wondering whether he will turn out to be another temporary solution to his party’s deep seated problems.”
She added: “Scottish Labour has spent far too long fighting itself in an endless succession of leadership contests, instead of fighting for a better deal for the people of Scotland.
“The Scottish Conservatives are the only party with the strength and unity to stand up to the SNP and provide the strong opposition our country needs.”