Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Two Scottish Labour MSPs quit the frontbench following European election wipeout

Neil Findlay and Daniel Johnson stood down after the party lost both its MEPs but leader Richard Leonard said he is not quitting.

Neil Findlay MSP was one of two resignations from Scottish Labour’s frontbench (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Neil Findlay MSP was one of two resignations from Scottish Labour’s frontbench (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Two Scottish Labour MSPs have resigned from their frontbench positions after the party recorded its worst ever European election results.

Neil Findlay, constitutional relations spokesman, as well as business manager and party liaison, was first to stand down.

The close ally of Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard was followed by the party’s justice spokesman Daniel Johnson.

Mr Findlay warned the party needs to stop its “self-inflicted harm” of infighting to be able to “win again”.

He also announced he will stand down as an MSP at Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.

Mr Johnson said he is resigning from the frontbench over the party’s position on Europe.

The resignations comes a day after the party had its worst ever result in the European elections in Scotland, losing its two MEPs and dropping from second to fifth in the polling.

Mr Leonard has said he will not resign, despite calls from some party members.

In his resignation letter, Mr Findlay set out a six-point plan to “rebuild” the party, including to “end the eternal, internal fighting within our party and the toxic culture of leaks and briefings that come from some within the Scottish and UK parliamentary groups”.

He added: “This self-inflicted harm has to stop – our party leaders and our leadership teams deserve so much better.

“Scottish Labour will win again when the focus is on the public and not on the internal politics of the parliamentary group.”

bpanews_7537dbaf-d206-48f9-a287-acd618fcfe93_embedded240059180
Neil Findlay speaking at the Scottish Parliament, with Richard Leonard (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Findlay played a key part in the pro-Jeremy Corbyn faction of Scottish Labour which took control from colleagues seen as more centrist after Mr Leonard was appointed successor to former leader Kezia Dugdale.

The Lothian MSP said he had been considering resigning for six months and made his final decision in March, intending to announce it in June but bringing it forward after the European election result.

He added: “It has been an enormous privilege to serve the Scottish Labour Party, first as a councillor and then a Member of the Scottish Parliament.

“I am proud of the work I have done representing my constituents in the Lothian region and of the campaigns I have led in Parliament most notably to retain the children’s ward at St John’s hospital, supporting the blacklisted construction workers, the mesh campaign, miners’ justice and support for the victims of undercover policing amongst many others.

“I will continue to work hard and diligently on these and other issues right up until I leave Parliament.”

Mr Johnson tweeted: “I have resigned from Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet. I feel this is the only way I can effectively represent my constituents’ views on Europe and that we must make every effort to ensure the UK remains in the EU.”

In his resignation letter he said did not believe he could do this “from the front bench and under the current direction and leadership of the party”.

In his reply, Mr Leonard thanked Mr Findlay for his “unstinting support for me as leader” and agreed the party would only advance “when we look decisively outward to the public rather than in on ourselves”.

He added: “I am very sorry that you will not be able to be a member of the Scottish Labour frontbench but I also know from our conversations that this is the right decision for you personally and in that you have my full support.

“Your service as an MSP has been outstanding. You have served the communities you represent with dedication and on the basis of your strongly-held principles.”

bpanews_7537dbaf-d206-48f9-a287-acd618fcfe93_embedded234645659
Daniel Johnson (right) during a Holyrood debate (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scottish Conservative MSP Annie Wells said Scottish Labour is in “total chaos”.

She said: “Scottish Labour has once again come out of an election and decided to form a circular firing squad.

“People who once voted Labour must be wondering what on Earth is going on.”

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph