The Scottish Labour Party Leadership nominations have now closed with no unexpected candidates.
For the Leader, Kezia Dugdale has an almost clean sweep of those able to nominate, with Ken Macintosh only just reaching the minimum of seven nominations. She had some strong lines at her campaign launch positioning Scottish Labour as the “anti-establishment voice” in Scottish politics. She said: “Scotland needs a strong opposition that asks tough questions, not a one-party state where every institution and every cause is linked to just one political party.”
Her support has come from all sections of the party because she is viewed as a unity candidate with a more collegiate approach to leadership – in party that has seen what havoc a ‘presidential’ style leadership can cause. This is likely to be reflected in the supporting nominations from trade unions and CLPs.
Ken Macintosh has reiterated his less adversarial pitch saying: “We need to be more generous in defeat, less tribal, less partisan and more open to working with others, more willing to build a progressive alliance across traditional political divides”. This is a better line than his attack on Kez for her lack of experience, which went down badly even amongst some of his own supporters. It drew the inevitable rejoinder that it could well be that ‘experience’ that has got the party in the current mess!
For the Deputy Leader we have three candidates.
Alex Rowley was the only candidate to achieve nomination thresholds in both sections. This demonstrates his parliamentary and council background and could offer a bridge between two groups who currently don’t work well together. He also has a radical reform agenda and strong trade union links going back to his early years as a NUPE shop steward and later work in trade union education. Showing considerable tactical flair, he has ruled out using the deputy leadership as a guaranteed first place in his list area.
Gordon Mathieson has not made a similar offer, confirming for many that the top MSP list position is his primary motivation. There is strong support from many in the party for a bigger leadership role for councillors, as a way of getting them more engaged in the party’s campaigns. However, it’s hard to see how a secure MSP berth achieves that objective. Gordon will play up the achievements he believes his leadership of Glasgow City Council has delivered. On the other hand, the councils current industrial relations problems wont play well and he could be seen as a divisive figure in local government, being a key player in the CoSLA split.
Richard Baker is the third candidate with significant MSP backing, but limited support from councillors. Richard is well liked across the party with a reputation for hard work in his portfolios and locally. It remains to be seen if he can stretch his support outwith the North East. He also has the problem of explaining his shift from MSP to MP candidate and now back to MSP.
The next stage is a series of hustings across the country and supporting nominations from CLPs, trade unions and socialist societies. The timetable is set out below.