Motion of no confidence in Leonard withdrawn at Labour SEC meeting

Sienna Rodgers

The proposed motion of no confidence in leader Richard Leonard was withdrawn at the special meeting of Labour’s Scottish executive committee (SEC) this morning.

A LabourList source said: “What a waste of everyone’s time. Even with the Labour Students rep they didn’t have the numbers, so not quite sure why they went through with it all.”

Another well-placed source said “it looked like it was heading for a draw” but trade unions decided to “give [Leonard] more time” as the motion was not going to pass decisively.

Leonard said: “It’s time for Scottish Labour to stand together and to stand with the Scottish people at a time when risks caused by pandemic are rising again and when the economy is on the edge of a deep recession with jobs and livelihoods in peril.

“There must be an end to the internal plotting and we must unite to hold the Scottish government to account and to offer a real alternative.

“I firmly believe that I am the best person to lead us into next year’s elections with a plan for jobs and real economic and social transformation, which I know is shared by Keir Starmer.

“I have listened to the concerns expressed about me, I will treat those with respect and humility, and I will fight with every ounce of my being to improve the fortunes of the party in the run up to next years election. We need unity, not division.”

Before the meeting started, socialist society representative Jane Prinsley – who had signed the no-confidence motion – was told that her place on the SEC was no longer valid as Labour Students had been disaffiliated.

Prinsley, who had been nominated for the post by Scottish Labour Students, was not allowed to join or vote at the meeting today based on guidance provided by Labour’s governance and legal unit.

UK Labour’s ruling body controversially passed a motion proposed by Jon Lansman in September 2019 that said the student organisation was not affiliated to the party because it had not paid affiliation fees.

GMB Scotland’s secretary Gary Smith announced on Friday that the union would not help Leonard in the confidence vote, despite having funded his leadership campaign in 2017 and Leonard being a former GMB organiser of 20 years.

Large party-affiliated trade unions Unite and UNISON, which also both donated to Leonard’s 2017 campaign, did vow to support the Scottish Labour leader, however, with Unite’s Scottish secretary criticising the “disgraceful coup”.

The withdrawn motion read: “The SEC expresses that it has no confidence in the leader of the Scottish Labour Party.” It was signed by ten members of the SEC, as required.

As well as Prinsley, James Adams, Monique McAdams, Suzan King, Baroness Meta Ramsay, Jackie Martin, Scott Arthur, Mark Griffin, Jenny Marra, Maureen Devlin all signed it.

Update, 5pm: The Scottish Labour leadership scored another victory as the SEC passed its proposal for each of the party’s regional lists to be topped by women – a move that many Leonard critics have opposed.

The approved paper on regional list selections also included “proactive mechanisms to secure representation for protected characteristics and key workers”, LabourList has been told.

But one Scottish Labour activist and LGBT party member said: “Richard promised that LGBT and other groups that are underrepresented in the Labour Holyrood group would be ‘prioritised’. That was three years ago and today’s proposals don’t come close to doing that.

“If Scottish Labour wants to represent Scotland it has to represent all our diverse communities. In over 20 years of devolution, the Scottish Labour Party has only elected one openly LGBT parliamentarian. It’s not a record to be proud of.”

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