WATCH: Questioning leadership now is “act of sabotage”, says Leonard

Elliot Chappell

Richard Leonard has said that questioning his leadership now is an “act of sabotage” and that he cannot see anybody who would make a better leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

In an interview with BBC News, the Scottish Labour leader discussed the possibility of a leadership challenge and emphasised how the party is just nine months away from voters going to the polls in the Holyrood elections.

Leonard urged against what he described as a “pavlovian response” to attempt to oust the leader just because the party’s fortunes are “not as we would want them to be at all times”.

He said: “At this point, nine months from an election at the very point when we are winning these national arguments… at the very point that we are doing that, it just seems to me to be an act of sabotage to question the leadership of the party.

“This pavlovian response that if our fortunes are not as we would want them to be at all times means you ditch the leader, that doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked for the Scottish Labour Party in the period of devolution.”

He added: “This idea that there could be five MSPs who could trigger a leadership ballot – my understanding is that is not provided for in the rules.”

Asked if he would accept the challenge if one was made, he said: “I would stand against them… I cannot see anybody at the moment who I think would make a better leader of the Scottish Labour Party.”

UK Labour shadow cabinet member Rachel Reeves called on Leonard to “consider his position” this morning after four Labour MSPs demanded his resignation ahead of the 2021 Holyrood elections.

But the Scottish Labour leader has declared that he will be leading the party into the electoral contest next year. He said he would “fulfil the mandate” of the members who elected him and claimed to be “confident” about his chances at the polls.

A Scottish Labour source told LabourList today: “Richard is in good spirits. The plotters don’t have a plan and are now floundering.” They added that he is now convinced “the MSP group needs a change of personnel”.

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