The embattled Scottish Labour celebration chief Richard Leonard has resigned solely months after narrowly surviving a rebel from fellow MSPs.
Leonard mentioned he was stepping down after deciding over the Christmas holidays that fixed assaults on his management have been undermining Scottish Labour’s capability to “get its message throughout”.
His sudden resignation leaves Scottish Labour with out a chief 4 months earlier than a important Scottish parliament election, the place Labour is trailing the Scottish Nationwide celebration by practically 40 factors within the polls.
Get together sources mentioned his deputy, Jackie Baillie, who has been named interim chief, expects to launch an instantaneous and fast-tracked management election to ensure his successor is in publish properly earlier than the 6 Might Holyrood election.
Anas Sarwar, the centrist MSP who was lately made Scottish Labour’s structure spokesman, however who misplaced to Leonard within the final management election, is prone to be an early favorite for the publish.
Get together sources mentioned Leonard had clashed with senior colleagues and had angered Keir Starmer, the UK Labour chief, after a sequence of latest gaffes.
It’s understood Starmer was livid after Scottish Labour issued a press launch on 30 December asserting the celebration would oppose the Brexit deal at Holyrood due to the financial harm it might trigger, after which voted alongside the SNP, Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats in opposition to it.
That immediately contradicted Starmer’s choice to again the UK authorities’s deal. Amid derision from their opponents, Leonard’s colleagues mounted a fast harm limitation train. The following day they claimed their opposition was primarily based on the UK authorities’s failure to incorporate Holyrood in its Brexit planning.
In a quick assertion, Leonard attacked each the Scottish and UK governments for “mishandling” the Covid disaster, resulting in hundreds of pointless deaths and enterprise closures.
“I’ve thought lengthy and onerous over the Christmas interval about what this disaster means, and the method Scottish Labour takes to assist deal with it,” he mentioned. “I’ve additionally thought-about what the hypothesis about my management does to our capability to get Labour’s message throughout. This has change into a distraction.
“I’ve come to the conclusion it’s in the perfect pursuits of the celebration that I step apart as chief of Scottish Labour with instant impact. This was not a simple choice, however after three years I really feel it’s the proper one for me and for the celebration.”
In September, Leonard confronted down an open rebel by centrist MSPs, with two celebration spokespeople at Holyrood quitting their roles in a bid to pressure him to face down or conform to a management contest.
Leonard refused to budge and at a tense Scottish government committee assembly beset by allegations one committee member was unfairly blocked from voting, narrowly survived requires a management contest.