Scottish Labour is preparing to vacate the country’s middle-ground under leadership front-runner Richard Leonard, the Scottish Conservatives have warned today.
Following another chaotic week in the party’s leadership contest, Leonard has emerged as the bookies’ favourite to succeed Kezia Dugdale as leader.
As Labour conference begins today, the Scottish Conservatives are highlighting his extreme far-left political record as a union leader and MSP.
Research shows that, during this career in frontline Scottish politics, Leonard:
* shared a platform with those promoting the repressive Venezuelan regime
* supported a motion praising Fidel Castro
* claimed the USA wanted to invade space
* accused his own party of “worshipping” inequality
* opposed the successful cross-party Better Together campaign because he didn’t want to work with other politicians.
With the party across the UK now preparing to head off to the extremes, the Scottish Conservatives will be using Labour conference this week to appeal to moderate Labour voters who want a party which backs the UK within the Scottish mainstream.
Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said:
“After another chaotic week in Scottish Labour, it’s now clear that Richard Leonard is the frontrunner to become their leader. That should worry ordinary Scots.
“Whether it’s backing the despotic far-left regime in Venezuela or refusing to work with others to keep our UK together, Mr Leonard has shown time and again he is not interested in their concerns.
“Far from representing the many, he has consistently sided with the extreme few.
“Only this week Scottish Labour has made it clear that it wants to slap higher taxes on low paid workers, including nurses, teachers, and police.
“Under Mr Leonard’s leadership, that would only be the start. He would take Labour off to the extremes.
“After 10 years of ineffectual opposition to the SNP, thousands of Labour voters have understandably had enough of this mess.
“The Scottish Conservatives will be working hard over the coming months to show we represent the modern mainstream in Scotland – building a strong economy that works for everyone.”
Notes to editors:
Leonard holds a range of hard-left extremist views
· Leonard supported a motion praising Fidel Castro. Then party leader Kezia Dugdale would not sign the motion or defend those who did following criticism (Barrhead News, 3 December 2016, link).
· He shared a platform with those promoting the Venezuelan regime. The Morning Star reported that Venezuelan oil workers were attending a conference ‘to report on their progressive government's policies and the development of the Bolivarian revolution.’. Leonard commented that the conference ‘will create a much-needed forum to advance and debate political ideas and so to rekindle a democratic socialist vision of the future.’ (Morning Star, ‘Venezuelan workers join Star conference’, 27 September 2007).
· Leonard’s union wanted to hold Glasgow to ransom by blocking its sewers. In November 1997, when Leonard worked for the union, GMB Scotland drew up ‘a contingency plan to cut the main water supply to Glasgow from Loch Katrine and disrupt the city's main raw sewerage processing plant at Shieldhall, Govan, in support of its demands.’ According to the Herald ‘The plans may also include withdrawing the services of workers who attend emergency water bursts.’ (The Herald, Threat to water supply as workers back action, 15 November 1997, page 1).
· Leonard believes New Labour ‘worshipped’ inequality. He said ‘Far from a society modernising, all too often, it is being dragged back to the days where wealth bought privilege and property bought power. The religion of inequality which was once rebuked by Labour ministers is now worshipped by new Labour ministers like John Hutton.’ (Morning Star, ‘Richard Leonard on why Scotland's trade unions must act now to close that ever-growing gap between the economically strong and the weak’, 23 April 2008).
· He believes the USA wants to invade space. Leonard wrote an essay for a CND publication entitled Star Wars: Space – the next target for US invasion (Scottish CND, link).
And Leonard was anti-Better Together
· As a union organiser, Leonard boycotted the official ‘no’ campaign during the independence referendum. He said ‘The GMB's decision not to join the Better Together campaign was made for political not financial reasons…It was determined because of the policies of the coalition government, especially their attacks on the poorest in society’. Leonard said his union planned instead to campaign against independence on its own and support the Labour party's official pro-UK campaign United for Labour. He also described the Conservatives as ‘bad people’. (The Guardian, 16 December 2013, link).