Roots – why I am supporting Richard Leonard

Jim O’Neill sees echoes of Keir Hardie in Richard Leonard, and sets out why he’s backing Richard as Scottish Labour leader.


I believe that any Leader of our party should have a sound grounding in, and understanding of, the roots of the party. Our party, founded by James Keir Hardie as the Labour Representation Committee in 1900, arose from his belief that the worker should have a direct voice in Parliament. As a full-time trade union official, Hardie understood that the Liberals were so compromised by their attachment to the new middle class, that they could never represent the needs of the ordinary worker, and in a speech to miners on Irvine Moor, Hardie first suggested that a separate party of Labour was required.

Few today understand Keir Hardie’s motivations as well as Richard Leonard. Such understanding brought him to found the James Keir Hardie Society, along with Cathy Jamieson and newly elected MP Hugh Gaffney.

I should declare an interest here. He brought me on to the Executive of the Society and Richard, Hugh and I have laid the foundations for Keir Hardie trails in both Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. Now we only need the funds to bring those visions to fruition. Having grown up in the village of
Keir Hardie’s youth, Newarthill, and later in life being responsible for the Keir Hardie collection in Cumnock, it is understandable that I have felt a visceral connection to the founder of our Party. I have sensed the same in Richard Leonard.

Like Keir Hardie, Richard has come from a trade union background. As Political Officer for the GMB, he has sought to influence our politicians at Holyrood and Westminster, and also in the councils, that they need to implement policies that support and value their workers, rather than drive them away. He has led many campaigns, both by the GMB alone and with other trades unions, and he has always sought to further the cause of Labour. However, in his role he has never forgotten the individual member, as my friend David is never tired of telling. When David was having difficulty accessing a much-needed medical retirement, it was Richard’s personal intervention that broke the logjam.

I believe that Richard’s campaigning background for collective Labour issues, and also his understanding of the needs of individual members, will serve our party well.

As anyone who reads my contributions to Labour Hame knows, I am a passionate co-operator. At the recent 100th Conference of the Co-operative Party, our UK leader, Jeremy Corbyn, reaffirmed his commitment to public ownership; not, as he said, of the 40s, 50s and 60s style of state ownership, but using new co-operative models of ownership that place ownership directly into the hands of the people. Until now, trades unions have been reluctant to adopt that model, concerned at the impact on their members. Who better than a passionate trades unionist to take this
message to the trades unions and convert them to the value of the co-operative model?

Finally, I am proud to call Richard Leonard a friend. I have seen his enthusiasm and workrate drive his passion for Labour politics in all its forms, but I have also experienced the warmth of his personality in his dealings with individuals. I do not have that experience with Anas, since I do not know him so well, although I deplore the tone of the attacks on his candidacy.

Thus, for all these reasons, I have no hesitation in supporting Richard Leonard as the person to guide the next phase of our party’s recovery and, eventually, back to a pre-eminent place in Scottish politics.

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20 thoughts on “Roots – why I am supporting Richard Leonard

  1. I would imagine Leonard is a shoo-in, but given the bitter nature of the campaign, who ever wins will be opposed by a section of the party.
    Keir Hardie believed in a self governing Scotland—the different from Scottish Labour’s stance.
    Keir Hardie came from an impoverished and socially despised background—nothing like Leonard’s privileged upbringing.
    Keir Hardie deplored the slaughter of ordinary people conscripted to war. How could he possibly support Labour’s stance on Trident, which is designed to kill millions of non-combatants?
    Keir Hardie lived in a different age, when anything seemed possible, economically. I read some of Leonard’s wish list. Very good, but totally impractical and economically unachievable.
    If I am wrong, perhaps Mr O’Neil could cost each element of Leonard’s proposals, and tell us how it can be afforded?
    What rate of taxation are we facing under a Leonard government in Scotland? What items of present expenditure will be cut? Brexit is guaranteed to cut our economic performance no matter the deal, so how can Holyrood spend more, when GDP per capita will decline?
    It is pie in the sky stuff, not grown-up politics.

    1. You are right. Keir Hardie envisaged a self-governing Scotland. He never advocated an independent Scotland

      1. Keir Hardie wanted Scotland to have Dominion Status, the same as Australia, Canada, New Zealand etc.
        Not independence then, but a natural progression to independence. Oddly none of them preferred rule from London as an alternative to self rule.

  2. What was Keir Hardies view of the House of Lords? Does anybody have it on record?
    How about his views on Home Rule for Scotland? Surely that is on record?
    Its a shame we’ll never know his views on Trident renewal and WMD proliferation in his capacity as a principled pacifist though.

    But we all know where Richard Leonard stands on these issues don’t we?

    It must be so easy to compare Richard Leonard with Keir Hardy on these issues alone.

  3. Jim,
    Im like you, on the face of it Richard Leonard is a shooin. But take a minute and look at the (never to be talked about) facts.
    Leonard has never held down a real job in his life. Private school (no paper runs I will bet), University, trade union advisor, politician. I suppose you can argue it is an impressive cv for its paucity of experience required.
    On the other hand, Sarwar is a multi millionaire. Mentored by his father Mohamad. The best in the business. Self made multi millionaire and politician. Stop and think about that Jim, it is genuinely impressive. Sarwar senior arrives on these shores with hehaw and in the space of 30/40 years builds up a huge business and gets elected to parliament. RESPECT.
    And although it can never be mentioned in good company or at a CLP meeting, if you are going to make it in the cash and carry bussiness the last thing you want are full time trade union reps hanging around, ‘intimidating/politicising’ (delete where appropriate) the work force. It might only be a pound an hour more (to pay the minimum wage), but if you have one hundred people working for you that is one hundred pounds per hour you are out of your pocket. Or, based on a 60 hour week, 6k per week. That is a lot of school fees.
    Jim, sometimes when the answer looks obvious the question has a catch to it.

  4. Jim, Complete support for Richard Leonard. I do think that when you argue for his ‘convictions in action’ and his commitment to co operative models of ownership you advance powerful reasons for him to become leader, and I certainly hope this comes about. However, whether he knows much about Keir Hardie and the roots of Labour is of no real interest to the people who are going to vote for him and probably bear only a tenuous connection to the issues he faces and the policies he pursues. I remember my first Labour Party meeting in South Shields, where an older guy at the end of the meeting welcomed me by telling me of Ramsay MacDonalds betrayal. Another man there at the beginning of the Party! Despite this, I became steeped in labour history and it is of personal interest to me even now, yet I strongly believe we should not keep dragging it up as it casts a romantic shadow which attracts very few of the younger generation and informs us very little. Same goes for Levellers, Peterloo, Chartists and E P Thompson-as admirable as they all are. Sorry forgot to really blaspheme, and add in Attlee.

  5. Lets through a wrench of reality into the works here. There is only 1 Labour leader and that is Jeremy Corbyn. Wont matter if Richard or Anas take over the branch office in Scotland they will still have to follow their direction policy and ideology from London. Its where the whole of Labour gets its convictions from. First they have to determine what Labour in London wants them to be then they adopt them.
    So if anybody expects Labour in Scotland to act any differently from Labour in Wales then you are living a life of self imposed delusion wishful thinking and cartoon fantasies.
    Only a Labour party within an Independent Scotland would be able to determine their own path their own ideals and their own convictions.
    Trying to pretend Labour in Scotland can be autonomous is frankly insulting to the intelligence of the electorate as is this pseudo return to Socialism.
    But hey ho its your third place in Scottish politics if you’re so desperate to hang on to it so much that’s your privilege.

  6. As Jim says in 2014 .I was told I needed to take an ill health retirement . I did not have a choice.
    My line manager HR rep and my full time GMB union rep were all in my home . I was not well enough to go to my company HQ .
    My HR rep asked my union rep if the union would help get me my ill health retirement pension . I was the first company employee to have to do that and they said the rules were that difficult the company would have trouble getting me my pension without making mistakes
    My union rep made a phone call . He said he had spoken to a colleague called Richard Leonard he said although it was not Richards job within the union Richard knew the rules inside out.
    I was told with my agreement he would help get me my pension .
    A second call was made to Richard straight away with my and my companies consent.
    At the start of 2015 my ill health retirement pension kicked in with no problems .As did my ESA and PIP that the GMB had told me to go to Cab to get their help in securing.
    That’s what good unions do . They were in my corner from the start
    Richard has my complete support he will be the guy in the peoples corner

  7. I am watching and reading reports that the Fire Service is facing cuts The union says that they have seen a secret paper that was circulated amongst senior management.
    Stations to b e closed services cut And another thing I went to the annual review of Ayrshire and Arran health board .25 million in cuts across the area trouble in recruiting key hospital staff GPS Dentists Radiologists
    And Cancer treatment of all things under severe strain . NHS Staff not knowing if they can stay in our country after Brexit .
    I wont blame the brexit case on the SNP but the rest after 10 years come on
    When were the Scottish government even going to tell us about the Firebrigade problem .
    It took a leak to the BBC for us the public to find out .
    Now suddenly we are told there will be a public consultation.
    Big deal I want to know is my local Fire Station safe.
    All you guys who do Labour bad .Well this is the day job . Get in touch with your local SNP rep and kick their backsides Come on here and tell us what they say . And don’t parrot the SNP Government rubbish about no compulsory redundancies or now using smaller vehicles .
    I look forward to your excuses

    1. How about the fact that these cuts will be made at local level by local authorities and not central Government? Want to bet they will only be made where Labour are in charge or share authority with the Tories?

      But you knew that already didn’t you?

      1. The Scottish Fire Service is a national organisation and is no longer controlled by Local Authorities. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

        1. “Scotland may be a small country, but it’s also diverse and we recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach to the delivery of fire and rescue provision is unlikely to meet the needs of all our communities. That’s why front-line services are delivered locally from three strategically positioned hubs based in the North, West and East of the country.
          There are three Deputy Assistant Chief Officers working as Heads of Service Delivery across the North, West and East of Scotland. To achieve this, they work closely with local senior officers, local authorities and strategic partners to support the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s key objectives of creating safer communities for everyone who lives, works and travels in Scotland.”

          In case you missed it.

          “To achieve this, they work closely with local senior officers, local authorities and strategic partners”

          Meet the SFRS Board members.

          Pat Watters – Chair of the Board

          Pat first entered local government in 1982 as a member for East Kilbride serving on Strathclyde Regional Council, before moving to South Lanarkshire Council in 1995. He served as COSLA President from 2001 until taking up the post of SFRS Board Chair in 2012.

          Kirsty Darwent

          Kirsty has wide ranging leadership experience within the charitable and public sector and an academic background in psychology and systemic psychotherapy. She is Chair of Relationships Scotland, Vice-Chair of the Board of NHS Ayrshire and Arran Director, a Director with the Family Therapy Training Network and a Councillor with South Ayrshire Council.

          Bill McQueen

          Bill held a range of senior management posts in several Departments of the Scottish Government, with responsibility for policy development, strategic planning and operational delivery. Latterly, he was Deputy Chief Executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service where he had responsibility for corporate services, policy and finance matters. In that role he was also a member of the Government’s Civil Contingencies Group and Emergency Action Team. In previous roles he led work on reviewing Departmental structures in Scottish Government and did work on corporate services for the Prime Minister’s Efficiency Unit. He was a member of the Accounts Commission for Scotland from 2008 to 2014, is currently a non-executive Board member of the Scottish Legal Aid Board and sits as a lay member of the Employment Tribunal Service for Scotland.

          Bill McQueen CBE is a former Deputy Chief Executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and has extensive experience of central government and its sponsored bodies, having also worked in the Scottish Office and Scottish Executive in a number of policy areas including Transport, Management and Organisation,

          To put it mildly the SFRS is a whos who of ex Labour employees existing councillors party members and affiliates.

          But you knew that already didn’t you Jim Bob?

          1. Mike, some time ago I decided not to reply to you because not only did you talk mince, you talk deliberately misleading mince. For the record, there are !2 members of the SFRS Board. Of these, four come from the private sector, two from the voluntary sector, two ex health service, 1 former fire chief, 1 former DCE of the Crown Office, 1 ex-Labour Councillor who acted as independent when he became President of COSLA, and 1 serving Labour Councillor. Just a touch different from the impression you tried to give. I return to my previous stance.

    2. David, you do know that this was a discussion paper authored by Scottish Fire and Rescue Services and not l list of government cuts?

  8. Thanks for your comments guys .You cant tell me the Scottish Government did not know this was on the cards as Audit Scotland warned them 2 years ago of a funding gap .Annabelle Ewing MSP the Community Safety Minister would have in my opinion known of this did papers we don’t know about yet circulate in cabinet circles.
    The blog is not about this it was me who raised it .
    Between 60 and 100 appliancies are idle in the stations each day . They don’t have the staff to man them that’s 4 man c say it happens in 5 or 6 Full Time stations every day
    There have been no stations earmarked for closure yet .
    The chief has said if Firefighters are prepared to redesign there roles and take on additional skills. Then they would be in line for a better pay rise.
    The papers circulating say the current model cannot last beyond the current financial year .
    There are problems recruiting staff who are on call retained firefighters
    The chief will put in a case to recruit part time on call fire fighters
    2 thirds of Scotlands 356 firestations are in rural areas and crewed by retained duty staff
    Many of them unavailable during the day
    Today there are 700 fewer firefighters than in 2013 when the service was merged.
    356 stations unchanged since 2016
    21 per cent or 74 stations are fulltime
    12 per cent or 42 stations are volunteer crewed
    This situation cant go on
    Trouble in recruiting sounds familiar are they seriously going to suggest Scotland goes to a mainly part time service
    I repeat there in my opinion is no way that government ministers did not know of this paper
    If this had been a Labour administration the ordinary party members would not have stood for it.
    As you should know by now we don’t even stay quiet when its in our interest
    So why are SNP members not speaking out .
    Are you not interested or more likely been very firmly told not to

  9. Job done just voted for Richard Leonard . I will support whoever wins. As I am sure the rest of the party will

    1. You voted for the man who spent millions of pounds fighting against his own union members? What a **** you are.

      1. I normally thank people who reply but as you did not do me the courtesy of putting in your name.
        I wont but I will say Richard Leonard the candidate I voted for is backed by my union the GMB and my constituency Labour Party

  10. I joined Labour to vote for the Red Rosette as my Dad and Grandad did before me. Call me an old fashioned socialist.

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