Why I, a Labour moderate, will be voting for Richard Leonard

Leah Franchetti sets out why she’ll be voting for Richard Leonard rather than Anas Sarwar in the Scottish Labour leadership election.


I am not, and never will be, on Labour’s hard-left. I voted for David Miliband in 2010, backed Yvette Cooper five years later and supported Owen Smith during last year’s leadership contest.

I am proud of the achievements of the last Labour government and I don’t believe Tony Blair is the devil incarnate. I was also angered by my party’s delayed reaction to allegations of anti-semitism and want Jeremy Corbyn to do more to reach out beyond his party’s base.

In Scotland, I phone banked for Jim Murphy’s leadership campaign in 2014 and I defer to nobody in my admiration for his successor, Kezia Dugdale. I am a Labour moderate.

Everything in my political background points to me supporting Anas Sarwar to be the next Scottish Labour leader. I admire Anas’ drive and commitment and I attended his campaign launch in Glasgow.

However, in what has been one of my toughest decisions since joining the party, I will be voting for Richard Leonard when the ballot opens.

Anas is an impressive figure, but there is an elephant in the room for Labour members. The media stories about his family’s firm and the decision to send his children to a private school have been damaging for him and for his chances of becoming First Minister.

We can dismiss these articles as partial reporting by a hostile press, but I am not alone in being irritated by the fact the stories are true. We need a credible champion of Labour values to lead us into the next Holyrood election; sadly, the past few weeks have not been kind to Anas in this respect.

The bigger reason for backing Richard is the man himself. He is on the Left, but I dispute the notion he is a Corbynista. Richard stood up to Militant in the 1980s and is not a member of the Campaign for Socialism. I have found it hard to disagree with anything he has said since launching his campaign.

His previous day-job at the GMB – hardly a hotbed of Trotskyism – also fills me with hope. I too work for a trade union and know the job is rarely occupied by dreamers who have little hold on reality. We are too busy representing workers, managing the often painful process of change, and engaging on a pragmatic basis with employers.

Richard also has the advantage in walking Scottish Labour’s electoral tightrope, which requires us to appeal to Yes and No voters.

As Blair McDougall has written recently, our party needs to be “both unequivocally socialist and unambiguous on the union”. For Labour to get a hearing from No voters, we must be resolute in our opposition to a second independence referendum. Both candidates tick this box.

However, Richard has the edge in reaching out to Yes voters. An unjust legacy of the independence referendum is that the Labour figures who helped save our country are unlikely to get a hearing from Yes supporters. Jim Murphy produced an excellent manifesto at the 2015 election, but nearly 50% of the electorate had a closed mind and we got hammered.

I fear Anas is in the same category, unlike Richard whose lower profile, lack of indyref baggage and transformative political agenda will help us in the run up to 2021. Anas will make a great Health Secretary, but in a government led by Richard Leonard.

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25 thoughts on “Why I, a Labour moderate, will be voting for Richard Leonard

  1. I think the stuff about the indyref is eye-opening.

    I am and will always be immensely proud of the selfless role Labour people played in securing the No vote in 2014, which saved Scotland’s poorest from turbo-charged austerity. Alongside many others I worked my arse off to help deliver that. I am not going to walk away from it or downplay it to try to win over former Yes voters to Labour, just as I don’t think we should pander to Brexit supporters by changing our approach to Europe.

    I want a leader who WAS prepared to stand up in 2014 and argue for what was in the best interests of Scots; not one we can pass off as being innocuous on the subject because he didn’t stick his head above the parapet in the most important national debate of Scotland’s history.

    So I reach a different conclusion to Leah here. I’m voting for Anas because he led from the front in 2014; we must win over former Yes voters with our plans for a better UK, not with sleight of hand.

    1. No offence to you but this kind of thinking is precisely why the party is where it is at the moment.
      Let’s bypass the candidates questionable past in profiting from exploiting the low paid workers that labour should be fighting for,I’ll vote for him because he’s staunch in his unionism.
      Leave the flag waving and nationalism to the tories and snp,you can’t eat a flag.

      1. This is all that matters to Dunc.

        The dubiety of the family’s treatment of their employees is irrelevant, Dunc’s first thought- “is he unionist enough for me?”

        Partisan and blinkered, and arguably those are his best attributes.

  2. A very realistic view and brilliantly put by Leah on exactly how the electorate will view Sarwar.
    He’s damaged already,his supporters can defend him all they like and whine about the media but it doesn’t detract from the inescapable fact that the stories about him are 100% true.
    He did profit handsomely for many years,getting rich from his shares in a family firm that exploits low paid workers and disdains unions.
    He did lie about profiting from it and then he was forced into a cringeworthy and transparent act when found out of signing his shares over to his children and trying to embarrassingly paint it as some sort of selfless gesture.
    I don’t know how anyone within the party can support a man who got rich exploiting the low paid and I don’t know how anyone can sell that to voters on the doorsteps either.
    I know I can’t and won’t as don’t believe it myself.
    I’ll go as far to say as Sarwar is the antithesis of everything the labour movement represents in my eyes and it’s people of his ilk why the party sits 3rd in Scotland.
    Also spot on that while Leonard is a corbyn supporter,he’s not cut from the same cloth and a good few on the left need to grasp that he’s not a hard left candidate either.
    Great read Leah,hopefully Leonard wins and can deliver the votes I think he can.

  3. Sorry Leah but I doubt Richard will have any more success in getting a hearing from Yes voters than Anas. His blanket ban on doing any deals with the SNP, no matter the cause or circumstances will see to that.

    This is the exact same “Bain Principle” politics Scottish Labour MPs were ridiculed for & that compelled them to vote against any SNP motion in the House Of Commons no matter what & shows that Labour in Scotland have learned nothing from their years in the wilderness.

  4. Where’s the sleight of hand? If its simply acting like she are no longer in a referendum campaign then that’s a good thing.

    Richard campaigned in the referendum btw. I was out at the same time as him knocking doors and heard him speak at meetings and his position was clear. So was his trade union’s , but we aren’t living in 2014 anymore, and we need to learn the lessons from that campaign and the 2015 election.

    1. Spot on,plenty within the party and Scottish politics as a whole need to move on,they seem stuck in 2014,it’s sad.
      Labour were the biggest losers out of the independence referendum,why would anyone other than a British nationalist type think it’s a good idea to rehash that and remind voters about it?
      I know people who’ve told me they’d love to vote for labour again because of Jeremy Corbyn but they think twice because they see the party as having stood cheek by jowl with the tories in the indyref campaign.
      Some of them even voted no,it’s not just yes voters,but they have an issue with the party being seen as aligned with the Tories in that campaign.
      It was a catastrophic and unnecessary mistake,labour should have led their own campaign separately.
      No need for constant rehashing of 2014 politics,if you want that then join the tories or the snp,Labour should be offering an alternative that anyone can get behind no matter their constitutional views.

  5. I’m not a member of the Labour Party though for most of my ‘voting’ life have been a Labour voter – but not always. It is interesting to compare the contributions of Leah Franchetti and Duncan Hothersall. Leah lays out her reasoning for deciding to support Richard Leonard and in the course of her piece it is clear she has respect for Anas Sarwar the job he is currently doing and his contribution to the Labour Party. Her’s is a well argued route to her decision. Compare that with Duncan Hothersalls. Seems to me he’s still fighting the 2014 referendum and he is unable to resisted the temptation to include implied criticisms of the candidate he doesn’t support. Whereas Leah is looking to the future Duncan appears to be stuck in the past. Labour is fortunate in having two candidates who have different and complementary skills which would serve Scotland well. It is those that should be weighed up by the Labour Membership – any weaknesses or perceived weaknesses will be picked up by opponents of the Labour Party and they don’t need the help of Labour members with a national profile.

    1. Odd comment Bryan, given that Leah’s piece contains two explicit criticisms of the candidate she doesn’t support, both looking backwards not forwards.

      It’s almost as if you’re being deliberately dishonest.

      1. Leah doesn’t make any criticism of Sarwar to be fair,she just stated the truth about his toxicity due to being found out as profiting from exploiting low paid workers.
        Surely we haven’t reached such a lowly standard of debate where stating an undeniable fact is seen as criticism??

        1. I’m not entirely sure you understand what the word criticism means. The article contains two criticisms of Anas. That is simple fact.

  6. Duncan I think you’re being a bit pedantic. Leah gives reasons why she has decided to support RL – media reporting of AS family firm (minimum/living wage) and his decision to send his children to private schooling. I didn’t read her comments as a particular criticism – more a statement of fact. And the tone of her contribution indicates some regret art reaching her decision. Yours on the other hand is much more personal and a judgement ‘not one we can pass off as being innocuous on the subject because he didn’t stick his head above the parapet in the most important national debate of Scotland’s history.’ – without foundation. Any fair minded person would see a world of difference between the tone of your contribution and Leahs. And tone is important if Labour is to move on from the events of the last couple of years and become become a party of government again.

    1. You are accusing me of being pedantic and heavy-handed? ME?! I’m widely known for being… no, wait, you could have something there. 😉

      Yes, my comment was direct. That’s how I roll. Leah’s criticisms were more gently made. She made them well.

      Notwithstanding the accuracy of those two observations, I stand firmly by my observations that criticisms they were.

  7. Diane Abbott sent her son to a private school and she increased her majority by 11,000. Harold Wilson privately educated his children and became Prime Minister.Maybe there is an elephant in the room but it’s not private education.

  8. Can somebody please point out the distinction between Labour “Moderates” and Tories for me? I’m struggling to see any.

  9. I love the bit where our Country was “saved” so we could enjoy Brexit Tory austerity Devolution denied the Scottish Parliament ignored Democracy vilified and Universal credits taking away what little people had left.
    Perhaps we may even be saved from missing out on a nuclear holocaust pretty soon.

  10. This is an interesting article Leah.

    It may interest Labour activists if I share my thoughts about this leadership contest with you, or you could say ‘what the opposition thinks’

    I want Anas to be elected, as I genuinely believe he will be the candidate who will do most harm to Labour.

    My reasons have nothing to do with the ‘revelations’ that have suddenly been appearing in the press via some ‘Labour Insider’
    My reasons are that Anas has always came across terribly in televised debates or any ‘challenging’ interviews. He lacks the kind of warmth and charisma, that a good leader needs.

    If Leonard was voted as leader however, I wouldn’t be too disappointed though, as I’ve been very encouraged by the statements he has already made, and feel he won’t let us Nationalists down if he finds himself as the leader.

    Labours problem isn’t that they voted against Sottish Independence, it’s that they lacked the political know-how to do this without coming across as anti-Scottish.

    Jim Murphy started the campaign by stating that he would never share a platform with a Tory, yet allowed himself to be talked into doing just that.

    If some of you are wondering why Duncan keeps looking back to the events of 2014, it’s maybe because he is fully aware that it was this campaign that destroyed the long term
    connection between Scotland and Labour.

    Labour look like they are benefiting from the collapse of the Tory vote, as people realise the damage that Brexit will do to some of Scotland’s main industries, but beating the detested Tories into third place is probably all you will ever achieve.

    The reason for this is simple, Labour are blamed for the damage that the Union does to Scotland’s interests, the English look after their own, the Labour Scots betray their own.

    And nothing except someone having the guts to move Labour into the position of only supporting what’s best for Scotland, will ever change that.

  11. One of the problems is the fair dearth of talent available following the vicissitudes of previous elections.

    Of the 2 candidates now facing you, as Leah said, Anas reminds people of the referendum – being the sort of person who likes – let me get this right – “Spending Tory money to win Labour votes” – he’s never going to convince any Yes voter.

    Richard? He’s a union (and Unionist) front man – pretty unknown outside the union and Scottish Labour.
    From here, “lower profile, lack of indyref baggage” means a relative unknown.

    Ruling out doing anything with a party who has already done much of what was in the Labour manifesto? You might get some Yes voters… but not soft SNP I wouldn’t have thought.

    May the best man win, but I don’t look to see a quick resurgence.

  12. “but nearly 50% of the electorate had a closed mind and we got hammered.”
    And THAT in a nutshell is WHY SLAB will never get back into power,
    while you persist in blaming the electors for YOUR shortcomings your wasting your time as well as disresecting all the Labour voters who left you for the SNP!
    when will you people EVER learn ,but hey ho, you wont have a choice soon ,its reform or die when Scotland is independent!

  13. “that’s how I roll”, I supose that’s how would justify your disgraceful deliberately mis – interpreting Nicola Sturgeon’s comments on Catalonia a couple of wk-ends back.

    And if your prepared to do that to the First Minster of our own country what would you say to get your new pal Anas elected !!!

  14. Am i living in some parallel universe.
    Do everything we can to support the poorest by electing someone with a dodgy record of paying workers in the family business.
    It is just me that notices there is something not quite right about this.

    1. No comrade,it’s not just you,its most decent minded labour folk who see this.
      No shock either that it’s many of the same who tried to stab Corbyn in the back that support Sarwar.
      They are the single biggest hurdle to a Scottish resurgence of Labour politics.
      It’s no wonder that every SNPer wants a Sarwar victory.

      1. Sarwar has lots of talent, as a debater and in questions but he doesn’t win much respect and if people don’t respect the leader, they won’t be able to vote for the party. The only drawback I can see about Leonard is he is a vocal supporter of the union. I think if he can display a little empathy to the ‘Yes’ voters, he’ll win and win big in Holyrood, Westminiter and locally.

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