Eric Shaw sets out why he’s voted for Richard Leonard to become the next Scottish Labour leader.
Despite its partial recovery in the recent election, Scottish Labour has much to do before it can regain its status as Scotland’s premier party. This will be no easy task and beyond the ability of one person to achieve. But leadership is important: a leader has to have a wide public appeal, be able to communicate effectively, be prepared to build consensus within the party and have the capacity to enthuse the membership.
Both Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard have the aptitude for leadership; but I voted for Richard and I wish to explain why.
It is not because I am a Corbynista – I am not and regard myself as belonging (as I have for many years) on the ‘soft left’ rather than the radical left.
My vote for Richard was a personal one: I opted quite simply for the better candidate.
I have known Richard for over fifteen years and my observations of him have convinced me that he has the blend of skills, experience and integrity which will render him an accomplished and capable leader.
With all its recent vicissitudes, Scottish Labour needs a leader willing to face unpalatable facts, to ask difficult questions and who understands there are no neatly-packaged easy solutions: someone you can rely upon to applying an intelligent and enquiring mind to the evidence. Richard is that person.
Richard is a man of unflinching principle, but both by temperament by disposition he is not the man to ride roughshod over the views of others. As a highly experienced trade unionist (and I know that many seasoned officials in the GMB union hold him in great esteem) he understands the need to negotiate, to engage in give and take, and to accommodate differences of belief and interest.
Richard is flexible and open to compromise; he is not the intractable servant of political dogma, a cipher for others and he is absolutely his own man. He appreciates that Scottish Labour is a broad coalition and no one group has a monopoly of either wisdom or virtue: he is no ‘holier than thou’ politician.
Substance in politics is vital but so, too, is style. Richard is quietly-spoken, not given to declamatory statements, truculence or combative rhetoric. He does not give offence: he prefers to listen, discuss and persuade.
Leadership races inevitably arouse ill-feelings so it essential that, whoever emerges victorious, has the desire and the capacity to bind wounds, reassure the losers and give the pursuit of party unity an absolute priority. Richard, I’m sure, will do that.
With Richard as leader, we can expect a thoughtful and measured style of politics, a preference for hard-thinking and practical policy-making over grandstanding, and a willingness to conciliate in the interests of party unity.
This is the type of politics I believe that the Scottish people want and will appreciate – and Richard will deliver.