Alex Rowley quits Scottish Labour shadow cabinet

Alex Rowley has quit Scottish Labour's shadow cabinet, saying that Jim Murphy's continued leadership was an 'unhelpful distraction'. Picture: Neil Doig/FFP
Alex Rowley has quit Scottish Labour's shadow cabinet, saying that Jim Murphy's continued leadership was an 'unhelpful distraction'. Picture: Neil Doig/FFP
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THE pressure on Jim Murphy to quit has intensified after a shadow minister resigned from the party’s Holyrood front bench, stating that his continued presence as Scottish Labour leader was an “unhelpful distraction”.

Alex Rowley stepped down as Labour’s local government spokesman at Holyrood and said that Mr Murphy’s refusal to resign was a “mistake” and would harm the party’s chance at the 2016 Scottish parliament election.

Mr Rowley, in a letter to Mr Murphy, said: “I said yesterday at the meeting of Labour MSPs that I thought your speech on Friday stating that you would stay on and lead Labour into the 2016 election was a mistake, and that it would also be a mistake for the team you put in place, including your chief of staff, to remain in post.

“I sincerely hold the view that you continuing as leader whilst not in the Scottish Parliament, and not in an elected position holding a democratic mandate, means you will become an unhelpful distraction from the real issues that Scottish Labour must focus on.

“I have given that a lot of thought and consideration and I concluded that it would be disloyal and damaging to Labour were I not to speak out.”

Mr Rowley’s resignation follows that of former Scottish Labour leadership candidate Neil Findlay, who quit his post in the Scottish shadow cabinet at the weekend, after Labour’s ‘disaster’ in the general election in Scotland.

Mr Findlay said that the party’s problems were ‘wide-ranging and deep’ and required ‘radical solutions’, adding: “Despite huge efforts by all concerned since 2007 we have gone from the dominant party of Scottish politics to a party with only 38 MSPs and one solitary MP.

“Radical solutions are needed and can only be implemented following a full, frank, open and democratic debate led by our loyal and hard working, committed party members - a centralised fix just won’t do.”

A former leader of Fife Council, Mr Rowley was elected as MSP for Cowdenbeath in the constituency by-election in January 2014.

Mr Rowley’s letter in full

Dear Jim,

I am writing to you to advise that I am, from this morning, standing down form the position as Labour’s spokesperson for Local Government and Community Empowerment in the Scottish Parliament.

I said yesterday at the meeting of Labour MSPs that I thought your speech on Friday stating that you would stay on and lead Labour into the 2016 election was a mistake, and that it would also be a mistake for the team you put in place, including your Chief of Staff, to remain in post.

As you know, I praised the level of hard work and dedication that you brought to the campaign over the last six months and I absolutely agree that the challenges facing Labour in Scotland will not be fixed solely by a change of leadership. However, we have a leader in the Scottish Parliament and much of the focus of the next year will be on the Scottish parliament and the performance of the SNP government over the last 8 years in Scotland. I sincerely hold the view that you continuing as leader whilst not in the Scottish Parliament, and not in an elected position holding a democratic mandate, means you will become an unhelpful distraction from the real issues that Scottish Labour must focus on.

Over the coming weeks rank and file Labour Party members must have their say on the way forward for Labour in Scotland and I want to be part of that discussion. It is clear from the discussion yesterday that dissent in public from the leadership view is perceived as disloyalty, but I am convinced that we need a fundamental change in direction and strategy and therefore cannot sign up to your leadership as one of your shadow team.

From an early age my memories are of my parents talking about politics and the need for working people to organise and fight for a better and fairer society and that is why I joined the Labour Party. It wasa suggested to me at the weekend that it would be disloyal to the Labour Party if I were to speak publicly on these issues. I have given that a lot of thought and consideration and I concluded that it would be disloyal and damaging to Labour were I not to speak out. I believe now, more than ever, that we in Scotland need a strong relevant Labour Party and we will not achieve this under your leadership there fore I have no choice but to speak out.

Your sincerely,

Alex Rowley