The new Labour leader in Scotland has been warned against a lurch to the left by former first minister Jack McConnell.
Polls close on Wednesday in the three-way race to replace Johann Lamont.
The new leader must have a broad appeal to “moderate” Scots as well as those on the left, according to the former leader, now Lord McConnell.
The contest is neck and neck between former Scottish secretary Jim Murphy and Neil Findlay, widely seen as the left-wing candidate, according to internal polling released by Mr Findlay’s camp.
Former Holyrood transport minister Sarah Boyack is also in the race, with the result to be announced on Saturday.
Lord McConnell said the party must represent all Scots.
“Labour’s best election result in Scotland since the 1950s was 1997 and people say that Labour in Scotland needs to move sharply to the left in order to win more support,” he told Sky News.
“No, actually we need to represent people in Scotland, left and moderate voters in Scotland, to make sure that we have the broad support, above 40 per cent, that would give us a real say.”
The Findlay camp insists he does not represent a lurch to the left but is “reconnecting” with ordinary Scots.
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A spokesman claimed last night that their own internal polling suggests the Holyrood health spokesman has a lead over Mr Murphy among the crucial membership element of the vote. Mr Findlay has 36.5 per cent, his camp claims, with Mr Murphy on 33.2 per cent, while 27.9 per cent are undecided. The membership accounts for a third of the electoral college, along with the unions, which Mr Findlay is expected to win, and the Parliamentarians, where Mr Murphy is ahead.
A memo by the Findlay camp released yesterday suggests the undecided voters will be “battleground” in the coming days.
“It’s all to play for,” it states. “If those undecided voters were going to vote based purely on name recognition, they would have voted for Jim by now.
“As ever, this is going to come down to getting our vote out (Raw data suggests we have more votes in the membership than Murphy) and convincing those undecided voters.”
Mr Murphy said yesterday that a key priority for the new leader is to move Scots on from the debate on the constitution.
“Come the New Year, people will be thinking about the UK general election and who they want as prime minister – Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are not going to be prime minister of the United Kingdom,” he said.
Ms Boyack also said that the party must reach out beyond its core vote.
She said: “There’s a huge disconnect in politics and the job of the new leader is to make sure that we re-engage and we reconnect not just with our traditional voters, but with young people having their first vote, with people who don’t currently have a fixed party.”
Lord McConnell said the party has “big lessons” to learn in Scotland, but also in the UK.
“Whoever wins next Saturday will have a key role but also I think the UK leadership’s engagement with Scotland is going to be important too.”
He declined to say which of the three candidates he will be supporting, but said Scotland must also move on from the debate on independence.
“I think one of the unfortunate things of the aftermath of the referendum was, despite the fact that Alex Salmond said before the referendum he would accept the result, he and the Scottish National Party have not accepted the result,” he added.
“I think if we do end up in this never-ending debate about independence then we don’t move on to the critical day-to-day issues.”
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