Fox secures easy victory to become SSP's new convener

COLIN Fox yesterday won the leadership of the far-left Scottish Socialist Party. A close ally of Tommy Sheridan, the party’s former leader, the Lothian list MSP secured the SSP convenership by a comfortable 98 vote margin.

Mr Fox defeated Alan McCombes, the party’s press and policy co-ordinator, who had been supported by a majority of the party’s six MSPs.

Last night the new leader sought to end the damaging rows which Mr Sheridan’s resignation - amid allegations about his personal life - had provoked within the party.

Speaking at the SSP conference in Perth, Mr Fox, 45, said: "The party will unite and focus on regaining the confidence of the 130,000 people who voted for us in 2003. There is a huge reservoir of support out there and we intend to tap into it."

He tried to allay fears of some activists that the party, with six MSPs, had lost its edge by being at Holyrood.

Mr Fox was backed by Mr Sheridan and fellow MSP Rosemary Byrne, but his rival had the endorsement of MSPs Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, and Frances Curran.

Holding out an olive branch to his defeated rival and his supporters, Mr Fox added: "I want to go to those who voted for Alan, principally in Glasgow, and reassure them that rank-and-file democracy is safe in my hands.

"This is never going to be a parliamentary party under my watch. I am somebody with two ears and one mouth - and I listen twice as much as I talk."

He said the party had a unique position as a united party of the left and a passionate advocate of an independent socialist Scotland.

Mr Fox said that the forthcoming election gave the SSP the chance "to put the last few months behind us and refocus on what we are very good at".

Referring to the G8 summit, he said: "We have a mouth-watering opportunity when a quarter of a million anti-capitalists come to the streets of Edinburgh and Gleneagles in July."

Mr Fox beat Mr McCombes, 49, by 252 votes to 154.